Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
I think I said this then I reviewed vol. 1, but Ian McNeice’s Churchill was already perfect. How does he then keep making it better? However he does it, he has outdone himself again in this 2nd audio volume of Churchill’s Doctor Who world adventures from Big Finish.
In Young Winston by Paul Morris we see a younger Churchill (played by Iain Batchelor) as a soldier only now considering a career in Politics. We see him both in flashbacks to his time in Cuba and as he starts as a politician. But events from his time in Cuba start coming back to haunt him as some rather nasty types seem overly concerned with a replica pearl cigar cutter he carries with him. Things get only slightly weirder when he turns to a famed detective with an interesting reputation called Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh) The pair both separately wonder if this wouldn’t be a case for a Doctor they know.
What a great story to start the set off with. Younger Churchill gives us a window into the man when he was; whilst still very headstrong and capable, possibly not as experienced and more uncertain of his path. We also get to see a somewhat more vulnerable side as he deals with more personal affairs. It’s still him though. Both Iain & Ian are great and through narration we do get Ian McNeice as you would want, but without him having to try to youth up his voice. In my opinion a wise choice by the producers. Also nice that they took their time to get to the Doctor allowing him to still be the Doctor when he does come into events but allowing our main character and his new friend to take centre stage.
Human Conflict by Iain McLaughlin see’s prime minister Churchill seeing London recovering from the Blitz. He then hears of a weapon that could sway the balance of power in the war, but only if the alliance get their hands on it first. So accompanied by a certain Lt. Fleming, Churchill heads north to go after it. The Doctor however in his 9th incarnation is reeling from a war himself and knows some weapons you will always regret using.
This is a classic example of the right Doctor for the job. The 9th Doctor in this story pops up with a few choice words, but mostly observes Churchill and hopes he will do the right thing. Again this allows Churchill to be the star of the show, but you feel well-served by the Doctors part in proceedings. And having Fleming (Gyuri Sarossy) there living as his creation later would is so entertaining. This is a great “what if” moment for Churchill who already famously made some very tough calls that won the war, but must have cost him personally.
Our next story is I Was Churchill’s Double by Alan Barnes. It sees our hero at Alexandra Palace. When a mirror starts acting in odd ways, with Churchill’s reflection doing things he is not, he is soon faced with a mirror world where Germany have won the war. But which war did they win? Things soon go from a curios window into this other world to events in the other world effecting ours. Another great character piece for Churchill. When faced with a world so different how will he react? As shown in the extras Churchill was a well read man in many different fields, including parallel universes, so it’s amazing that this man wouldn’t have been as fazed as some by the idea. This is also not your usual parallel world story throughout or in its ending, so makes for a very interesting listen on a well trodden story idea.
Finally Churchill Victorious by Robert Khan & Tom Salinsky sees Churchill having to face what he does when the war is won. He can’t seem to accept it’s all over. So he decides to go undercover to be among his people as one of them, as the undetectable William Churchyard, bank manager! No one will suspect a thing. But whereas the war really does seem to be over a new menace from another world seems to be at work. So Churchyard and a couple after justice for their wrongly in prisoned son investigate.
I can’t really do this one justice without giving too much away, but it’s delightful. The way McNeice takes such pride as Churchill in giving his back story undercover in a very forced fashion, whilst thinking no one will suspect him is a joy. Churchill comes to realise that it’s possible a nation that needed him so much in war, may not in peace. It goes right from straight up funny to heartfelt, serious and moving very deftly. Seems fitting for the last story in the set.
In Conclusion the first set with Churchill was stellar but this one having set up the style of the sets he’s in can go a bit further and really explore some more facets of the man. The fact that the main character was such a multifaceted man in real life gives the writers, producer David Richardson, director Ken Bentley, Ian McNeice and the whole cast so much to work with and none of them drop the ball in the delivery. As I said in opening this review McNiece only gets better at playing Churchill and in the extras he talks about playing him before, researching the role and how he has watched so many other greats play this historic figure. All of this is evident in his performance of the man. You need this set in your life. It will make you feel proud to be British! 10/10.
Buy it on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-churchill-years-volume-02-1473
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