It feels like it’s been an age since the first series of The Churchill Years, in fact it was over two years ago. Now though, Winston Churchill is back with another four adventures. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in this release, Young Winston by Paul Morris.
London, 1899. After spending time in warzones abroad, Winston Churchill considers a Parliamentary career. But a memento from his visit to Cuba, four years earlier, returns to haunt him. Across the city, the Great Detective has a mysterious caller, all the way from Havana. As ruthless mercenaries wield alien powers, young Winston and Madame Vastra learn they have a mutual friend – an eccentric young man, sporting a bowtie…
We’re going back to Winston’s 21st birthday, and Mr. Churchill is celebrating his birthday in Cuba. I found it interesting that Big Finish decided to cast a “young Winston”, in the form of Iain Batchelor, and I have to admit that I’m glad they did. Whilst I love Ian McNiece and his performance of the PM, his voice is too weathered to play such a spritely young fellow, and Iain Batchelor manages to capture McNiece’s essence almost perfectly.
I must admit I was surprised at how quickly we’re reintroduced to Madame Vastra, and I’m not complaining in the slightest. Ever since Jago & Litefoot & Strax I’ve been waiting to hear some adventures of Vastra, and, even though The Churchill Years wasn’t my first choice of series for her to return in, I’m glad that Neve McIntosh is reprising her role with Big Finish.
Boy is it good to hear that Eleventh Doctor theme.
After the theme, Vastra becomes the storyteller, and it’s nice to hear the events from a slightly different point of view. Whilst Winston was nearly killed in Cuba, years later it seems like something from Cuba has come back to London to try and kill him, and Vastra is on the case to stop it.
Hearing Winston flirting whilst he was in his prime is quite surreal, I must say, as I always picture Winston Churchill being a somewhat stoic old man. Even politicians can be people too.
Once Vastra and Churchill are acquainted, there’s a nice scene where Winston realises that there’s somebody in the Cuban Mafia who’s wanting his life. Churchill is a target, and he’s only just become a politician, a pursuit that Winston seemed extremely excited to be a part of.
There’s a great little nod to the audience in this release, where it appears that Winston himself is breaking the fourth wall, and it really captivates you and ensures you’re paying attention to the story at hand. Paul Morris managed to weave it in extraordinarily well, it didn’t feel forced, it didn’t feel out of place, it was the subtlest of audio winks, and I loved it.
It’s not too long before another party comes into the play in this story; there’s Winston Churchill, Madame Vastra, and the Doctor. The one with the bow-tie. It seems he’s also on the case of keeping Churchill’s life safe.
Churchill’s description of Vastra once she quite literally unveiled herself is brilliant, and it’s a gesture that really goes to show how much the pair has a mutual respect for one another. Both Churchill and Vastra have a far more open mind than most of their respective kinds due to one man, and Vastra is about to meet him in a cafe. A cafe that, sadly, doesn’t have any Jammie Dodgers.
The revelation that’s at the fore of Young Winston is really enthralling stuff, if a little obvious. At it’s core this story is a bit like an Indiana Jones story, without the action and the snakes, and with the addition of a lizard-lady, a madman with a box and Winston Churchill. It’s like The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull done right.
At it’s core, Young Winston is a story all about immortality, loss, naivety and growth. The Doctor, although used sparsely packs an emotional punch when needed to, and Vastra and the young Churchill’s outlooks on life; one as a spritely young man, the other as a centuries old lizard, compliment one another almost poetically. I just hope we get to hear more of Churchill and Vastra, as they make quite a team.
Overall, the story itself is a rip-roaring ride, and, even though it’s just over an hour and ten minutes, it felt like no time at all. There’s something about McNiece’s voice that really captures and holds your attention, and McIntosh’s narration added to that too, the variety of the two made it much more engaging; it was like listening to two friends recount a story you missed out on, rather than somebody monologuing at you. I must admit, Young Winston is an exceptionally strong start to this second volume.
Should you want to purchase The Churchill Years: Volume Two, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.