When looking at Doctor Who from an objective point of view, or in this case a critical point of view, it’s sometimes difficult to not draw parallels or similarities between certain stories. The Doctor, after all, is a man who’s been knocking about the Universe for thousands of years; he’s encountered Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons and even himself, many, many times.
It’s hardly surprising to learn, therefore, that House from The Doctor’s Wife was not the first overly large, planet sized sentient being that he encountered.
The Brood of Erys finds the Doctor and Flip attacked aboard the TARDIS by beings called the Drachee. Flip is kidnapped and the Doctor, whilst trying to rescue her, encounters a young woman called Sarra. All three find themselves, albeit split into two separate groups, on Erys, a living moon.
Erys is a particularly nasty living moon (this reviewer is presuming that there are probably many in the world of Doctor Who) and demands complete obedience and servitude. Something that the Doctor, Flip, Sarra and the locals of the planet Asphya plan to put right.
Writer Andrew Smith, whose Doctor Who writing career began with the ambitious, if somewhat lacking, Full Circle, proves with The Brood of Erys that with the correct director, actors and pacing, his creative abilities have greatly improved with his further years of experience. The Brood of Erys is a well thought-out tale with some incredibly moving moments focusing on family ties and experiences of loss whilst growing up, as reflected through the eyes of the Drachee who are effectively the children of Erys. Perhaps it’s due to personal experiences through his own life; maybe as a talented writer, Smith has taken observations from others around him: the end result is the same – the eighteen year old writer of Full Circle is gone and what Big Finish now have access to is a man that knows how to create proper, believable and highly emotional situations in a science fiction story. That’s a rare commodity that should be kept close at hands at all times.
Overall character arcs are progressing here as well; the Doctor starts to recall some of his past friends and companions, thanks to the mental might of Erys, and soon ‘old Sixy’ is pining for Peri ever so slightly. Which road this will lead the wild-coated madman on is anyone’s guess…
Flip is also challenged in this story with a lot more to do than usual. Some of her initial scenes on the Moon of Erys, alone and frightened, bullied and intimidated, work very well indeed and actress Lisa Greenwood not only clearly relishes these opportunities to act her socks off but delivers them marvellously. However, for full story resolution, her character seems to make less of an impact than was intended. Is this a deliberate act for something coming or case of her character running out of steam in the script. Time will tell with that one.
The Brood of Erys takes some very rewarding chances as a Doctor Who story. Moments of tenderness and sadness far outweigh the horror and action scenes in this story, and that’s no bad thing at all. Big Finish was one of the original players to prove that Doctor Who could be not only a science fiction show but also a drama piece as well; it’s good to hear them get back to their roots.
The Brood of Erys is available now on CD or via download from Big Finish.