Doctor Who review: Iron Bright (Sixth Doctor audio)

As the Thames Tunnel is constructed and workers encounter mysterious “ghosts”, the Sixth Doctor meets one of his heroes in this month’s Doctor Who audio Iron Bright!

Doctor Who: Iron Bright begins with the mysterious haunting of the Thames Tunnel. What makes the haunting particularly inconvenient is that, at this point, the tunnel hasn’t finished construction yet. Marc and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel need help.

Fortunately, the Sixth Doctor has arrived to find out what’s going on.

Iron Bright is a story with a fantastic mixture of genres. For the first episode at least, it feels very close to a ghost story. And it works wonderfully well as such.

Not only does the Victorian setting help add to the atmosphere. Iron Bright also features some brilliant sound design. There are moments in the Tunnel that are especially creepy to listen to.

But as the story goes on, it also gradually increases in scale, and even starts to shift in genre. By the time you reach the second half, there’s a full on science-fiction story going on. This significant shift in storytelling is quite a risk, particularly at how strong the beginning was.

Thankfully, Iron Bright still remains to be compelling listening. One thing that helps is a rather strong performance by James MacCallum as Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Photo credit: Big Finish Productions.
Image acquired from Big Finish Productions.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Brunel is a particularly interesting and fascinating character. A man destined to be a truly brilliant and even revolutionary engineer, at this point, he’s still very much a young man trapped in his father’s shadow. He wants to impress his father, even while Marc makes some rash and very risky, even dangerous decisions.

MacCallum plays him really well. He plays both the youth and the innocence of the character, but he also portrays the intelligence, too.

Equally great to hear is, of course, Colin Baker’s Doctor. The Doctor is so enthusiastic about meeting Brunel, even considering him to be one of his personal heroes.

Baker clearly enjoys playing that enthusiastic and excited side to his Doctor. So hearing the scenes with the Doctor and Brunel are particularly wonderful to hear. You really believe that, for both men, the meeting is a key moment in their lives.

For the Doctor, it’s getting to meet one of his heroes when he’s just getting started. For Brunel, it’s meeting an incredibly extraordinary man like the Doctor. But, as well as presenting its own rewards, does this meeting present its own dangers, too?

Iron Bright is a great mixture of genres, combining ghost story with historical and large scale science-fiction. Amongst all of that, it also explores themes such as colonialism and pollution. So it justifies its length of two-hours beautifully. Another great listen for the Sixth Doctor.

Have you listened to Iron Bright? What did you make of it? And what do you think of the new cover layout for Big Finish’s Doctor Who audios? Let us know in the comments below.