Doctor Who Audio Book Review: #22 – Bloodtide

Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Gary Russell
Featuring: Sixth Doctor and Evelyn
Release Date: July 2001

Big Finish Summary:
The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface.

One day they will awaken and reclaim their world.

The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumours that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin…

A returning Doctor Who species causes problems on the Galapagos Islands for a band of visitors, including a young philosopher called Charles Darwin, in another successful Big Finish audio adventure featuring the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn Smythe.

The Silurians have been, for the most part, underused in Doctor Who since their memorable debut appearance in the 1970 TV story ‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’. The idea of an intelligent species that was driven underground into hibernation due to a natural disaster, only to wake and find Mankind has evolved and spread across the globe, is an interesting concept solely for the morality of their actions. Would Mankind take different actions to the Silurians, should they be the ones waking up after millennia? The twist of the Brigadier destroying the Silurians’ base highlighted the full potential of the morality of such a conflict. In this audio adventure, there are a few interesting deviations to previous adventures with the Silurians, most notably the idea of nature being something that should not be controlled, and their attitudes towards a scientist who tries to play God with his ‘experiments’. The Myrka becomes a monstrous threat in this story, in complete contrast to the ridicule aimed at it from fans following its TV appearance in ‘Warriors of the Deep’. Solely looking at how the Silurians are written in this story, it is certainly more interesting than the latter, however there is a limited moral quandary. It feels far more straightforward for the Doctor to dispatch of these group of Silurians, and there is less of a focus on the claim they have to at least part of Earth, which would have made for an interesting connection to the story’s themes around Evolution and Survival of the Fittest.

‘Bloodtide’ takes place during an important moment in human history, as the TARDIS lands on the Galapagos Islands, at the very moment Charles Darwin is theorising an alternative creation story to that taught in Christianity. He notes that animals of the same species have developed different features based on which island of the Galapagos they reside of, something that could not be possible were creation of all beings decided by a God-like being. This ties in well with the Silurian scientist who claimed that he was responsible for the ‘missing link’ of human evolution; I like that the story never presented proof on whether this was correct, one way or another. I also like that the writing didn’t just solely present an alien species to Darwin as proof Mankind is not the centre of the universe – in this sense, the Silurians were a great inclusion, as they represent a past era of the Earth that contradicts the Bible’s teachings of the planet’s history. The writing takes it further though, by showing the extent to which Man are regarded as cattle to the Silurians; the image of a freezer full of bodies on meat hooks is an impactful one, and one that cements Darwin’s realisation that nature is a food chain, one in which Man may not be the top, and by consequence, the closest to God.

This story features my favourite Doctor-Companion duo of this Big Finish series to date, the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Evelyn Smythe (the late Maggie Stables). They are separated for a large portion of the story, which is almost a shame, as their hilarious back-and-forth dialogue has become one of my favourite things about their era. Nonetheless, each are a delight, and once again is a reminder of how the potential of Colin Baker’s Doctor was wasted in the TV series. Charles Darwin (Miles Richardson) is quiet and unassuming, occasionally breaking out when processing all he says in the story and how it impacts his beliefs. As a character choice, this could have worked had several other characters not been completely over-the-top. In particular, the characters of Emilio and Greta would most likely not have passed quality control had this story been recorded in 2021, with their accents akin to something from a 1980s British comedy series. This is a shame, as the production team had obviously intended them to be sympathetic characters treated almost like slaves by the tyrannical governor of the islands. The Silurian character Sh’vak has an interesting character arc, but again is overshadowed by the ravings of Silurian scientist Tulok. As a whole, the characterisation is hit-and-miss, and is potentially the weakest part of the story.

‘Bloodtide’ sees the re-appearance of an iconic Doctor Who species for the first time since the 1980s, and it is a relief that the Silurians are given the type of story that compliments their background. The story even adds to the lore of the species, and the inclusion of them perfectly compliments the other themes and the important scientific discovery taking place. Despite several characters being way too over-the-top, this is another successful story in what has become my favourite Doctor-Companion duo of audio stories. This is a story I would recommend to Doctor Who fans who may not have heard much of the Big Finish audio series.

Star Rating: 4/5

‘Bloodtide’ is available to listen to for free on Spotify or for £2.99 to download from the Big Finish site. The link to this audio book is below:

022. Doctor Who: Bloodtide – Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures – Big Finish

The next audio book in this series is another to feature the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn. When the TARDIS lands in South East London, there is a mystery involving a Bermondsey Casino, a killer on the loose with a taste for human flesh, and a long-buried government initiative known as Project: Twilight – what connects all of these?

You can read my review of Audio Book #23 – ‘Project: Twilight’, very soon!

Project: Twilight cover (Big Finish, 2001)

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