THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
BIG FINISH 8TH DOCTOR
CD#3.5 (ISBN 1-84435-
397-2) RELEASED IN
Ladies and gentlemen,
honoured guests from
the Gestapo – tonight,
it is my privilege to
present to you the
star of the Theatre
A man who has died
on stage near ten
thousand times! The
Man in the World…
Max Paul! And WITH
him, in a playlet we
Son', the enchanting
Should you feel faint
or nauseous DO NOT
fear, FOR Tonight we
have a Doctor in the
Just pray he lasts
till the interval...
2ND MAY 2009 - 9TH MAY 2009
The Scapegoat is Pat Mills’ second endowment to Big Finish’s eighth Doctor and Lucie series, and somehow it manages to be even more peculiar than his distinctly wacky first. Thankfully though, it is every bit as good.
I’m sure that I remember hearing in a recent Big Finish podcast that this story’s World War
II locale was decided on fairly late in the day; if memory serves, one of the cover artists or sound designers came up with the idea. Listening to the play, it’s hard to imagine it being set in any other period. Whilst the ornate Théâtre du Grand-Guignol setting could feasibly have placed this tale anywhere between the late 19th century and the mid-1960s, only the bleak backdrop of war-torn France could afford it the je ne sais quoi of the inimitable final production.
In fact, it’s hard to think of another story anywhere in the far-reaching Doctor Who canon that shares much with The Scapegoat in terms of pitch and style. Even the first episode’s title music runs for longer than an Arnold Rimmer salute, marking this one as something out of the ordinary right from the start.
Mills’ protagonists are written with such flair and zest that they would surely have proven to be a captivating bunch in any event, but brought to life as they are by the likes of Samantha Bond (The Sarah Jane Adventures) and especially Christopher Fairbank, the Baroques absolutely dazzle. Even the name ‘Baroque’ is so very suggestive; so perfectly attuned to
the Grand-Guignol setting.
That said, I did have doubts early on when Lucie first encounters what she describes as a “bloke with a goat’s head”, but the actors’ beguiling performances soon allayed any such paltry concerns.
“Every school, every work place, every school,
has a scapegoat… It’s nature’s full stop.”
The society and the history of the Baroques is marvellously
fleshed out in the script, particularly in the final episode when
the Doctor returns from their planet and delivers the potted
history of their race. We learn that the Baroques were once
a race of hunters that continually hunted each other until one
day, when they developed a system whereby each tribe would
select an ‘honoured’ scapegoat to bear the full brunt of their bloodlust.
What really makes Monmatre’s resident Baroques so fascinating though is that every night their scapegoat is killed on stage, as part of a production, before his timeline is wound back a bit so that he is effectively brought back to life. He could be decapitated or immolated yet, time and again, he will rise from the grave just to be killed again; his vaporous scars the only outward sign of his unrelenting torment. However, such a finely balanced system all goes to pot when one particular scapegoat, Max Paul, “the man of a thousand assassinations”, falls in love with a northern lass from the future...
As always, it’s a joy to listen to Sheridan Smith haul Lucie Miller through some of the most hysterical situations that you can think of. Mills’ script for this story is abounding with exactly the sort of heart and humour on which the character thrives – not only is she given a semi-love interest here, but she gets to spout some GCSE French, Blackpool style! – and even ad-lib her way through a markedly macabre theatre production.
“Me... The black sheep of the Time Lords. The one who didn’t fit in.
Driven out my people into the desert of time and space.”
The scapegoat conceit also plays wonderfully on the Doctor’s sense of segregation – after all, he has always been the ‘black sheep’ of his family, as it were; perhaps even of his whole people. Paul McGann has some beautiful scenes here, particularly towards the end of the second episode when Lucie confronts him about his lingering melancholy and his feelings about Orbis. This in turn contrasts delightfully with the Doctor’s far breezier action-adventure scenes earlier in the play, which could quite easily have been torn out of a World War II spy thriller. Well… that or ‘Allo ‘Allo.
Less impressively, Mills doesn’t have a very firm handle on regeneration, to say the least. The last episode sees the Baroque try to make the Doctor their new scapegoat on the basis that he could regenerate “again and again”, yet not once did the Doctor point out the flaw in their plan – i.e. that he could only do so five more times at best. If I were him, I’d have at least mentioned it on the off chance that they might discard the idea! Much worse though, Mills
has the Doctor claim to have regenerated (well, okay, “changed“) eight times, despite only being in his eighth incarnation here. Now this is either a dreadful gaffe (we are talking TV Movie need to re-dub the dialogue bad!), or something altogether more interesting. Sadly I suspect the former.
On a final note, after my moan
a fortnight ago I should say that
normal service was resumed so
far as downloading this release
goes (though I have reverted to
my pre-Wirrn Dawn approach of
waiting until both episodes have
been made available on the site
before downloading them both together, so I can’t speak for the Part 1-only downloads).
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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