Following on from last month’s story, ‘A Heart on Both Sides’, ‘All Hands on Deck’ is the second Short Trips tale which work as a prelude to October’s Time War boxset.

The Survivor

Susan Campbell has been through so much. Abandoned by her Grandfather, she has seen the Earth get devastated by two Dalek invasions. The first on TV in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and then in the audio story ‘Lucie Miller’. Now all alone, she seemed content to live a quiet life and finally get some peace. This is where we find her in All Hands on Deck.

She is living in the ruins of what was once Coal Hill School. In these scenes it is nice to hear her reminisce about those days, when things were simpler for her. And it was also interesting to know that things won’t change much in the future, historical buildings will still be knocked down to make way for flats!

The Warrior

Writer Eddie Robson plays Susan’s life as someone who survived the first world war living in anticipation of the second. Someone who is just waiting, knowing that the peace won’t last forever. That a new and deadlier conflict is just round the corner. And she isn’t wrong. But this is only the first tragedy in this stellar story.

As with ‘A Heart on Both Sides’, the story concerns Susan and the Eighth Doctor and the story is told from the perspective of Susan. It is nice to hear Carole Ann Ford back on audio. The heavy narration of this story really helps give it a First Doctor feel unlike the previous release. The narration was a bit of a problem with ‘A Heart on Both Sides’ but here the story is more heartfelt and thoughtful.

If we cast our minds back, the Ninth Doctor once mentioned that there was no one left. So we could only assume that something had happened to Susan. Not only Susan but also the Master, Omega, Romana, the Rani, Drax, the Meddling Monk… Some of those stories have been told on television and audio but there are so many more stories in the Time War left to be told.

Day of Reckoning

Carole Ann Ford tells this story brilliantly. It starts off nice and light: mysterious asteroids, machines that spew custard and robotic spiders. But as usual, the Doctor shows up to turn what is left of his granddaughter’s life upside-down. As the story progresses, things start to take more of a heart-breaking turn. To her credit, Ford changes the pace of her narration as the impending doom starts to dawn on everyone.

The Doctor knows that the Time Lords want to take her back to Gallifrey. Of course they would! Susan helped to defeat two Dalek invasions. Is there anyone else, besides the Doctor, more experienced with battling the tin-despots? This is where the story loops back around to the conclusion of ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’. Susan points out that, yes, she did love David Campbell. But she wasn’t ready to leave her grandfather, he took that decision away from her. And when she brings that up, you know what is going to happen.  

Eddie Robson gives us a nice ambiguous ending. With the Time War looming, will the Doctor and Susan ever meet again?

Overall

‘All Hands on Deck’ is perhaps one of the most thought provoking and heart-breaking stories ever released by Big Finish. The success of the piece is of course down to solid script from Robson, fantastic narration from Ford and tight direction from Lisa Bowerman. It’s a cracking good story that moves along at a real pace.

Blogtor Rating – 9/10

‘All Hands on Deck’ is available to buy now from the Big Finish website.

Synopsis

Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.

Release #34 is an Eighth Doctor and Susan story.

Everyone Susan Campbell cared about has gone. Most of them died in the second Dalek invasion, and her grandfather never visits. She’s living in what used to be Coal Hill School, helping Earth rebuild again.

Then, one night, she’s called away to help with an emergency. A piece of appropriated Dalek technology is malfunctioning, and everyone’s afraid of what it might do…

This is just the first in a sequence of predicaments facing Susan – and the connection between them will shape the rest of her life.

Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman

Cast

Carole Ann Ford (Narrator)

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