The Doctor takes Hex to the Crimean War, in the wake of the costly and ultimately futile charge of the Light Brigade. Ace understands why the Doctor has brought them here all too well: Hex can, at least temporarily, make a difference and regain his confidence about traveling in the TARDIS. But this adventure becomes more than any of them can handle when the three time travelers are separated; Hex takes charge of battlefield medicine at the front of the war, but when the TARDIS is lost at sea, Ace and the Doctor are captured by Russian soldiers. The Doctor is treated like a visiting diplomat, while Ace gets to recover from her injuries in a cell. The three time travelers have to use what they know about this juncture in history to try to reunite with each other without changing recorded events. For Hex, avoiding interference with history becomes doubly difficult when he is introduced to Florence Nightingale herself, and is then accused of collusion with the enemy. Hex’s accuser is eager to see Hex dead for this crime, whether he actually committed it or not, and this time the Doctor isn’t there to help him.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Hugh Bonneville (Sir Sidney Herbert / Tsar Nicholas I), Jeany Spark (Florence Nightingale), John Paul Connolly (William Russell / Russian Dungeon Guard), Alex Lowe (Brigadier-General Bartholomew Kitchen), Sean Brosnan (Sir Hamilton Seymour), John Albasiny (Lev Tolstoy / Preston)
Notes: Most of the characters portrayed in The Angel Of Scutari – minus the time travelers and their interference in history, of course – were real people, including Florence Nightingale herself, journalist William Russell, Tsar Nicholas I, Sir George Hamilton Seymour and Sir Sidney Herbert. At the end of the story, the Doctor says he’s taking the wounded Hex to St. Gart’s Hospital, the near-future hospital where Hex was working in his first story, The Harvest.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: An intriguing historical adventure for the seventh Doctor, the basic premise behind Angel Of Scutari almost seems like a no-brainer – Hex, a 21st century nurse, gets to meet Florence Nightingale, who set the bar for that profession during a war that happened long before he was born. Fortunately, as predictable as it might sound, the story doesn’t play out anything like Hex – or the listener – might expect it to.
The premise that Hex is going to be dropped off and then picked up later isn’t that simple; before too long, the reunion of the TARDIS crew becomes a little more important than that, and the three separated time travelers realize that they’ll have to converge upon the same place at the same time in order to have even a slim chance of escaping with their lives (it turns out that the Crimean War isn’t the most pleasant vacation spot in time and space). Add magnitudes of difficulty to achieving that apparently simple goal – not the least of which is that none of the three has any contact with the other – and it becomes a much more desperate and suspenseful venture.
The danger with historical adventures is that they run the risk of, to put it lightly, not quite honoring the memory of all involved. That really doesn’t seem to happen here, however; The Angel Of Scutari does have heroes, villains, and easily-swayed people stuck in the middle, and yet there’s a reason for all of them to be behaving that way, and as usual with Paul Sutton’s meticulous travels into Earth’s history, it’s researched deeply enough that to merely describe it as “meticulous” is almost coming up short. Yes, certain events are fictionalized out of necessity (these things happen when you’ve got three people traveling through time and space in a police box), but the motivations and the recounting of events ring incredibly true. Sutton is the premiere scribe of historical Doctor Who right now – and yes, I’m including the current TV series here. They’d do well to give him a call before sending the eleventh Doctor into the past again.
The twist at the end, however, doesn’t resolve this trilogy of seventh Doctor adventures so much as it sets up a massive cliffhanger of its own. The fact that the next seventh Doctor audio stories to be announced were not the follow-up to these events was, to say the least, massively frustrating – but that’s just because The Angel Of Scutari was so good, I was wondering how they’d top it… and how soon they’d try.