The last Main Range audio of the year / decade, Blood on Santa’s Claw is an “and Other Stories” release that is actually more one single story where the location changes a bit in between. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but often entertaining, Blood on Santa’s Claw is a good end to the range in 2019, if not exactly the most original story you’ll listen to this year… Let’s take a look!
The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Naxios, where they discover the body of Father Christmas. Who killed him? The strange individuals dressed in Shakespearian costume or the talking animals wearing waistcoats digging in the tunnels?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
So the big story leading into this release was that Peri has a boyfriend called Joe who is now travelling with The Doctor and herself, referred to as having joined them one or two stories ago. He’s a nice guy but clearly portrayed as being more interested in Peri than adventuring… or at least that’s how it starts. The big twist, and I’m talking “I hope you read the Spoiler Warning before this paragraph and took it seriously” kind of twist, is that Joe is actually from a group of werewolves called “Were-Lords” who were transformed and mistreated by the Time Lords and cast aside, and his getting on board the TARDIS was all a plan to get The Doctor to the 59th Century so they could have their revenge and be free. The twist was sort of well done, though an otherwise confusing twist in Part 2 kind of let the cat out of the bag that something was clearly off with Joe before the reveal in Part 3.
The Were-Lords were trapped in an endlessly looping Christmas Party until The Doctor allowed them to escape unknowingly, though it’s okay because in the end Joe and his leader are killed in cold blood by being shot with some weird silver-like ray gun… thing at the hands of Peri, which I know they had it coming, but it was still quite the shocker!
The most interesting part of this story is Part 2 (or story 2, I guess…) where Peri and Joe go to a shady clinic that can uses advanced technology to make children for couples and give them realistic depictions of how they’ll turn out at various ages up to the teens, settling scenarios for the parents to “try out” their children before buying them. Creepy concept, and in order to get to the truth Peri and Joe pretend to be would-be parents and get three children “made” to try out. Peri finds the whole experience extremely hard, and is obviously confused and devastated when the children turn out to be part werewolf (that’s where the sort of spoiled twist I mentioned earlier comes from)
Lots going on with this cover, but it’s certainly bright and cheerful looking!
When her “children” return in Part 4 it makes it even harder for her (and makes her more angry with their “father”) In the end she parts with them, crying into The Doctor’s multi-coloured coat at the end of the story. Given we know Peri is unable to have children in the future (which I believe is based on Nicola Bryant’s own experiences, sadly…) it made it all the more dramatic. Though I tend to like a happier ending in my Christmas stories, I’ll take a good bit of well written (and very odd in a sci-fi way) bit of drama if needs be.
The other thing I feel like mentioning is Part 1, where we’re introduced to the weird world of the 59th Century, where science has proven all major religions so clearly wrong that they’ve faded away, and now people “worship” random things like Shakespeare or Beatrix Potter stories just to be trendy, with the corrupt governing body being based on Santa and Christmas things, for… the sake of the story title, really… It was a fun 30 minutes anyway, and the fact that as a result of this adventure the silver mining on the planet stops ended up being a nice tie-in to the final two parts, explaining both why Joe wanted them to land here, and why he didn’t follow them down the Silver Mine tunnels.
So the idea of Joe turning out to be bad would have been a great and unique reveal… had it not been done TWICE in the space of a year and a half, by Big Finish, and one of these instances with the Sixth Doctor himself! At the start of the year we had Ann Kelso with the Fourth Doctor, and last year we had Mathew Sharpe with the Sixth Doctor in “The Lure of the Nomad”. Admittedly this was done far better than Nomad, but still, how can such an interesting and new concept be ran into the ground so quickly?
Speaking of which, although I liked the twist that these Were-Lords change form via a type of Regeneration, the use of Werewolves is kind of dull, and once again we just had a trilogy where the Seventh Doctor is travelling with a Werewolf earlier this year… All these things give the story a bit of knock, which is a shame because it does have some good bits…
Beyond the similarity to the Ann Kelso stories and “The Lure of the Nomad” as previously mentioned, there isn’t a lot. I could list a bunch of stories featuring Werewolves from TV and audio, but that’s a thin link. I could also list Christmas Stories, but I’d be here all day. Just be rest assured that this story is stand-alone, even if not entirely fresh feeling…
Blood on Santa’s Claw gets off to a fun start, and Story 2 has a great concept to it. Sadly the last half of the sort-of-anthology loses a lot of steam, and beyond some great moments for Peri and some clever tying of previously separate plot strings together, it’s not all that interesting. Still, a good release, just not as good as it could have been…