Please feel free to comment on my review.
Victorian Lancashire with Thomas Brewster, the Doctor and Evelyn
Is this the last goodbye for Thomas Brewster in ‘Doctor Who’?
‘Industrial Evolution’ is the third and final adventure in the Sixth Doctor trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Thomas Brewster. I wondered how this story would work out and end Thomas Brewster’s travels with Colin Baker’s Doctor. Would it be on a happy or a sad note for Thomas here?
Brewster has had brief times in the TARDIS, hasn’t he? With the Fifth and the Sixth Doctors, Thomas never stays long enough to be a companion beyond three or four stories. Perhaps it’s for the best, as Brewster can be a shifty, dodgy character due to his Victorian upbringing and he can’t be fully-trusted.
This is a shame really as I would like to think Brewster has evolved and become a better person in his adult life. I actually prefer the Fifth Doctor stories with Brewster compared to the Sixth Doctor ones, since Brewster’s development hasn’t been exactly what I had hoped for when I’d listened to them.
‘Industrial Evolution’ is a four-part adventure by Eddie Robson, who has written quite a number of Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ beforehand. This story is pretty complex and there’s a lot to take in. But I enjoyed the historical setting with the Industrial Revolution, as I studied it in History classes.
In fact, this story has elements of ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell in it. I saw a 2004 BBC adaptation of ‘North and South’, so I was familiar with the atmosphere of this industrial setting. It’s not really a cotton factory, but you could say this is a ‘Doctor Who’ version of ‘North and South’ here.
The story takes place in Victorian Lancashire where Thomas Brewster is working in the workhouse. Yes, the Doctor has fulfilled his promise to Brewster by taking him back to the 19th century. Thankfully it is not in London but in Lancashire and it is a work place that Thomas essentially knows.
In fact, the story begins where Brewster is already settled in the workhouse and seems to be comfortable working there. You’d think the Doctor and Evelyn have gone by this point. But the Doctor is still watching nearby since he wants to make sure Brewster doesn’t get up to any mischief.
Trouble starts to brew however, as monstrous creatures start to form from the machines in this Lancashire workhouse. These creatures are both half-man, half-machine and they want to eat flesh. Can the Doctor help save the Lancashire people by stopping the menace of the machine monsters?
John Pickard returns as Thomas Brewster in this third adventure with the Sixth Doctor. It’s been an interesting journey for Brewster in this trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ stories. It’s ironic that he’s back to where he was in the 19th century and he did not have that happy life he wanted in the 21st century.
Brewster seems to have made friends with people in the workhouse like Stephen Gibson and Clara Stretton. He also stands up to authority figures like George Townsend and Clara’s father, Robert Stretton when demanding that the workers be treated properly and also have better working hours.
The relationship between Brewster and Colin Baker’s Doctor hasn’t been a happy one in this trilogy. The two don’t see eye to eye at times and it’s such a shame that the two never got on well with each other as they should like Evelyn hoped. Brewster however seems to find an ally in Samuel Belfrage.
Colin Baker is great to listen to the Doctor in this audio adventure. It’s interesting how he cares and looks out for Thomas Brewster in this story and yet at the same time isn’t fully trusting of him. He’s determined to disbelieve the notion given to him by Evelyn and that he and Brewster are both alike.
The Doctor’s curiosity gets the better of when trouble brews at the Lancashire workhouse and he tackles organic-machine-like monsters in the story. The Doctor is very fond of Evelyn and I like how the two share camaraderie with each other and bantering with jokes and sarcasm on odd occasions.
Colin Baker has said in the CD interviews that he likes how Eddie Robson supplies with him lines of sarcasm for his Doctor in the stories he writes for him. I suppose the Sixth Doctor can be sarcastic on many occasion, though that has been toned down in the Big Finish audios compared to the TV series.
Maggie Stables is great to listen to as Evelyn Smythe in this adventure. I like how Evelyn copes in this historical setting with it being the Industrial Revolution. She of course knows her history, being a university lecturer on the subject. I think this is a nice touch to bring Evelyn back to what she knows.
Evelyn knows what to expect when dealing with the people and environment in that time period. Of course she didn’t expect human-machine-like monsters to come out of the industrial machines of that period. She copes so well when the historical and the space age worlds collide with each other.
Again, Evelyn tries to be the referee between the Doctor and Brewster when they sometimes don’t agree with each other. Evelyn also shares a nice friendship with Clara Stretton, especially when she’s upset about her father getting killed. Evelyn also suspects on things that don’t appear as they seem.
The story features a talent guest cast. There’s Rory Kinnear as Samuel Belfrage. Rory Kinnear has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. He’s also played Bill Tanner in three James Bond movies. Here, Rory plays an alien disguised as a human industrial owner.
Belfrage owns the Brass Mill workhouse where Thomas Brewster works. The Doctor and Evelyn discover Belfrage’s true identity when they investigate more about his activities at the work place. Like Brewster, Belfrage can be pretty deceptive and not to care about other people as he should be.
There’s also Warren Brown as Stephen Gibson, one of the workers at the Brass Mill. Warren Brown has appeared in a number of TV shows like ‘Hollyoaks’, ‘Shameless’ and ‘Luther’. Hey! John Pickard stars in ‘Hollyoaks’! Maybe Warren Brown and John Pickard have crossed paths in the same TV series.
The character that Warren Brown plays, Stephen Gibson, gets a nasty accident when he works with one of the machinery and loses three fingers. Surprisingly, he gets those three fingers back later on in the story. With respect to the character and actor, I don’t think both had a large role for this story.
Hugh Ross guest stars as Robert Stretton in this story. Now I’ve met Hugh Ross in real-life at the ‘Timey-Wimey 1’ convention in Brighton, November 2014. I’ve seen him in an episode of ‘Monarch of the Glen’ from Series 4 and he is best-known for playing Sir Toby Kinsella in ‘Counter-Measures’.
Robert Stretton is a benefactor of the Brass Mill business run by Samuel Belfrage. He has strong views about industrial technology and doesn’t like it when her daughter Clara brings Thomas Brewster into their house. Sadly Robert Stretton gets tragically killed during this drama. Or does he?
Joannah Tincey guest stars as Clara, Robert Stretton’s daughter in this adventure. I’ve heard Joannah before in other ‘Doctor Who’ audios like ‘The Elite’ and ‘A Thousand Tiny Wings’. Clara is a sweet lady who shares concern for the workers at the Brass Miles and gets on well with Thomas Brewster.
There’s also Paul Chahidi as George Townsend, an administrator at Samuel Belfrage’s brass works. Townsend is your typical love-to-loathe character from the Victorian era that seeks profits from a business instead of thinking about the people. Thomas Brewster doesn’t get on well with Townsend.
The monsters in this story are voiced by John Banks. They’re not given proper names apart from being called ‘humanoids’. It’s not clear where these human-machine-like monsters came from and how they created from the Industrial Revolution machines. I would have to listen to this audio again.
The story ends on a rather sad note. Thomas Brewster does something to save the human race, but the Doctor isn’t happy with him as he’s destroyed sentient life. By the time Brewster goes to say goodbye, the Doctor and Evelyn have already left in the TARDIS without saying any word of farewell.
I like that scene where Evelyn tries to persuade the Doctor to say goodbye to Brewster before they leave. But the Doctor is bitter about what Brewster did and feels there’s nothing to be said. Brewster’s actions have caused the Doctor to lose faith and trust in him as they leave in the TARDIS.
But Brewster’s tale may not end in Victorian Lancashire. He’s soon offered a deal by Samuel Belfrage to go into outer space to conduct more business transactions. They are to be called ‘Belfrage and Brewster’. So perhaps this isn’t the very last time Brewster will appear in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. 😀
‘Industrial Evolution’ has been a decent end to the Sixth Doctor trilogy of audios with Thomas Brewster. I wouldn’t say this Sixth Doctor trilogy with Brewster is better than the Fifth Doctor trilogy with Brewster, but it’s been an intriguing journey to hear on how Brewster meets the Doctor again.
It does seem unlikely the Doctor will meet Brewster again, though I wouldn’t mind another ‘Doctor Who’ trilogy where Brewster meets the Seventh Doctor. Who knows? This could happen. It would be interesting to see how Big Finish could tackle a Seventh Doctor audio trilogy with Thomas Brewster.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there’s a suite of incidental music that I enjoyed. On Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘Heroes of Sontar’ with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Colin Baker, Maggie Stables, John Pickard, script-editor Alan Barnes, director Nicholas Briggs, etc.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Industrial Evolution’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Industrial Evolution’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘Sound the Siren and I’ll Come To You Comrade’ with the Fourth Doctor, read by Stephen Critchlow.
Now I must get around to writing ‘The Prison of Thomas Brewster’ with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy someday! 😀
‘Industrial Evolution’ rating – 7/10
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