239. Iron Bright
Behind the Scenes
Writer Chris Chapman observes:
This is my third story for Big Finish now after The Memory Bank and The Middle - and as both of those were outer-space, "IN A WORLD..." kind of stories, I thought I might take a shot at historical Who this time round. Something a bit more earthbound - or as it turned out, subterranean...
I'd recently moved to Bristol, and you can't move round here for references to that engineer extraordinaire, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. As well as his glorious Suspension Bridge, he's got museums, streets, even sandwich shops named after him! So I thought he might be a fascinating historical figure to throw into Doctor Who - taking my lead from the Russell T Davies era 'celebrity historicals'.
I had so much fun with the research for this story. Firstly, I realised there was a perfect moment in Brunel's life for him to encounter the Doctor. In 1828, as a 22-year-old, Isambard was digging the Thames Tunnel (the first excavation beneath a major river) alongside his famous father, Marc Brunel - with some tension present between the two. The project was way over budget and the men of their workforce were dying in cave-ins - one particularly fierce flood almost killed Isambard himself. After that, he never worked with his father again. And that was when his career as a world-changing engineer really took off.
So what if the Doctor was there in the Tunnel when things were at their worst? What if that meeting changed Isambard's life? And what if Big Finish got to tell that story?
And then it was just fun to meld the sci-fi and horror of Doctor Who with real life details. Brunel's trusted aide on site was indeed Richard Beamish, who was indeed a former member of the Coldstream Guards, who did indeed perform as a band at the massive banquet that Marc threw one night in the tunnel itself! That was my favourite thing to do - to marry up reality with unreality.
And there was room for some nuggets of Doctor Who history too: the Sixth Doctor reveals in The Two Doctors that he has a business card belonging to one of the Brunels - so I couldn't pass up the chance to work that in too. There's always room for a bit of continuity geekery!
- Chris Chapman, 14th June 2018
The Reverse Cover from the CD packaging