The Astrea Conspiracy

This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid on 1st March 2019. If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.

 

Doctor Who: The Astrea Conspiracy

Aphra Behn is sitting in Antwerp, plotting to kill King Charles II. Aphra Behn is also sitting there trying desperately to get her former lover to turn against his fellow conspirators. Aphra Behn is in more trouble than she can imagine. And that’s when the Doctor arrives.

Liz Myles is an endlessly talented writer and podcaster and the best possible choice to shepherd the 12th Doctor into the audio Valhalla of Big Finish. The Astrea Conspiracy is a Short Trip, or single part story. It’s performed by Neve McIntosh, best known for her wonderful work as Lady Vastra and the combination of McIntosh’s perfect delivery, Myles’ instant ear for the 12th Doctor’s way of speaking and Behn’s remarkable life is a joy to listen to.

These are hard stories to land but Myles just refuses to believe that and turns in a piece that’s effortless, wryly funny, a little grim and inherently sweet. Which, written down, is basically a sketch of the 12th Doctor himself. Aphra’s growing realization that this isn’t all she has to be is beautifully played by McIntosh who also absolutely nails 12’s syllabic relish at getting to talk and having people listen. Better still, Myles understands completely that 12, underneath the battle eyebrows, is quietly one of the sweetest incarnations of the Doctor. The slow reveal on why he’s helping Aphra, and the ending in particular, is one of my favorite 12th Doctor moments and its all delivered in exactly the way you want and with exactly the right amount of ground-eating stride, cheerful hyper competence and sudden disappearances.

The 12th Doctor’s audio run could not have hoped for a better writer or narrator. The Astrea Conspiracy is vastly fun, shines a light on one of the most interesting and overlooked figures of the period and sets a very high bar. It’s available now and you should absolutely listen to it.