If there’s one thing you can say about Shield of the Jötunn, it’s that the audio drama proves simplicity does not equate to poor storytelling. Serving as a very traditional Who story, from the base under siege elements to the monsters, it has all the basics we’ve seen so many times before; yet it handles them so well you just don’t care by the time the credits roll.
Set in the distant future, mankind is waging a desperate war to reverse the effects of global warming. As a prototype terraformer is put into action in Arizona, the workers make a startling discovery: A Norse burial ground, filled with dead Vikings and a rather lively Time Lord in a colourful coat…
The first point to truly praise is how writer Ian Edginton plays with expectations. While the audio drama offers the traditional mix of characters, from an overbearing man with money to a security chief, but their roles and characteristics are changed. Things aren’t quite so cut and dry as before, and some of their positions might surprise you. Equally, the role of the villain has a rather interesting twist to it, allowing them to act as the unrepentant brute while still retaining a small degree of sympathy.
The pacing of the story is also excellent, quickly setting up events but never rushing headlong into things. Rather than skipping the entire first act, as the Matt Smith era so often seemed to do, the audio drama takes its time but never goes so far as to drag events out. This can often keep you guessing where the story might go next, but at the same time it’s never so rapid that you feel you’re missing out on important story elements.
The voice acting and sound effects are typical of Big Finish: Crisp, clear and extremely high quality, yet a few old issues do plague the audio drama. Often the American accents sound oddly off-kilter, lacking some of the typical inflections and tones you would expect, and sounding too much like a general impression. While not enough to destroy tension in important scenes, you’d be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at some of the more exaggerated lines.
Ultimately, if you’re a long-time fan sick of the increasingly convoluted writing of the TV show or simply someone looking to get into the Big Finish universe, then Shield of the Jötunn comes with a strong recommendation. Just don’t expect too much more than a slightly different spin on the common or garden monster of the week plotline.
DOCTOR WHO: SHIELD OF THE JÖTUNN / DIRECTOR: LOUISE JAMESON / AUTHOR: IAN EDGINTON / STARRING: COLIN BAKER, MIRANDA RAISON, MICHAEL J SHANNON, NEIL MOONEY, JAMES CAROLL JORDAN, RYAN FORDE / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW