We’ve met Winston Churchill before in Victory of The Daleks and since then we’ve seen him in The Wedding of River Song. The Doctor however, has met Winston Churchill a number of times, and we’re about to discover what the Time Lord and the former Prime Minister got up to in this new box set from Big Finish called The Churchill Years. Comprising of four stories, The Churchill Years is set throughout the life of the Prime Minister; the penultimate release entitled Living History features the Eleventh Doctor (briefly) and Kazran Sardick from A Christmas Carol, but will it be a victory or will we have to just have to bugger on?
Finally given the chance to travel in the TARDIS, Winston Churchill cannot resist the opportunity of meeting Julius Caesar. But the trip does not go quite as planned. With the TARDIS gone, and Churchill stranded in ancient Britain with a young man he barely knows and who comes from the future, it seems things can hardly get any worse.
Until he is captured by the invading Romans.
Still, at least that means Churchill will meet Julius Caesar after all. But then Churchill learns of the Bronze God, feared and worshipped by the Ancient Britons. A god that he recognises as anything but divine when he meets it.
It only takes until the third release in this box set for our main character, Winston Churchill to finally be allowed in the TARDIS; this time with the Eleventh Doctor and Kazran; a companion that I really didn’t see coming but is a welcome addition to the Big Finish family. It’s extremely early on when the Doctor leaves the story, allowing both Winston and Karzan alone to explore Roman Britain.
The first thing I really noticed in Living History is that the relationship between Winston and Kazran is very reminiscent of a grandfather and grandson; there are a lot of similarities too, they are both of very different times, Kazran has lots of technology that Winston doesn’t quite understand and Winston uses references that to Kazran are extremely outdated. I really enjoy the mutual respect they seem to have for one another, neither one attempts to be the dominant male, the more experienced or the higher intellect, they are more or less equals.
From the cover of the release, it’s apparent that the Daleks feature in this story; which is a shame, I would have liked it to been more of a surprise when we first hear about the Bronze God, whose gifts seem to be deadly to the humans that receive them. Apparently an integrated circuit shouldn’t be around in this time.
If there’s one thing that I can relate to in this story, it’s that of Winston’s encounter with Julius Caesar; if Winston was around nowadays it could have been said that he was ever so slightly ‘fanboying’. A sentence I can honestly say I never thought I’d type.
Like the previous releases, it sees Winston separated from his ‘companion’, whether it be Hetty or Kazran, and they seem to have similar adventures. Whilst Churchill was with Caesar, Kazran was with Queen Tristahna, both slowly becoming part of a battle that has yet to be fought between the Romans and the Britons.
Whilst I enjoy the Daleks, (I mean, who doesn’t?) I often have to wonder why some of their schemes are in motion; they seemed to enjoy having the Britons and the Romans fight with one another, however I’m not quite sure why the Dalek didn’t just exterminate anyone in the way of its plans, it’s hardly as if in 55BC would be able to be any match for a Dalek. I guess the Daleks are really showman after all.
When Winston and Kazran are taken to meet the Bronze God, I absolutely love Churchill’s reaction to the ‘Ironside’; meaning we know that this episode is set after the events of Victory of The Daleks for both Winston and the Eleventh Doctor. Even though the Dalek and its ship was apparently seriously damaged, I think that the Dalek had forgotten to go to the lesson on how to negotiate and threaten; as I say every Big Finish review, I try not to spoil anything too much, but when you listen to this story, I think you’ll agree that when the Dalek is trying to negotiate with Kazran, his methods don’t appear to be very ‘Dalek’ at all; however immediately after, it becomes much more Dalek in personality. My only rationale is that this Dalek has some sort of bipolar disorder.
Whilst I adore Justin Richard’s scripts, I personally think that the idea of a single, battered Dalek trying to restore to the height of its power has been done way too often; considering they’re supposed to be a near unstoppable force, they seem to be slowed to a halt on a regular basis.
In Living History, we get another great Churchill speech, rallying the Romans and the Britons together to fight against the Dalek before it can exterminate everything and everyone. Churchill’s commentary of the battle between the Romans and the Britons and the Dalek is rather humorous, being honest about the events but with the vocabulary of a thesaurus.
Winston Churchill and Karzan Sardick are now one of my most unexpected favourite duos from Big Finish; even if their time together was short, I hope that should they do a second series of The Churchill Years, they are once again reunited.
Overall, I enjoyed Living History; it had a few minor flaws, but the pacing was excellent, the chemistry between the characters was superb and the story was satisfying. If there was one release from this box set that I wished had slightly longer to delve into more detail though, it would probably be this one. An extra fifteen minutes might have turned this extremely good story into a sublime one, but I’m aware that time constraints do exist,
Be sure to come back tomorrow for my final review from The Churchill Years box set, The Chartwell Metamorphosis featuring the Eleventh Doctor and Lily Arwell from The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe!
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Living History, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase The Churchill Years, click here to be taken to the Big Finish website. The Churchill Years is currently on special offer until the end of the month, costing £20.00 for both the download and the physical copies.