20 years after the Daleks were driven off of 22nd century Earth, Susan Campbell still lives among humans. Her human husband has long since died, leaving her to raise her son Alex in a world that had grown paranoid, fearful of another alien invasion. Susan is outspoken in her opposition to the anti-alien Earth United movement… of which Alex is a member. The Doctor arrives to check up on his granddaughter, and finds that humanity has reverted to a Luddite mentality, destroying technology and working to avoid any contact with alien life. Susan has called upon an alien race to render aid to humanity, without consulting what passes for the planet’s government. But Earth United’s tendrils reach inside the government, and there are plans afoot to use Alex against his activist mother. The friendly aliens turn out to be the first wave of another invasion, which plays right into Earth United’s hands… but how much credibility will Alex Campbell have among his xenophobic friends when his great-grandfather and his mother are revealed to be from another world?
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan Campbell), Jake McGann (Alex Campbell), Sheryl Gannaway (Holly Barrett), Leslie Ash (Marion Fleming / Hope), Matt Addis (Faisal Jensen / Reporter), Ian Hallard (Duncan), Ian Brooker (President / Policeman / Air Control / Helicopter Pilot / Reporter)
Notes: An Earthly Child follows on years after Susan (still played by Carole Ann Ford) left the TARDIS crew in 1964’s Dalek Invasion Of Earth – the first series regular to do so; as an homage to that episode, this story utilizes the original 1963 version of the Doctor Who theme rather than the heavily remixed version used for the eighth Doctor/Lucie audio stories. Alex’s resemblance to the Doctor is no accident in the real life recording studio, as Jake McGann is Paul McGann’s son. An Earthly Child ignores the continuity of the BBC Books novels, which depicted their own reunion of Susan and the eighth Doctor in Legacy Of The Daleks. This single-CD story was exclusive to Big Finish subscribers, and was included with the December 2009 release, Plague Of The Daleks.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Russell T. Davies has said on numerous occasions that he created the Sarah Jane Adventures spinoff in response to the BBC’s request for a “Young Doctor Who” series – a proposal that would literally have seen a teenage version of the Doctor (presumably the first Doctor, though it probably would’ve been cast in the mold of a young David Tennant) on Gallifrey. An Earthly Child is about the only way a “young Doctor” story could be done plausibly, by making the young character not the Doctor, but his progeny.
Interestingly, with The Company Of Friends having embraced the continuity of the various lines of print fiction earlier in 2009, An Earthly Child acts as though the eighth Doctor’s reunion with Susan in the BBC Books novel “Legacy Of The Daleks” didn’t happen. This story clearly depicts this as the first time Susan has met this incarnation of the Doctor (and goes out of its way to mention that she remembers encountering his fifth incarnation in The Five Doctors), making life interesting for anyone trying to integrate the books, audio adventures and TV series into a single coherent timeline.
Carole Ann Ford deftly presents us with an older, wiser, and yet still impulsive Susan, and she works well alongside Jake McGann as the Doctor’s defiant great-grandson. Alex is fleshed out very well by the end of An Earthly Child, and I have to admit that it’s tempting to hope that his character won’t fall by the wayside. If he ever ran into Jenny (a.k.a. The Doctor’s Daughter), there would be a new definition of double trouble. The underpinning of this story is temptation: Alex is tempted to betray his own family to Earth United, Susan is tempted to summon alien help, and ultimately the Doctor tries to tempt his family back into the TARDIS.
The basic premise isn’t new, not even by science fiction standards; attacking organized xenophobia was also on the agenda for Star Trek: Enterprise, Alien Nation, Babylon 5 and quite a few others have treated the problem, to say nothing of countless modern-day non-SF media entities. In that respect, An Earthly Child isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s possible to set that aside to appreciate scenes such as the one where Alex is made aware of his mother’s decidedly non-human heritage – and therefore his own as well. Jake McGann does a very good job in his role – he rises to the dramatic demands of the script quite well. It’s also refreshing to hear Carole Ann Ford get to be older, rather than trying to shoehorn her back into the role of a teenager. There’s a tantalizing moment at the end where the Doctor offers to take Susan and Alex to Gallifrey; intriguingly, they don’t take him up on his offer, which leaves the characters open for future use rather than neatly tucking them away to vanish (or perish) in the Time War.
An Earthly Child is a nice little one-off, though now that we’ve had an audio reunion of Susan with the eighth Doctor, perhaps it’s time to leave well enough alone. The BBC Books novels also portrayed a reunion of these two characters, and did so very differently, bringing a bit of Clone Wars-style confusion to the otherwise surprisingly largely-reconcilable Doctor Who universe. As intrigued as I am by the thought of Alex turning up again at a later date (though I should point out that there’s been nothing from Big Finish to indicate the character resurfacing in the future, which is perhaps the wisest course of action), it would have to be handled very carefully.