It’s time to go back to that planet so good they named it twice, New Earth. With a release comprising of four stories set in humanity’s future, Big Finish have brought back some favourite New Earth characters, as well as introducing us to some new ones. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story in the set, Death In The New Forest by Roland Moore.
On his first mission for Senator Hame, Devon crosses continents to arrive in the New Forest and meet its people.
Trees are dying of unnatural causes. Sapling Vale, a cutting of the noble Jabe of the Forest of Cheem, will help Devon investigate the threat to her people.
So too will an alien, an old friend of New Earth… a time traveller known as the Doctor!
It’s time for us and Devon to head to the New Forest, the corner of New Earth where the tree people, bush people and plant people all thrive. Everything is organic, natural and made from wood, stone or vines. It’s a great idea, that the living vegetation have their own part of the planet that’s perfectly made to help them live their best lives, and Devon is on a mission that he didn’t want to have to take.
Devon has to meet Thorn’s family to explain what’s happened to him, and it’s not a task that I think any of us would like to do. It’s not too long before Devon is introduced to the Doctor. The one in the converse and tight, brown suit. Considering that the part of the Doctor is performed by Kieran Hodgson, and not Tennant himself, or indeed Jacob Dudman, the brilliant Tenth Doctor impersonator, I’m surprised how well we can invoke the mannerisms of the Doctor. He’s not a soundalike, but you really get the essence of the Doctor.
I have to admit, I relate a hell of a lot to Devon; not in the rugged good lucks and charm, it’s just that he’s quite literally an everyman, but the best type of everyman. Some everymen can be quite dull and lack personality or charisma, but Devon has been written and performed in such a way that he’s like a mate, a mate that you can relate to, no matter what. He’s genuinely becoming one of my favourite Big Finish original Doctor Who characters. He’s reluctant to do things that are out of his comfort zone, and wouldn’t we all? He didn’t want to be a hero, Senator Hame thrust a lot of this upon him.
The more we uncover about the tree people of the New Forest, their religion and their way of life, the more I become enthralled in their culture. Roland Moore manages to expand onto this new aspect of New Earth extremely well, and the tree people themselves could easily have their own box set after this release.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Lux are up to something within Death In The New Forest, and they’re a rather formidable foe. This time, they seem to be targeting people of faith, and forcing them to renounce their religion for that of the Lux. It’s rather a dark theme if you think about it; belief is one of the last things a person, tree or not, can cling on to. Removing faith from a person can leave them a husk of their former self. I know if I lost my faith in Doctor Who, I’d be a totally different person. The Lux are being extremely manipulative.
Extremely light spoilers ahead: but I love it when Devon get’s his own “It’s bigger on the inside” moment, he totally is baffled by the amazing technology that the TARDIS possesses.
The conclusion of Death In The New Forest is fairly uneventful, and it relies too heavily on the use of the Sonic Screwdriver to save the day, but it was quite nice to hear nonetheless.
Overall, I really enjoyed Death In The New Forest, it advanced Devon as a character, introduced more to the culture of the tree people and even had the Doctor thrown in for good measure. It would have been easy for the Doctor to upstage Devon and Sapling Vale (who’s a sapling of Jabe from The End of The World), but Moore’s script manages to put the trio of main characters on fairly even footing, even if the Doctor managed to save the day through a deus ex screwdriver.
I’m being constantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying this box set, and now I’m at the halfway mark, I’m extremely glad that I’ve decided to review it. Get ready, for tomorrow, we go and marvel at The Skies of New Earth…
Should you want to purchase Tales From New Earth, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.