UNIT scientific advisor Elizabeth Klein is discussing work performance issues with her recently-hired assistant, Will Arrowsmith, when the dreaded “Umbrella Man” is sighted nearby. Klein orders Will to stay put while she tries to follow the Doctor to ask him why he’s there; Will, naturally, follows them both right into the TARDIS, which then proceeds to take off. It lands in postwar Germany, where something decidedly strange is happening. A couple speaking entirely in couplets seems to have the nearby village in their thrall, while a man named Schalk, the developer of a prototype mind-control device called the Persuasion Machine, hides out among the locals hoping to escape the notice of anyone who would wish him to build such a device for them; sure enough, a spacecraft does turn up looking for him, as does the Doctor, who is aware of Schalk’s past as a wanted war criminal. The Persuasion machine could conceivably end free will throughout the universe, and more than one party would do nearly anything to claim either the machine or its inventor. The Doctor must be prepared to be even more ruthless, and this, he reveals, is why he has brought Klein with him.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Tracey Childs (Elizabeth Klein), Christian Edwards (Will Arrowsmith), David Sibley (Kurt Schalk), Jonathan Forbes (Lukas Hinterberger), Paul Chahidi (Shepherd / Bondsman Tango-Veldt), Miranda Raison (Shepherdess / Acquisitor Prime), Gemma Whelan (Casta / The Sylph / Khlecht)
Timeline: after UNIT: Dominion and before Starlight Robbery; the Doctor seems to be aware that he will regenerate soon, so probably not long before the 1996 TV movie for the Doctor.
Notes: Apparently Klein has finally convinced UNIT to hire an assistant for her (UNIT: Dominion). Persuasion‘s opening scenes with Klein and Will are said to take place in 1990.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: A most offbeat and stylized adventure (and for Doctor Who, that’s saying something), Persuasion kicks off a new series of adventures set after the epic UNIT: Dominion box set. The thing is, UNIT: Dominion was sprawling, global, and epic, and the Klein story that preceded it, The Architects Of History, was a sprawling epic across time. By comparison, Persuasion can’t help but seem more confined, though the implications of Schalk’s persuasion machine are far-reaching, setting up the remainder of this trilogy.
Just to shake things up, Klein has a new, unsure-of-himself assistant, Will Arrowsmith, played to geeky-nervous perfection by Christian Edwards. Since the frosty relationship between the seventh Doctor and Klein is a known quantity, Arrowsmith is a handy point of identification for the listener – while not a world-renowned scientist in his own right, he has read up on UNIT’s files and thinks he’s ready for it. It’s all the more fun when he obviously isn’t ready for it.
A fascinating little tidbit of information emerges early on: the Doctor is aware that he is nearing the end of his seventh incarnation, and claims he has been stepping up the ruthlessness to rid the universe of evil in case his eighth incarnation is a more peaceful, less devious man, which reveals a fascinating element to the psychology of regeneration (and raises the distinct possibility that the future incarnation whose morality most resembles that of the seventh Doctor may be the War Doctor from The Day Of The Doctor). It’s an interesting further wrinkle to the concept, introduced in Klein’s Story (of all places), that the identity and nature of the Doctor’s future incarnations are somehow set before the regeneration takes place.
Persuasion is fun, and is far enough off the typical Doctor Who storytelling path to keep the listener guessing from how it all plays out.