What’s it about: 19th century Lancashire: where the white heat of the Industrial Revolution burns hottest at Samuel Belfrage's brass mill, a mill plagued by more than its fair share of work-related injuries. While Thomas Brewster struggles to secure a fair deal for Belfrage's overworked hands, fellow travellers the Doctor and Evelyn follow the Copper King to Liverpool, there to discover the unexpected truth about Belfrage's business. Back in Ackleton, the local MP voices the fears of many when he says that the machines are taking over. He's more right than he knows…
Softer Six: As ever Colin Baker gives a peerless performance and as he mentions in the interviews on the extras he clearly loves working with Maggie Stables and it beans from every scene they have together. Go and listen to their antics in episode two as they chase after Belfrage for a great example of this unbeatable team in action. The Doctor is a fine medical man, leaping into action when a worker loses three fingers. A nosy parker and a pickpocket! What a cheat – the Doctor pilots the TARDIS to Liverpool station to catch up with Belfrage! As ever the Doctor and Evelyn make a fine, back biting married couple bickering over running, attempts to look inconspicuous and breaking into a building. I honestly think these two could be entertaining doing anything. He feels like an intergalactic caretaker sometimes. Is this the first time the Doctor has confronted somebody so brazenly and been thumped in the face? Belfrage thinks that the Doctor and Evelyn are coppers! Tries to convince Evelyn that they need an authority figure to lead them at the factory but she can see right through him and he is simply trying to get her out of harms way. He claims he talks to his enemies because he doesn’t like fighting but Brewster thinks he does it just because he likes the sound of his own voice! The Doctor is shocked at Brewster’s appalling tactics, destroying the creature by potentially derailing the steam train – he finds his ends and his means abominable. The Doctor would never have used Thomas as an agent because he doesn’t get other people to do his dirty work. The Doctor bops Stretton on the nose he goes clang! The only person who understands what the Doctor is going on about is the Doctor! He’s furious that Brewster destroyed the inhibitor, a sentient creature and thinks he has had his last chance.
Learned Lecturer: By all accounts Maggie Stables has had a terrible year having cracked her ribs and yet battles into the studio to play Evelyn and I’m sure glad she does. It’s a sparkling character and a sparkling performance and I truly hope we see more from her soon as the last three stories have had me really excited as we have approached the release date and desperately scrabbling to download them when they come out early and that is pretty much all down to hearing some more Maggie. She convinced the Doctor that Thomas needed a new start otherwise he would slip back into bad habits of which there is definitely a danger of. Its very Evelyn to want to watch over Thomas whilst he settles in, she’s such a wonderful motherly character and after the losses of Cassie and Jem she would want to make sure that this youth moves on with his life successfully. Doesn’t fancy sampling the New York of Europe, 19th Century Liverpool, a great deal! Evelyn has the perfect remedy for Clara’s shock, a nice warm cup of tea! She wonders how she could evacuate the town but accepts the responsibility. She’s so cute when she helps Mr Mole (the Doctor) out of his hole.
Artless Dodger: Eddie Robson handling Charley so deftly in The Raincloud Man, Lucie in Human Resources and now Brewster in Industrial Revolution. I do have some reservations about how this character arc was tied up because whilst Thomas gets an exciting new avenue to knock about in the story does not have enough space to explore the Doctor’s feelings towards the character and their goodbye scenes are oddly excised (both at the beginning where he is already set up and at the end where he dumps him for his unfortunate act at the climax). However, saying that the material that Brewster gets in this story is very good indeed; we get to see him as a worker in a workhouse which is probably where he would have ended up had he never met the Doctor, as a leader standing up for the workers rights, as somebody who can follow orders (his mentor/pupil relationship with Belfrage sings and makes you wonder if he cannot adjust because the Doctor is so unreasonable and condemning) and as a quick thinker, acting to save the world despite the consequences he will suffer. What’s more John Pickard gives his most assured performance to date taking on all of these roles with ease. This might sound completely insane but I would like to see is a trilogy where Brewster meets the fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors with their relationship improving with each re-acquaintance before he shacks up with the eighth Doctor and has a run of adventures with him. They have done it once by picking up his adventures with a consecutive Doctor and I think it would be an interesting experiment to take one companion and see how the relationship alters with each Doctor. Imagine seeing everything out in the universe and losing it. He wouldn’t knock a good wage, whatever he was doing. Those who live the traveller’s lifestyle are either gypsies, actors or crooks – which title would you put Brewster under? Turns out he’s quite a union man – he elects himself as figurehead for the site. Offered a substantial financial incentive to move on and never come into contact with Clara again – its easy to feel sorry for the guy who caught the eye of a lady of reputation whose father thinks he isn’t good enough because he has no roots. Brewster destroys the core and I was just waiting for the Doctor to go nuts although he thinks he has saved the world! Brewster tries to apologise to the Doctor for what he has done but they have already done. He hitches a ride with Belfrage at the end of this story to go on to have god knows what adventures!
Standout Performance: Rory Kinnear is superb as Belfrage, a wonderfully deadpan alien trapped in the 19th Century. I love the scene where he ineffectually tries to escape from the PC Doctor and Smythe by climbing a wall and falls on his arse! He develops a great rapport with the Doctor and Evelyn, especially the former as he tries to crowbar a sense of responsibility into his conscience! As the Doctor says: ‘Of the factories and foundries and mills in Lancashire the one where the machines come to life and start butchering people just happens to be the one run by an alien crook!’ Belfrage tries to get rid of the Doctor at any opportunity: ‘I just wanted him to stop shouting at me and go away.’
Sparkling Dialogue: The faded glory of Venice lends it a sort of ‘romantic melancholy.’
‘Are you ready to stop being ridiculous?’
‘First they took a few fingers…then they took a hand…now they’re coming for the rest of us!’
‘Squirt for your lives!’
‘Can’t you hear it? The death knell of the Industrial Revolution…’
‘We shall deliver this world from the agony of progress!’
Great Ideas: A dangerous business, a worker loses three fingers. Shorter hours, longer breaks, more pay? Gibson’s severed fingers are fully regenerated! A Carleon – usually red skinned with forked tail – has been smuggling rock salt off planet. Four years ago he parked his astro pod and toddled off to Northwich to pick up his consignment and he got back to find his ship stripped clean! Trying to attain spare parts for his ship so he can take a cargo of salt with him, his retirement plan. The TARDIS has been stolen, loaded on to a freight train for London. Instruments burrowing through the cellar walls, tiny mechanical arms passing raw materials through the cellar, building more of themselves using a large quantity of copper. A catalyst, you give it the best available level of technology to play with and it accelerates the technological level using its own databanks. A hand crawling along the pipes autonomous from its owner! Digging its way into other cellars and spreading out into the town. The machines operating on their own, seeking out flesh. Two processes, two separate intelligences – one evolving towards ever more advanced technology but seems benign whereas whatever is controlling the factory machines goes on the attack. The machines themselves aren’t faulty but they have been mutilating the workforce on purpose to create the creatures. The machines spread throughout the town, wherever you look. The creatures are cannibalising the whole factory, a metal egg ensconced inside the machinery, protected. Turning Stretton’s patch of land into a small strip of Eden, the work of a small terrain enhancer. Making the machines go mad and creating monsters from human flesh just to scare everyone, a gruesome bit of grand guignol to make everybody scared of technology. Inhibitors – somebody has seen the rate of development of human technology and they don’t approve.
Audio Landscape: Door opening and slamming shut, screams and crunching metal, whistle, factory of grinding metals, scribbling, ticking clock, crows screaming in the morning air, the tinkling buttons of the device, a lovely chugging steam train and whistle, train car doors opening and slamming, horse and cart, shifting rubble after a ceiling collapses, whinnying, electric tools chirping, bursting through the wall, the robots bursting through the floor, they drive the creature down onto the tracks where it is smashed to pieces by the steam train, the huffing steam of the engine, whistling birdsong, cocks crowing, the Doctor burrowing his way up through the mud, heavy metallic footprints, laser.
Musical Cues: A lovely smattering of piano in the club. A really creepy scream sting at the end of episode one as Thomas looks for his friend and discovers something nasty. The music gets very exciting in episode three as the pace speeds away.
Isn’t it Odd: Whilst I might have bemoaned the overuse of old monsters in the past you would have thought the very sniff of human parts being harvested for technology would have brought about a suspicion of Cybermen in the area. I thought it was very odd that the intelligence behind the scheme was brought up several times but never revealed which was a huge oversight unless it will be resolved at a later date. Come to think of it we haven’t learnt who created the Terravores in The Crimes of Thomas Brewster either. Oversights or will these elements be picked up in a later sixth Doctor and Evelyn arc?
Standout Scene: The TARDIS has been stolen! Oh no wait…it’s been accidentally tagged an put on a cargo train – a lovely piss take of a very regular occurrence in the Doctor’s life. I love the scenes of the Doctor and Evelyn exploring the cellar as the machinery twitches, hums and beeps around them – it’s a really creepy soundscape that made me look around at the walls of the room I was in in a panic! The cliffhanger to episode is smashing – the chilling advance of the Bodysnatchers. Stretton facing his death singing was really spine tingling. Shoving the creature in the path of a speeding steam train is an awesome set piece – the hissing steam of the train once it stops could practically by me sighing after the adrenalin rush!
Result: A battle of progress versus nature, which starts slowly to lull you into a false sense of security but as soon as it picks up the pace the excitement grows and evolves like the technology. There’s a lovely feeling of mechanical things moving all around you thanks to some creepy sound effects and the spread of the technology through the town gives the story a pleasing feeling that feels are spiralling out of control. My biggest issue with this story is that whilst it gives the Doctor and Evelyn plenty of fun moments it climaxes the Brewster arc (although he is characterised very well) rather abruptly and without much exploration of his relationship with the Doctor. With ghoulish ideas, cracking dialogue and some brilliantly realised action, Industrial Evolution holds the attention well and is a good example of a Big Finish adventure that grips because of the story rather than its arc elements: 7/10