Any fan will tell you that Doctor Who started out with the intention to entertain and educate; the time travel intended as a way to allow the show to teach history to its viewers. These days historical stories are a bit of rarity, and the focus of them tends to be less than historical.
Doctor Who: The Peterloo Massacre is very much an exception to this rule. This fifth Doctor tale focuses on one of the darkest (yet frequently ignored) days of British history. 16th August 1819 marks the day that the cavalry charged into a crowd of 80,000 protesters, who had gathered in St Peter’s Field in Manchester to demand parliamentary representation.
Starburst is a Manchester based magazine and our offices are just a stone’s throw away from the site of the massacre. We are well aware that the events of that day shaped the character and focus of the city forevermore, so it was with more than the usual amount of interest that we listened to Doctor Who: The Peterloo Massacre.
The story begins with a typical Fifth Doctor style crash landing, as the TARDIS navigates itself into some trees, thanks to the smog of the Industrial age. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are quickly assisted by the locals. This includes rich industrialist, self-made man and regional clichéd Mr Hurley and his family.
The team are quickly faced with obvious inequalities of the steam-age, and Tegan spends much of her time pecking the ear of Mr Hurley's self-important son. Poverty is rife, and Nyssa swiftly befriends Cathy Roberts, a serving girl whose family are on the knife edge of destitution, who has been invited to talk at a forthcoming peaceful gathering, one fated to become deadly.
One of the nifty things about Big Finish's Doctor Who stories is that each tale feels like it could easily be lifted from the era it's a part of. The Peterlook Massacre suits the temperament and style of the Fifth Doctor perfectly. Davison's take on the Timelord is energetic, youthful and emotional. He's a passionate crusader of sorts, and of course takes the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he desperately tries to protect his companions from the bloody murder that is about to unfold.
Even though this tale has been crafted with Davison in mind, the same spectacle could be easily be adapted to a television drama featuring Capaldi. It is certainly strong enough to make amazing television.
Paul Magrs has written a powerful drama, delivering a classic Doctor Who tale, which at the same time, reminds us all of this important historical event. We should never forget what happened on that dark day in St Peter's Field, and Magrs has responded by crafting an unforgettable drama.
Required listening for any Doctor Who fan, and we would go as far to suggest that even if you aren't into Doctor Who, you should give this a listen.
DR WHO: THE PETERLOO MASSACRE / AUTHOR: PAUL MAGRS / DIRECTOR: JAMIE ANDERSON / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: PETER DAVISON, SARAH SUTTON, JANET FIELDING, HAYLEY JAYNE STANDING, ROBBIE STEVENS, GERARD KEARNS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW