‘THE PETERLOO MASSACRE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Historical Drama with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan
16th August 1819. One of the darkest days in human history!
‘The Peterloo Massacre’ is a compelling tale by Paul Magrs. It’s an historical adventure set in the Industrial Revolution and it evokes the same atmosphere of the historical stories from the William Hartnell era of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s a very bleak and grim tale that deals with a serious historical event.
This four-part story is set in Manchester during the early years of the Industrial Revolution in 1819. The TARDIS arrives following a crash-landing next to the grounds of Hurley Hall. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan step out and they’re welcomed by the residents of Hurley Hall who find them in the night.
But the longer the TARDIS trio stay in Manchester, the more danger they are in. The Doctor soon realises that the TARDIS got it wrong with the date, as they’re not in 1816 but in 1819. Actually it’s the 16th of August 1819. The Doctor knows what’s going to happen, as it’s the darkest day in history.
I was pretty emotional by the end of ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. I must admit, I hadn’t heard of ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ before as an historical event. I certainly did study the Industrial Revolution in History lessons when at school and knew the period. But that event must have slipped my memory.
From reading the title of this story, I could tell that this wasn’t going to be pleasant adventure or a happy experience and I knew it was going to be bleak. The atmosphere of 1819 and the people that live there is pretty grim, as is that atrocity that caused so many deaths back then on St. Peter’s Field.
‘The Peterloo Massacre’ actually started as a peaceful protest by lower class citizens who went on a march at St. Peter’s Field to protest for their rights. But the yeomanry military led by the higher class took advantage and changed the peaceful protest into a horrible slaughter that has affected history.
The event is one of the biggest turning points in history for the working classes. It changed the reform of what was happening in the UK at the time, although historians debated about what happened and how many casualties there were. It’s a story that needs to be taken very seriously here.
The story is directed by Jamie Anderson, son of ‘Thunderbirds’ creator Gerry Anderson, who also directed ‘The Waters of Amsterdam’ before this. Jamie does well in directing this straight-forward historical adventure that is pretty dark and bleak and depicts the seriousness of the subject matter.
The actual massacre in the story doesn’t take place immediately until we reach ‘Part Three’. Beforehand in ‘Parts One and Two’, there’s the build-up to ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. In ‘Part Four’, it’s the aftermath and dealing with the consequences of what happened and how this event affects history.
The performances of Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding shone for me throughout this adventure. It was very compelling to listen to the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan’s reactions to events during the story and I was pretty heartbroken by what goes on with some of the people in this tale.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Stars of Time Film and Comic Con 2016’ at the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare before my birthday in May 2016. I’m so pleased I had the CD cover signed by Sarah as I know how important this story is to her.
Sarah and I had some nice chats about ‘The Peterloo Massacre’, especially at the ‘Stars of Time’ May convention in Weston-super-Mare. Sarah mentioned the writer Paul Magrs, saying he did his historical research well. Sarah and I liked the historical period and atmosphere featured in this story.
I was pretty affected by Nyssa’s reaction and turmoil during this adventure. In this story, Nyssa becomes friends with Cathy, the maidservant at Hurley Hall who goes on the march at St. Peter’s Field. Nyssa joins Cathy on this march and she also meets her baby boy Peter, whom she grows fond of.
That scene with what happened to Cathy and her baby during the massacre in ‘Part Three’ was so gut-wrenching. The cliff-hanger ending for ‘Part Three’ where Nyssa is angry and upset, accusing Mr. Hurley for causing the death of Cathy’s son was equally gut-wrenching and it defined her character.
When I saw Sarah again at the ‘Stars of Time Film and Comic Con 2016 @ The Tropicana’ in Weston-super-Mare, August 2016, she mentioned ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ again. We chatted some more about the story and Sarah mentioned that she listened to the story on the way up to WSM in the car.
I could tell Sarah really liked this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure, since she found it straight-forward and easy to understand. Both of us liked the historical aspects to the story. I was pleased when Sarah responded to how shocked I was with the child’s death in the tale with Nyssa as she was shocked too.
Peter Davison delivers one of his most engaging, emotional and strongest performances as the Doctor in this story. The Doctor is very angry and upset that he and his companions have ended up on the eve of this atrocious event. He’s determined to get away and is concerned for his companions.
Gradually, the Doctor witnesses for himself what goes on during ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ and how the historical event is caused. He’s horrified when he realises Hurley is one of the yeomanry and he, like Nyssa, accuse him for causing this event and wishes that he was able to change the events of this day.
Janet Fielding is equally brilliant as Tegan Jovanka in this audio adventure. Tegan doesn’t like the 19th century for one bit. She’s very outspoken and argumentative during the story. She forgets herself when she realises that the people living in this century like the rich don’t care for the poor.
Tegan shares some scenes with William, Hurley’s son and sometimes challenges him about what his beliefs are. She unfortunately gets locked up in a cell by a captain of the yeomanry before the Doctor frees her. Tegan is also shocked and horrified by what occurs before, during and after the massacre.
Hayley Jayne Standing guest stars as Cathy Roberts, who works at Hurley Hall and goes on the St. Peter’s Field march. Cathy is strong-willed and wants her working class kind to have rights like the rich have. Cathy’s scenes with Nyssa were mesmerising to listen to and she also clearly loves her baby boy Peter.
Robbie Stevens guest stars as Hurley, the owner of Hurley Hall. Hurley is an industrialist and landowner. He’s clearly pompous and conservative in his ways. He’s also ignorant of the working class and consequently takes part in leading an attack on the people of Manchester in the massacre.
Gerald Kearns guest stars as William, Hurley’s son. William seems to be a pleasant young man who relies on what his father says and believes. He doesn’t understand when Tegan argues with him, but gradually in the story he grows as a character and witnesses the horrors of ‘The Peterloo Massacre’.
Philip Labey guest stars as Thomas Tyler, an investigative journalist from London who witnesses ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. Tommy Tyler sees the massacre for himself and is horrified. But he won’t write the full story of what happened and the Doctor becomes bitter with Tyler for discolouring the truth.
The cast also includes Wayne Forester as Walton, one of Hurley’s yeomanry colleagues during ‘The Peterloo Massacre’; Mr. Roberts, Cathy’s father and Rev. Small. There’s also Liz Morgan as Mrs. Hurley, the silly and dismissive wife of Mr. Hurley as well as the Sister who attends to Cathy’s injuries at a hospital.
The story ends on a rather sombre note. Nyssa is pretty affected and distraught by the events of this story. It will take time for Nyssa to recover as it will for the Doctor and Tegan. I was really taken by that final scene between the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan as Peter, Sarah and Janet play it out so well.
‘The Peterloo Massacre’ is a fine example of historical drama in a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. I’m not sure ‘enjoyed it’ is the right phrase, but it certainly has been an engaging story to listen to. The performances of Peter, Sarah and Janet have been brilliant and the writing has been extremely good.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s a suite of incidental music to enjoy. On Disc 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Hayley Jayne Standing, Robbie Stevens, writer Paul Magrs, director Jamie Anderson, etc.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘The Peterloo Massacre’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘The Horror at Bletchington Station’ with the First Doctor, read by Stephen Critchlow.
‘The Peterloo Massacre’ rating – 10/10
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