Philip Hinchcliffe Presents: The Helm Of Awe (Credit: Big Finish)


Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), 
Joanna Vanderham (Joanna Renwick), 
David Rintoul (Professor Angus Renwick), 
Jane Slavin (Peggy), Ewan Bailey (Davy McTavit), 
Kieran Bew (Murdo Jamieson), Chris Porter (Nardos), 
Fleur Hinchcliffe (Young Angus Renwick)

Producer David Richardson.
Script Editor John Dorney,
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

On the trail of an ancient artifact, the TARDIS materialises on a remote island in the Shetlands, an island that the TARDIS Gazetteer states is uninhabited, but the Isle of Bothness is most definitely occupied.  The close nit community are in the throes of celebrating the old Norse fire festival, Up Helly Aa, but they don't take too kindly to intruders. Below the island lurks an ancient evil, that is intent on destroying the Earth. Not only must the Doctor and Leela stop it, fighting the alien threat from two different time-zones, but they must also convince the islanders of Bothness that something is quite wrong with their lovely little island....a task far more difficult than you might think, especially as most of the islanders are under the alien's influence.

An alien artifact, and locals being wary of intruders are an obvious trope for Who, especially during this era. Phillip Hinchcliffe and Marc Platt have between them crafted a tale that is reminiscent of The Wicker Man, Brigadoon, and classic seventies Doctor Who with a very heavy Viking influence. That is quite a melting pot to keep a handle on, but they pull it off very well.

The story is full of suspense - from the first cliff hanger which finds Leela attacked by hoarded of Vikings, to an excellent set piece involving allied gun smuggling during the war and a torpedo wielding German U-Boat (the sound used for the torpedoes rocketing through the sea is a particularly great audio effect).

The alien is also well handled, and is kept well on the back burner for the first half of the story, bar the odd alien drone. I imagined the drones to be a whirling mess of deadly, clanking, Viking weaponry.

The final reveal of the 'BIG PLAN' is a bit of a let-down (it has been tried a few times before, and foiled at the last moment each time), but this is a minor niggle as the after effects of the are well handled.

The cast are superb, with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson front and centre. I had the impression that this was set quite early in Leela's timeline as she seems very primitive, something that I thought softened as her televised episodes progressed. Both are excellent though. Joanna Vanderham plays Joanna Renwick, the one sympathetic islander to the Doctor and Leela's cause. Her father in this story, Professor Angus Renwick is played by David Rintoul (ex Dr Finley). The rest of the cast are all great, they include Jane Slavin, Ewan Bailey (once the voice of a Heavenly Host in Voyage of the Damned, Kieran Bew (a guest star in Jamie Mathieson's upcoming Series 10 episode Oxygen), Chris Porter (The Beast Below) and one Fleur Hinchcliffe, as the young Angus Renwick who, with a surname like that, is bound to go far.

If it's classic, Hinchcliffe Who you want - then The Helm of Awe will most certainly scratch that itch.

The Helm of Awe is available as a digital download, or CD from Big Finish now.