What’s it about: Opportunity knocks in post-war London. But when a tea leaf steals from the wrong woman it becomes a race against time to discover the truth. Only some truths are best left untold.
The Real McCoy: The Doctor sounds panicked when he hears that the technology is property of The Forge, especially when Hex gets curious considering what happened to his mother. With Project Destiny looming on the horizon I think the Hex could be in for a rude awakening and the Doctor might have a lot of questions to answer. McCoy’s ‘forced to tell the truth’ acting sounds rather like he is straining to park his breakfast (its true…go and listen to it!). Despite McCoy sounding as though he is on the loo the moment when Joey almost forces the truth from his lips about Hex’s mother had me literally on the edge of my seat. He’s lucky this time because Hex thinks that he is lying – I cannot wait until his past catches up with him because the shit is well and truly going to hit the fan.
Oh Wicked: I can’t remember the last time I listened to a 7th Doctor audio where Ace felt as relevant as she does in Casualties of War. She outstayed her welcome in the recent Lost Stories season and forced the new companion into the shadows which riled me up throughout that run. Michalowski manages a minor miracle by not only making her the focal point of the story but actually adding something to her backstory which I thought had been written and completed. And given that Ace is the centre of attention it seems apt that Aldred gives one of the better performances that I have heard from her on audio. Scrape away all the macho sarcasm and childishness and give her some real acting to do and Aldred delivers. Ace gets to talk to her mum as a young girl sleeping and admits to herself that they are never going to be alright together.
Sexy Scouse: Hex is very happy to see that they have landed right outside the local pub until he realises that it is Ace’s local. He knew all about history in the last story but has a complete blank when it comes to VE Day – get your priorities right, Mr Hex! He can’t lie with his eyes and when asked if he is Ace’s boyfriend Joey can see that he isn’t but he would like to be. Hex says that mums are important to Ace and you know that he means it, given how much time he lost with his own mother.
Standout Performance: Certainly a memorable performance – I have heard people condemn Beth Chalmers attempts to portray a four year old girl but I found little here to complain about. It might have been wise to have found a child to play the part but Chalmers makes a fair attempt and doesn’t have to do much beyond acting cute, giggling and crying which she does perfectly well. It sounds very odd to hear Chalmers and Aldred squaring off against one another given they are now travelling in the TARDIS together.
Great Ideas: A bracelet that forces people to tell to the truth is something of a loaded gun – it might be good for the purposes of the justice system but can you imagine wearing one of these in your day to day life? What a nightmare that would be!
Audio Landscape: Pub atmosphere, the humming bracelet, ticking clock.
Notes: The travellers visit 17 Old Terrace which is where Ace sent her grandmother and the baby in The Curse of Fenric and a lovely touch of continuity.
Result: Casualties of War is less a story in its own right and more of coda to Ace’s heartbreak in Curse of Fenric and a prologue to Hex’s nightmares to come in Project: Destiny. Saying that it is more focussed and sharper than either of the first two stories, featuring guest characters it is easy to warm to a pleasing return of The Forge. Its nice to see Sophie Aldred being given the sort of material that brings out the best in here (she’s as good here as she was in Ghost Light) and I literally cannot wait until Hex is let in on the truth about his mother. A sweet script by Michalowski and a lovely turn by Beth Chalmers as the Forge devilish Forge operative: 8/10