Some Short Trips feel as if you’ve heard the whole story; others sketch in details and leave the listener’s imagination to fill in the gaps. This is one of the latter; there’s nothing left unexplained in Julian Richards’ fast-moving tale, but there are periods that are glossed over, making you regret that it’s all told in just under 35 minutes rather than a full double-CD of adventure.
The story mostly set in one of those periods of history that is little known: the burning of the White House, surprising as it may seem, is historical fact. It’s not well-remembered that Britain and America were at war between 1812 and 1815 –most histories concentrate on some upstart called Napoleon – and George Cockburn and Robert Ross were real figures (with Cockburn an ancestor of House star Olivia Wilde!)
Richards kicks the story off with a real jolt and what seems like an uncharacteristic act by Ace but all becomes clear as the scene changes from nineteenth century Washington to a time far in the future. Director Lisa Bowerman and narrator Sophie Aldred set a dynamic pace, with Aldred’s usual strong performance as the Seventh Doctor heard alongside various differently accented characters – from an Irish Ross to American Washingtonians (one of whom sounded rather like Nicola Bryant’s Peri!). The threat is one that may feel a little familiar, with one variant going right back to Big Finish’s very early days, but the idea is tackled in a very different way, given the setting – and there’s potential for a sequel…
Verdict: A solid blend of the historical and SF sides of the show. 8/10