His curiosity piqued by the mention of an artifact in the Forge’s vaults bearing the seal of Rassilon, the Doctor discreetly sticks around as UNIT shows up to clean up the Forge’s mess. Hex, still plagued by his doubts that the Doctor ever would have told him the truth about his mother, unwittingly encounters Nobody No One, in a regenerated form, verbally giving the Word Lord the means to take revenge on the Doctor. The Doctor perishes in his attempt to stop Nobody No One from destroying Earth, and Ace and Hex are left to pursue somewhat normal lives. But Hex’s idea of normal isn’t to wind up on an alien world when any mention of space or time travel is considered heresy; he does befriend a fellow time traveler, a woman named Evelyn who claims to have traveled with the Doctor in the past. Ace must learn to accept an even more terrifying fate: married life. Even though he appears to have been beaten by the Doctor, the Word Lord still waits for his chance to strike again, only to discover that the former companions of the Doctor have learned much from their mentor.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Maggie Stables (Evelyn), Ian Reddington (Nobody No One), John Dorney (Henry / Corporal / Novice), Alison Thea-Skot (Ayl-San / Faber / Nurse), Andrew Dickens (Captain Stillwell / Applin / Tour Guide), Harriet Kershaw (Ann the Van / Story Speaker / Webster)
Notes: The Doctor implies that he has a calendar which tracks when his former companions die, but the eleventh Doctor’s shock at receiving word of the death of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (The Wedding Of River Song) would appear to be a hint that his calendar is incomplete.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Following on directly from Project: Destiny, A Death In The Family is similarly heavy in tone, killing off the Doctor at the end of part one – no, really. The remainder of the story is divided up into one episode each for Ace and Hex, and a fourth episode in which all the pieces come together rather cleverly.
The Word Lord is an unexpectedly formidable foe here, now played by Ian Reddington (who previously squared off against the seventh Doctor and Ace in the television story The Greatest Show In The Galaxy in 1988) with a horrifying, Jack-Nicholson-as-the-Joker glee. Though he, too, appears to be vanquished at the end of the first episode, he nearly defeats the Doctor in a way that a whole recent battle with the Forge failed to do. This is a Big Finish character who requires a rematch as much as Nimrod does.
Another callback to previous Big Finish stories comes in the form of Evelyn’s last adventure, chronologically speaking. Playing off of the fact that she’s already met the seventh Doctor once before (Project: Lazarus), and that he told her who Hex was on that occasion, Evelyn and Hex make an interesting pairing of companions here. The episode depicting Ace becoming stranded in one time and “going domestic” is a bit heartbreaking. Despite her life of adventure, Ace could actually find some happiness in a seemingly dull domestic situation… if she dared to let her guard down. Ace and Hex, by being a bit manipulative (in the same mold as the Doctor with whom they’ve traveled), again demonstrate that there may be a downside to staying in the Time Lord’s company too long (an interesting callback/call-forward to Davros’ analysis of the tenth Doctor in Journey’s End).
A Death In The Family is also an interesting preview of the next seventh Doctor/Ace/Hex trilogy, since it gives Sylvester McCoy a break and lets his co-stars take the lead for at least half of the story. The same “Doctor-lite” approach (a term usually reserved for TV stories like Blink and Turn Left) would prove to be a saving grace for the 2012 seventh Doctor audios, which had an unusual logistical challenge (namely, McCoy’s contractual obligation to the Hobbit movies). But with Evelyn thrown into the mix, it doesn’t feel any less Doctor Who – it’s just another testament to the almost limitless flexibility of the Doctor Who format, in any medium.