The Settling (#82)

Big Finish Main Range

This is one of the more disturbing audio dramas that Big Finish has released. I’m really glad that it’s a flashback sequence because I know Hex survives but at the same time, it also added some serious dramatic tension to the story. As Ace and Hex talk, they give hints about the things that happen, things they do and learn. Though I don’t quite buy that Hex thinks the Doctor and Ace are dead so that’s his motivation for trying to stop Cromwell, I really felt the tension release when he realized they’re alive. I don’t know much about Oliver Cromwell as a historical figure but apparently he had a very bad reputation for killing lots of people! Yet he’s portrayed as very human and driven in this audio. His discussions with Hex are intense and show more of his character and motivations.

I found this audio to be even more intense and disturbing this time around. I was hesitant to listen to it again, remembering that it was a difficult one. And it definitely is difficult to listen to, despite knowing that Ace, Hex, and the Doctor survive. If Son of the Dragon had been given this intensity, this type of character interaction, I think it would’ve been comparitable. But this is just a more well-rounded story, with each character contributing their own problems and solutions. Though I have no idea what the relevance of the title is.

Ace learns the hard way that resisting and fighting back will get her injured or killed. The Doctor saves lives, trying to show Cromwell that life is worth saving through his actions. This is an odd story for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor because he’s not very involved with schemes and machinations, but actually is just another part of the story instead of the instigator. Hex is really developed well as a character here, learning how his actions are just a part of history. He rallies the people and gets them killed, but doesn’t realize that these actions are what lead to history occurring until later, when it’s too late. It’s rare we get to see this kind of lesson so intensely delivered to a companion of the Doctor. This audio adventure really opens up the possibilities of Ace and Hex working together to defeat the villain at the Doctor’s side. Especially since Hex apparently abandons his skills as a nurse to actually pick up a sword and kill. That was a difficult part to understand but at the same time, it led directly from his interactions with Cromwell.

As difficult as this story is to listen to, as the background music is just a trifle overdone and loud at some points, the sound effects, acting, writing, and direction to the actors is just too amazing to ignore. What makes it so difficult to hear at times is underscored by the conversation Ace and Hex have onboard the TARDIS, obviously after everything’s over with. The hard lessons Hex learned that there isn’t a way to get around history and save everyone. He’s just part of history whenever they go somewhere, just as Ace and the Doctor are. Whatever they do, it is part of the grand scheme of things and they can only change the little things, not the outcome. Hex reaches out to Ace as a friend, with the possibility of more in his mind but she’s not ready for that. She’s not in love with the Doctor, as some of his companions have been, but she’s loyal and is his partner “in crime,” as it were. So perhaps she’ll change her mind about Hex being a younger brother or perhaps not, but either way, I really like the dynamic of this particular threesome in the TARDIS. May they continue for as long as Nicholas Briggs will allow and then some!

Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Philip Olivier

writer: Simon Geurrier

director: G-Russell

Release: May 2006

Laura Vilensky 2019