‘THE ONCOMING STORM’ (TCY)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
RATS with Winston Churchill, the Ninth Doctor and Hetty
It seems that dear old Winnie has met the Doctor more times than we thought! 😀
In 2015, Big Finish acquired the rights to make some new series-related ‘Doctor Who’ audio releases. This included the ‘Classic Doctors, New Monsters’ range; ‘The Diary of River Song’, the War Doctor audios and of course ‘The Tenth Doctor Adventures’. They also made ‘The Churchill Years’ audios! 🙂
Winston Churchill has been ally to the Doctor for some time. He met the Doctor in the ‘Doctor Who’ book ‘Players’ by Terrance Dicks, which I’ve enjoyed. Recently, Winston Churchill has appeared in the TV series, meeting the Eleventh Doctor in ‘Victory of the Daleks’ and was played by Ian McNeice.
Over the years, I’ve become more aware of Churchill and have learnt more about him through visiting his home Blenheim Palace in February 2016 and seeing the movie ‘Darkest Hour’, starring Gary Oldman as Churchill. So it’s fair that I check out some of his adventures in ‘The Churchill Years’.
I purchased ‘The Churchill Years’ – Volume 1 CD box set as part of the ‘Doctor Who Returns’ sale by Big Finish to tie-in with the transmission of Series 12 of the TV show in early 2020. I was looking forward to hearing these audios. I’ve also had the good pleasure of meeting Ian McNiece in real-life.
That was at the ‘Worcester Comic Con’ in August 2016. I enjoyed chatting to Ian about him playing Churchill in ‘Doctor Who’ and asking him what it was like to play Churchill in the Big Finish audios. He shared some interesting insight about Churchill at his end and I’m sure that’s reflected in the audios.
Volume 1 of ‘The Churchill Years’ is a 5-disc CD box set! There are four episodes on each of the first four discs and there’s a behind-the-scenes documentary on Disc 5. The four episodes are ‘The Oncoming Storm’, ‘Hounded’, ‘Living History’ and ‘The Chartwell Metamorphosis’. All four episodes are directed by Ken Bentley. He has directed many Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ over the years!
In each of the episodes, Churchill relates his encounters with the Doctor. This includes new series Doctors from the Ninth, to the Tenth and to the Eleventh. I wondered what each episode was going to be like and how Churchill’s encounters with the Doctor will turn out. I was looking forward to it. 🙂
In the first episode of the box set, Winston has an encounter with the Ninth Doctor. ‘The Oncoming Storm’ is by Phil Mulryne. He’s a Big Finish actor and writer and he’s done some Fifth Doctor stories.
This includes starring in ‘Psychodrome’ and ‘Tomb Ship’ and penning ‘The Contingency Club’ and ‘Fallen Angels’. I’ve enjoyed the Fifth Doctor stories Phil’s written, so I was looking forward to this one.
What’s interesting about ‘The Churchill Years’ audios is that Winston reads the stories himself in the first person. He even narrates scenes where he isn’t present, which was unusual to listen to here. 😀
Anyway, the story takes place in late 1939. This is in the months of November and December and the Second World War has started. Britain faces the might of Germany and their huge war machines.
At this point, Churchill isn’t the Prime Minister of Great Britain yet. He serves as the First Lord of the Admiralty. He’s ready to take on the Nazi menace as it slowly gets closer to Great Britain’s shores. 😐
Unbeknown to Churchill, a more immediate threat approaches as a ‘stone’ with mysterious properties gets discovered in the Thames’ sands. Soon, oddly spoken soldiers creep around London.
These soldiers are trying to ruthlessly acquire the mysterious ‘stone’ by any means necessary. Will Churchill and his colleagues defeat this new alien menace and will the new Ninth Doctor help out? 😐
Ian McNeice is great as Winston Churchill in this audio adventure. I like how he retains that fighting spirit in Churchill that was evident in the TV series and he does carry that forward sublimely in audio.
In the story, Ian gets to perform the Ninth Doctor too. I don’t think Ian does a good impersonation of Christopher Eccleston in the tale, but I was able to feel the presence of the Ninth Doctor throughout.
It’s interesting how Phil Mulryne writes for the Ninth Doctor as he’s just recently escaped from the Time War. You could argue that this is the Ninth Doctor’s very beginnings as he has just regenerated.
The Ninth Doctor is trying to distance himself from other people and he’s become stricken with grief. But thankfully, when Churchill is almost about to be killed, the Doctor does step in time to save him.
The episode also features the debut of Emily Atack as Hetty Warner, Winston’s new secretary. I’ve seen Emily Atack before in films such as the 2016 ‘Dad’s Army’ movie and in the 2018 film ‘Patrick’. 🙂
It’s interesting how Hetty gets introduced in this story as she’s quite a spirited young person. She even bumps into the Doctor and she could’ve almost ended up being his companion instead of Rose.
Hetty gets harassed and annoyed by a soldier who turns out to be an alien that tries to kill him. She soon joins the Doctor and they run away from the RATS. She later tells Churchill about the Doctor. 🙂
I like Churchill’s reaction to hearing the Doctor’s in London. It’s clear he knows who he is already. I like that the Big Finish audios don’t contradict Churchill’s first meeting with the Doctor in ‘Players’. 🙂
The story’s cast also includes Derek Riddell as Lt-Commander Sandy McNish. Derek Riddell has been in ‘Doctor Who’ before, having played Robert MacLeish in ‘Tooth and Claw’. So nice to hear him here!
There’s also Michael Gould as Frederick Lindemann, who is a professor in the episode. I like that Professor Lindemann and Lt-Commander McNish are great allies for Churchill and none are baddies.
The episode could’ve easily gone that way. The episode also features Phil Mulryne as Able Seaman Phillips who becomes a victim when he touches the ‘stone’. Phil also voices the RATs in this episode.
The RATS happen to be Reactive Automated Trail Seekers which are a rudimentary artificial intelligence with a shared consciousness throughout units. They’re scavengers that create energy. 😐
As I’m not a huge expert on Churchill, these stories can take massive liberties with how they depict his character. But I would like to think these stories remain true to who Churchill was in real history.
‘The Oncoming Storm’ is a good episode by Phil Mulryne, featuring Winston Chuchill with the Ninth Doctor and Hetty. The character development is very well-done despite Churchill mostly narrating it.
‘The Oncoming Storm’ (TCY) rating – 8/10
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