This is exciting isn’t it? A new box set from Big Finish that introduces the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors to New-Who monsters! The Fifth Doctor against the Weeping Angels, the Sixth Doctor with the Judoon, Seven meets the Sycorax and the Eighth Doctor is amidst the Time War with a new batch of Sontarans. Today, we’re reviewing the penultimate story in this box set, Harvest of The Sycorax.
In the far future, humanity has a remedy for everything. Whatever the problem, Pharma Corps has the answer and a designer disease tailored to every human’s blood-type. Zanzibar Hashtag has no need to be sad, scared, stressed, or depressed ever again.
That is, until vicious aliens arrive on her space station intent on opening its Vault. What will it mean for the human race if the Sycorax take control of what’s inside?
And when the Seventh Doctor arrives on the scene, can he convince Zanzibar to care about her life long enough to help him?
When you think of the Seventh Doctor, chances are you think of the dark undertones that Sylvester McCoy brought to the character of the Doctor. Likewise, when you think of the Sycorax, chances are you think of the dark, unrelenting menace that we saw in The Christmas Invasion. It might surprise you to learn then, that from the pre-titles scene and the scene that follows immediately after, you get the impression that this might be the most lighthearted story in the box set.
It seems as if we’re experiencing humanity at a point where everything has a cure, whether you’re nervous or stressed or if your oxygen level is too high, there’s a drug that will remedy the problem. It really reminded of how we saw humanity on New Earth in Gridlock, where people would buy emotion patches; it’s a terrifying concept if you think about it long enough, and one that I hope never comes into fruition.
Once we’re introduced to the Sycorax, it’s really easy to imagine them in your minds eye, thanks mainly to the brilliant vocal performances of the Sycorax (or is it Sycorax’s? I often wonder about plurals).
I must congratulate the brilliant James Goss for coming up with the name Zanizibar Hashtag for the Doctor’s companion in this story; it’s so obnoxious and pompous that you can really imagine someone actually naming their child it in the not so distant future. Probably a Kardashian. I bet Zanzibar’s cousin is called Barnabous Buzzfeed.
There’s a brilliant subplot in Harvest of The Sycorax in which we meet the people from Pharma Corps on their base, trying to get in touch with the people who are being held hostage in the Blood Bank. The characters in this subplot are really brilliantly portrayed as people who are brainwashed into loving their company and using their mottos in everyday life as an answer to everything. Talk about being a jobsworth.
Considering we’re coming towards the end of our LGBT month, I think it’s really nice that there’s an LGBT couple in this story; I’m not going to say who, as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for any of you; but I will say that the way the Seventh Doctor reacted when he found out was absolutely great, he didn’t make a big deal out of it and he swiftly moved on. Even though he realised the blooming relationship before the two characters did.
Whilst the big bad of the story is supposed to be the Sycorax, as they’re the monsters on the cover of the release and the cover on the box set, you may be thinking that they’re going to be the sole baddie in the story, especially as it’s only an hour long. But you’d be very wrong. The way that I interpreted this story is that the wrongdoers weren’t solely the Sycorax, but also Pharma Corps and their attempt at totally controlling every aspect of every single human beings life; whether it be through constant medication at any sign of emotional change, or whether it be by forming relationships purely through a dating app. The brilliant thing about being a human is the freedom of choice that we have, and I think James Goss has done an absolutely stellar job of reminding us which aspects of our humanity are really the most important.
Because we’ve only had one previous outing on the television with the Sycorax, it’s great to hear the Sycorax’s culture explored further and in more detail; we learn that the Sycorax pray and that they have some concept of art. It’s almost as if the Sycorax are more human than humanity is at this point; which is a really interesting angle for James Goss to use.
Zanzibar is an absolute badass once she’s weaned herself off of all of the drugs that she’s been taking; she’s one of the most morally driven, headstrong one off companions that Big Finish has introduced into the Whoniverse.
The Seventh Doctor also gets given one of the best lines of any Doctor ever; “The worst people in this universe are the ones with no sense of humour.” I couldn’t agree more, Doc.
The conclusion of Harvest of The Sycorax is reminiscent to the action scene in The Christmas Invasion, in the way that it pits a champion of the Earth, in this case Zanzibar, fighting the champion of the Sycorax; and it’s not who or what you’d expect. Who would have expected a fight involving the Sycorax that didn’t end up with bloodshed?
I started this review by stating that from the opening moments, I was under the impression that this would be a fairly lighthearted story; but I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, it has its humorous moments, and it was in no way utterly bleak; but it isn’t all fun and games; there’s death and there’s a really interesting subplot about understanding exactly what emotions are, and how they make us truly human.
Overall, I really enjoyed Harvest of The Sycorax, like I do with the vast majority of James Goss’ work; and it just goes to show how strong this box set is from Big Finish. If The Sontaran Ordeal is as good as the previous three stories, I think it might be safe to say that this box set is the strongest Big Finish has released this year.
Should you want to purchase Harvest of The Sycorax, it’s currently available as part of the Classic Doctors, New Monsters box set from Big Finish which can be purchased here for £20.00 for either the CD or the download.