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Published on December 5th, 2005 | by Brian A Terranova

The Harvest

Sylvester McCoy for one reason or another seems to be Big Finish’s most underused Doctor. This may be due to nothing more then scheduling conflicts, but it doesn’t stop him from being one of the best Doctors to ever hit the Who scene.

At the end of his televised run as our favorite Time Lord, we were just beginning to see the magical Doctor that Sylvester McCoy had within him, and then as if the carpet was yanked out from all the viewers feet, the show was cancelled.

Books would turn up over the years trying to capture the feel of the show and keep the faith alive, and while some of those books did a fine job of this, nothing compares to the real deal.

Big Finish have done a number of plays featuring the 7th Doctor, ranging from his earliest days as the Doctor to continuing stories set after “Survival” and it must be said that Sylvester is a very talented man. He can fluctuate between his first season persona, his last season and his brief TV Movie appearance as if someone flicked a switch.

Some may think that that would be easy, but when you think about it, if you get used to playing a part for a few years then you will expand that part and let it grow. The final product would be very different from the original, maybe in subtle ways, bit then it is usually the subtleties that make the difference.

When you ask someone like Sylvester McCoy to play his earlier less “all knowing” self, then the actor has to tap into the role all over again and act as if he never had the years of experience he truly had with the part. The true skill is not playing a less wise version of your character, it’s remembering the things you can and cannot do at all times. You would not portray your self at the age of 10 with all the knowledge and experience you have gained at the age of 30 in the same manor. As I said before Sylvester McCoy is a talented man.

This Play is a fine example of the Doctor that should have grown on our TV screens from 1989 onwards. He is just as dark and shady as his last days on TV, while still growing and evolving in to the man we saw in 1996.

But his isn’t the only character to get this kind of treatment. Sophie Aldred also had some growing to do, she isn’t that teenage wild kid that we fell in love with. Nowadays she is a mature woman and seasoned time traveller, who has learned a trick or two from the Doctor. She has even taken to calling herself McShane, Ace’s last name. Don’t worry though all you Ace fans she does not keep this name too long, Ace does prevail!

When we join them in this story they are already at work on their latest adventure, what more would you expect from the Doctor who always seemed to know what was going on?

The setting is London in the year 2021 in a high tech hospital where a secret government program is being conducted. The Doctor suspects that the use of Xen-o-tech (alien technology) is being used to augment humans into some sort of super soldier. He has infiltrated the hospital security by planting Ace in the human resources department and having himself act as a janitor.

As usually thing get out of hand and they have to modify their plan on the fly. One of the modifications leads them to gain the help of a staff nurse from the hospital named Hex, played by Philip Oliver.

Philip is quite a fine actor and he adds the perfect finishing touch to the feel of this story, a feeling that seems to have been missing with the 7th Doctor and Ace team since Ace “grew up.” As you may have guessed Hex is Big Finish’s latest new companion, and I must say that since this story his character has really become quite interesting.

This is one of those stories that you hope they revisit, maybe not the premise, but the era. Perhaps it has something to do with Janie Booth, the actor who portrays “System” the computer that runs the entire hospital. Nicknamed “Sys” by the hospital staff System just seems to brilliant an idea to waste on a single story. Still if you were going to waste her on one story then this would have to be the one.

Hex gets introduced to the world of the Doctor and Ace in the usual way, by accidentally getting caught up where he shouldn’t be. He finds himself trying to save Ace from a man who appears to be 7 or 8 feet tall. Hex takes Ace on the back of his moped and starts speeding away to safety, while the tall man named Polk, is chasing after them on foot moving at speeds far greater then that of the average man.

When Hex is first let into the TARDIS his reaction is like travelling back to 1963 in more ways then one. This is truly a classic scene.

Moving along back to the adventure, the TARDIS team seems to have taken a high tech, spy approach to their “missions.” They now have the use of headsets to keep in contact with each other and have code words, etc. It would seem to be the case for this story alone, and while it sounds like it may be a bad idea for Doctor Who, it really does work for this story. I couldn’t imagine it working with any other team up.

In the end we have a brilliant adventure, with a twist, and quite frankly one that should not be missed by any Who fan. You’ll just have to take my word for that.

With the New Series on TV you would think that the Big Finish team would run out of ways to impress, and yet nothing could be more wrong.

The Harvest is a beautifully written play that blends the original series with the modern world or story telling, while all the time staying true to the heart of the series.

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About the Author

Doctor Who and me go way back. I first discovered it on my local PBS Station WHYY in the suburbs outside Philadelphia when I was a young kid; though I am uncertain of the exact age.




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