Racism and slavery are not often touched upon in deep terms within Doctor Who these days. There are, of course, the odd debates or mentions about the subject (2017’s Thin Ice being the most recent and one to briefly admit to both at the same time), but fleeting glances at what happens when bigots are given too much power is all that Doctor Who has looked at.
The Behemoth is Marc Platt’s vehicle to delve deeper into these terribly wrongs, with the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and his friends (Constance Clarke, played by Miranda Raison, and Flip Jackson, played by Lisa Greenwood) guiding listeners along the way.
Whereas televised Doctor Who should be tackling these areas, it’s also a flagship family adventure show, fun for all the family, and one that can’t necessarily go too dark when delving into these particular recesses. Children can only take so much, after all. But Big Finish has a slightly different following, and certainly one that can be asked to consider the darker sides of human inhumanity and disgrace without the need for comedy or quipping. And boy, does The Behemoth do that.
The Doctor lands in 1756, in Bath, and soon finds trouble… and not just from Mrs Theodosia Middlemint (Georgina Moon), who seems to have taken quite a shine to him. This starts off as quite an upbeat satire, but, as you might expect from the writer of Ghost Light and Spare Parts, turns into a gloomier – but very enjoyable – affair.
What we have here is a pure historical – the only sci-fi elements are the Doctor himself and the TARDIS. For those that may not find that their kind of Doctor Who story, it’s worth reconsidering that right here and now. Platt’s tale of murder, extortion, and revenge is an eloquent one, told with sensitivity and brutal honesty. There are, refreshingly, no heroes and no villains – just human beings doing their best. And sadly, what they sometimes do best is take advantage of others around them.
Of course, whilst there is a stark and bleak reality to this story, there are also moments of kindness, not solely thanks to the acts of the Doctor and his friends but also from those that have had wrong done to them. This tale doesn’t just show the nastier side of humanity but also its better side as well. There are two sides to every coin and The Behemoth seems eager to prove that.
Perhaps this isn’t the greatest Doctor Who story ever told, but it’s an important one that deals with issues and problems that are still happening in the world today.
The Behemoth is out now from Big Finish, priced £14.99 on CD or £12.99 as a download.