The historical event itself is the Siege of Drogheda (and its fellow, the Sack of Wexford), Ireland, in September 1649: a total bloodbath by all accounts. Very different in tone and scale to the murder of the princes in the Tower, but both suffused with terrible solemnity (and, as one would imagine, the spectre of historical ethics rises up once more, with both Ace and Hex adamant that they stay and help the besieged townspeople; compare Peri and Erimem in the previous story, who had greater disagreements with one another). The music, production and direction which sell this setting and this time in history – like the last couple of releases – are *very* nice and atmospheric. Drogheda is rendered in thorough, immersive detail (note the Doctor realising the fog is actually limestone dust from the bombardment, for instance), and the battle sequences are stunning, their confusion terribly effective. Likeable figures like Kieran are swiftly and mercilessly dispatched, and the screams at the end of the third part are horrifying. But Guerrier knows to slow the pace down sometimes too, giving us quiet, affecting scenes like the Doctor getting to know Mary Fitzgerald, her life and regrets effectively drawn in just a few lines as she confesses things to a face she somehow trusts. Clive Mantle (another big name guest star) makes a good Cromwell, gruff and brash (but with much-appreciated softer moments like telling the doctor to look after his soldiers). His line “He [God] wouldn’t want us getting bored” in response to Hex’s “no rest for the wic…er, righteous” is one of the most chilling parts of the play.
*since this review was posted, the author Simon Guerrier has confirmed to me on Twitter that Gary Russell approached him to write this historical with the preceding story's historical themes in mind - and indeed even sent him the script. So now we know!