blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 7.07 - The Flames of Cadiz

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 3/24/13 on another forum:

Blurb: The TARDIS materializes in Spain in the late sixteenth century. The country is at war with England – and the travellers find themselves on the wrong side of the battle lines.

When Ian and his new friend Esteban are captured by the Inquisition, the Doctor, Susan and Barbara plan to rescue them.

But these are dark days in human history. And heretics face certain death...

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the points-of-view of Ian and Susan. Published by Big Finish Productions and released January 2013.

Setting: Earth: Seville and Cadiz, Spain in 1587. Ian and Susan narrate this at some point in the future, time unknown but definitely after their travels with the Doctor have finished.

Continuity: This story is set between the Reign of Terror and Planet of Giants. There's no information given on where exactly it fits in relation to other stories set in the same gap, so I've gone with the simplest explanation and set it after the last audio story to utilize that gap, The Wanderer. The Doctor refers to Coal Hill School when talking with Susan (see An Unearthly Child). Ian refers to his experiences with Captain Cook in Transit of Venus. The Doctor wears a panama hat, which he'll wear again in The Daleks Masterplan. The Doctor also mentions sharing a fish with the Venerable Bede (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang). This story postulates a future meeting between Ian and Susan as they not only narrate the story but talk to each other while doing so. So far no story in any media has shown us how this meeting occurs.

Canonicity Quotient: Everyone acts out of character in this story. Ian endangers everyone else going off on a fool's errand. Barbara starts yelling at the Doctor and calling him an alien, something never apparent in the first two seasons. For some reason no one thinks that waiting for Ian back at the Ship is a good idea even though it's what they'd do in any other Season 1 story. The few references made to other stories are accurate but this one doesn't seem to really line up from a character perspective, which I think is far more valuable. As a result I had to dock this one some serious points. 0.85

Discussion: After having my expectations crushed with the Wanderer I picked myself up by my bootstraps and dusted myself off for The Flames of Cadiz. It was going to have two companions narrating. I'm a huge season 1 fan so it was great to think that there'd be more voice actors and more episodes.

Even though its a four parter the story is basically told in two parts. The first two episodes are fairly well told and seem to be a normal Hartnell historical adventure. The travelers arrive in an unfamiliar location, they get involved in a situation that they shouldn't, and then they need to get out of it. The scene with the Doctor trying to get the Inquisition to recognize him as a Cardinal from Rome is brilliant although I'm personally a little unsure about him involving Susan in that. It seemed a little out of character but was necessary for her to be able to tell the story.

Then we move on to the final two episodes and the story just completely falls apart. Ian decides that even though he's been captured by the Inquisition and whipped and almost killed that he's ready to go gallivanting off to see Sir Francis Drake because its such a huge opportunity to meet a boyhood hero. I'm not sure what Marc Platt was thinking but putting aside the fact that this seems like an incredibly foolhardy thing for Ian to do and completely out of character, he should be in no physical condition to make such a trip. He's been whipped. Huge chunks of the flesh of his back have been rent out of him. He should be resting for several days at least. Since part of this story's intent seemed to have been to convey the horror of the Inquisition I'm kind of at a loss as to how this wasn't even considered.

Then there's the double folly that they agreed to meet up at the house of someone on whom they had already imposed and who had become suspicious of the travelers on discovering that they were English. Why didn't Ian arrange to meet them at the TARDIS? That would have kept the other three safe and if there's one thing that is consistent about Ian in the original series it is that his first concern is always to keep the rest of the crew safe.

Then there's the triple folly of the Doctor and Barbara openly discussing Ian's plans in the house of Don Miguel, a man who they know is supplying the Armada and despite the fact that he is against the Inquisition is a loyal patriot of Spain. The Doctor especially should know to be more cautious.

Finally at the end we have Ian seeming rather naive when meeting Drake and not realizing that the man himself was not the same as the man in his imagination. By this point Ian should know that things aren't what they seem.

The other problem for me is that Barbara is shown to be so besotted with Ian at this point that she DEFENDS his clearly insane actions to the Doctor by crying and saying that he did not put them all in danger. While Barbara does get emotional sometimes within the stories I cannot see the same Barbara who stood up to Ian in the Reign of Terror defending his actions here. The Barbara I know of is a strong character and would have told Ian a thing or two about how he was putting them all in danger for something foolish and childish. Just because I'm convinced that they were in love with each other does not mean that they couldn't have an argument especially about such an obviously bad decision. It almost seems like Platt wrote a regular companion chronicle and was then told that he was going to get the anniversary 4-parter slot so he had to graft two extra episodes onto the story.

There are some minor nits as well. The end revelation about Don Miguel was VERY obvious and was telegraphed fairly early on.

The line from Barbara to the Doctor that "you aren't even from this planet" just seemed off. There's never any onscreen evidence that Ian and Barbara were aware that the Doctor was an alien. He talks about coming from "another world" but that could just as easily mean a world of the future and indeed the unscreened pilot establishes him as such. It just felt very jarring.

At the end I'm confused by the point of this story. First I thought it meant to show us the horrors of the Inquisition but the fact that Ian and Esteban are clearly no worse for wear seems to take that theory out. It also seemed counter productive to have Esteban to turn out to be a traitor and a spy if that were the case as it muddied the waters a bit. Then I thought maybe it was just supposed to be a censure on religion since Ian makes it plain in his narration that he didn't care much for religion and only went to church for show on a couple of holidays. But the stuff with Drake seemed to have nothing to do with that. Then we have the ending which seems to indicate that none of this stuff matters. Its all about where you're from and you support the home team. This seems an odd thing to say when Esteban was born in Spain and it seems to confuse the fact that while Drake may have been a bloodthirsty pirate, anything that he did paled in comparison with the Inquisition. It seemed kind of a trite way to end things and seemed to ignore the rather horrible situation of the first few episodes.

In the end, while I thoroughly enjoyed aspects of this one. There were some brilliant moments and on the whole the first two episodes hold up. I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown.

Final Rating: 6/10

Recommendation: I tend to think that the Companion Chronicles would be better if they were allowed to four-parters but the Flames of Cadiz puts my theory to the test. Midway through everything falls apart. We have two excellent episodes that really recreate a feel of a Hartnell story followed on by two stories that make no sense and seem to have been written in a hurry. I'd have given it one point less but the always stellar performances of Carole Ann Ford and William Russell manage to pull this up a notch and make it slightly better than half-good. I'd give this one a skip unless you're a season one fan or like the historicals.
Tags: an unearthly child, audio drama, carole ann ford, companion chronicles, daleks masterplan, doctor who, first doctor, flames of cadiz, ian chesterton, marc platt, planet of giants, reign of terror, season 1b, susan foreman, talons of weng-chiang, wanderer, william russell

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