The final part of Back to Earth, Auld Lang Syne, is one of those stories that came out of nowhere to really blow me away. It’s so well written and acted, and has a plenty of twists and turns, too. Let’s take a closer look!
Review Starts Here:
This has a very Russell T. Davies feel about it as it focuses on a regular family getting caught up in irregular events. In this case Mandy Litherland (Leah Brotherhead) and her Great Aunt Bette (Wendy Craig) end up travelling to an old manor house called Foulds House to celebrate New Years with her Auntie Sue (Hayley Tamaddon) and her partner Frank (Greig Johnson). When they get there they’re greeted by the caretaker of the house, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), and soon some paranormal events begin to occur, especially to Mandy who is helped by The Doctor through ghostly apparitions, twisting corridors and rooms that lead to the past.
Wow, look at all those guest cast pictures! They do go the extra mile for the Eccleston sets…
The Doctor keeps inviting Mandy and her family back each year for free, which makes Mandy happy as she can get to the bottom of everything, confuses but delights Sue and Frank, but Bette is less than thrilled, she doesn’t trust the house due to an experience with ghosts as a child. As you can imagine as the story progresses we find out more and more about what’s going on, how it happened etc, but we also get some well written family drama that adds an extra layer to the story. Its one of those stories that when it ended I sat in place and listened to the whole end credits while just trying to digest all the little facets of the story, it really stuck with me.
As with a lot of these stand-alone Ninth Doctor stories, there isn’t really anything directly linking it to anything. I mean there have been plenty of creepy manor house stories, Seventh Doctor TV story “ Ghost Light”, Eighth Doctor audios “The Chimes of Midnight” and “No More Lies”, and the Eleventh Doctor TV story “Hide” all come to mind, plus a twist in this story also has a connection to Sixth Doctor audio “The Condemned”.
Plus The Doctor acting as a caretaker for the sake of a disguise is something he’ll do again a far ways down his timeline in the Twelfth Doctor TV story “The Caretaker”, though that’s in a school rather than a large house…
A second look at the overall cover, which represents this story with fireworks behind Earth… *shrugs* I guess that works, there aren’t any big villains to stick on it, anyway!
Auld Lang Syne is a frankly brilliant one hour story, full of great acting, a twisty-turny plot and well timed moments of family drama. A story sure to rank high on any top Ninth Doctor story list, a list that is now thankfully getting filled!
So the house turns out to be a dying TARDIS ejected from the Time War that turned itself into a house due to the chameleon circuit. Due to being cut off from its user its slowly breaking down and that’s causing all the phenomena and time travel. The Doctor tries to sooth it via Artron energy-infused fireworks but due to missing a year it doesn’t work, at least not entirely. Meanwhile Bette dies of cancer between two of the trips and it turns out Mandy ends up meeting her after her death from her perspective (but before for Bette, I mean obviously but I just want to clarify that…) via a door to the past, which led to some great emotional moments.
Frank also turns out to be a part of the time machine’s systems, and Sue decides to stay with him/it until the end, even if that meant not being able to leave the grounds of the “house”. Overall, like I said, there are lots of twists and turns but they all hit the mark. Great stuff.