“I was awaiting Miss Warner’s arrival with all the calm patience for which I am renowned.”
“Winston, please…is she an American? Because she can probably hear you from there!”
The discovery of a mysterious stone with psychoactive properties brings robotic scavengers of technology (“”they’re called rats…reactive automated…something”) in its wake. Britain’s most beloved PM and his entourage find themselves trapped at Admiralty House on the Thames…can a leather jacketed stranger save the day?
Then Winston Churchill comes face to face with his determined pursuer, his “black dog,” as he was wont to call it.
But more than a dark depression, this “black dog” has a very physical
“Fellow wrote to us a few months ago…claimed to have seen some dog headed monster in your shadow on Pathe News…then when we intercepted Miss Warner’s letter concerning your nocturnal visitation…”
With Miss Warner dismissed and The Doctor being held as an enemy spy, our hero is left alone with an Indian fakir to face the enemy from within…but is this spectral visitation all that it seems?
“It’s always something of a risk, I think…meeting one’s heroes.”
Then Churchill gets his ride in the Tardis, with a trip to ancient Rome and a meeting with Julius Caesar. But he winds up in ancient Britain instead…and his meeting with the grandeur that was Rome is rather more compromised than he’d hoped for…
With Britain’s favorite commander serving as advisor to that of Ancient Rome, can their forces prevail against a horde of Britons being led by “the bronze god”…a time travelling alien force whose identity should seem yawn-inducingly overfamiliar to Who fans?
“Your desire for immortality is your weakness.”
Things close on a rather less heroic note when a retired Churchill tries to overcome impending death by making a bargain with a parasitic alien species of butterfly…
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
In the end, of course, our man comes to his senses and sets things right before they get too out of control…with a little help from The Doctor along the way.
“Resistance is illogical…you cannot succeed.”
“Do you know, various European leaders have held to a broadly similar theme recently…but I still won’t budge!”
Ian McNeice revisits his semi-regular New Who role as the beloved bulldog with a surprising breadth of character. Moving from the blustery humor of effective comic relief to the steadfast inspirational gusto of the historical man himself with ease, McNeice doesn’t forget to hit all the emotional touchpoints along the way.
From what could easily have become a two dimensional caricature in other hands, McNeice delivers a very full figured Winston Churchill, one who acknowledges his shortcomings and weaknesses with reluctance, but recognizes them nonetheless.
There are times where his overexcited narration approaches the sort of cheese we’ve become accustomed to with the televised New Who, but his actual performance as a scripted character feels comparatively quite naturalistic…and consequently, “right”.
It doesn’t take long to slip into the illusion that this is in fact the man McNeice is trying to evoke, and were he not also working the narration end (and accompanied by the John Williams/Danny Elfmanesque absurdist bombast of New Who-style scoring), said bit of prestidigitation may have remained successful throughout.
Despite the unwelcome interruption of these rather over the top elements, essentially, it works, and fairly well at that, with McNeice bringing a recognizable humanity and three dimensional life to a lifelong personal hero. Hats off to the man for his efforts here.