Scorched Earth was the two hundred and sixty fourth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Chris Chapman and featured Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor, Lisa Greenwood as Flip Jackson and Miranda Raison as Constance Clarke.
The story is based mainly around the treatment of people who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, through which it explores the themes of hate, revenge, forgiveness and redemption. Various aspects of the story reflect this, most notably the conflict which arises between Flip and Constance.
July 1944. The TARDIS materialises in a small village near Rouen, where celebrations are in full swing. A joyful France is in the midst of liberation as the local population welcome a battalion of Allied soldiers – along with a colourfully dressed Doctor and his two rather excited friends.
But there are screams amidst the celebrations as an angry crowd dish out their brand of justice to one of their own that they have branded a traitor. While Constance and Flip find themselves on opposite sides of a war beyond a war, the Doctor has other concerns. The local community is used to the fires of battle, but a new type of blaze is burning – leaping from aircraft to aircraft, man to man – and this fire seems to be just as eager for revenge as the village mob.
While hiding in the French woods on the night of 4 June 1944, German soldiers Jorgen, Klaus and Max are flushed out by a sudden inferno. Max is killed. His comrades dive into a nearby river. They think it to be a demon that has come to punish the Germans for their actions during the war. The fire burns all 600 acres of the forest to ash.
The next morning, in the village of Vestille, near Rouen, the TARDIS lands amidst the celebrations of the villagers, jubilant to be free of Nazi occupation after four years. Constance in particular is swept up in the joyful atmosphere, knowing the war is nearing its end, but the Doctor is more concerned about the potential consequences of her knowing about important events in her immediate future. The two along with Flip speak with Corporal Walter Curtis and Private Stan Harris, soldiers from a British battalion passing through, allowing the Doctor to determine the date as 5 July 1944.
Jorgen and Klaus, in their scorched uniforms, are marched through the village as prisoners of war. They were found in the nearby woods which burned down the previous night. Walter reveals to the Doctor that he suspects the forest fire was no natural occurrence or accident. He he has seen strange lights in the sky lately with no clear relation to the rest of the war's aerial activity, taking the form of fire seemingly able to jump from aircraft to aircraft at its own convenience.
Elsewhere, Flip and Constance witness a local hero named Lucien lead the public head-shaving of a woman named Clementine, on the charges of collaborating with the enemy. Disgusted, Flip interrupts the proceedings by taking Lucien's scissors, but the Doctor appears and tells her they cannot interfere, however much they may want to. The incident creates a rift between Flip and Constance, as the former is repulsed by the latter's acquiescence in the village's behaviour towards a defenceless woman.
That night, Walter brings the Doctor and Constance to his portable radar station, to allow the Doctor to observe the sky. He spots a Luftwaffe aircraft engulfed in the flames Walter described but his inspection is interrupted by the realisation that the flaming Messerschmitt is heading straight towards them.
The trio run and dive over a hedge. The Messerschmitt seemingly roars at them before it crashes. A face appears in the fire, prompting the Doctor to attempt communication, but the "living fire" takes off into the sky. The Doctor retrieves a ember for examination. In the TARDIS, he determines the creature is not from Earth, nor is it known to the Time Lords, but he has seen enough to call it a scavenger, feasting on the spoils of war. He wonders why it was not interested in attacking him.
In the morning, 6 July, the Doctor wakes Flip and brings her up to speed. Flip is still determined to help Clementine, so Walter directs her to the liaison with the French in the village. She finds Clementine and asks her about her punishment. Clementine explains that she is known as a "horizontal collaborator", simply for falling in love with a German officer named Alois, before his death at Stalingrad. In her grief, Clementine's secret was exposed and she was condemned as a traitor. Flip comforts her, suggesting that as time passes, people will be more forgiving, although concedes that she herself is yet to forgive Constance.
The Doctor suggests to Walter that they can learn more about the fire by asking the two German witnesses of the fire in the woods. In the temporary prison at the hay barn, Klaus and Jorgen tell the Doctor about the fire. Based on similar stories they have heard, they are sure it attacks only Germans, not the Allies or any other potential targets.
Constance meets Lucien and they take a walk. Lucien apologises for the previous day's incident but maintains that enemy collaborators must be held to account. He reveals he is a member of the French Resistance, which Constance, as a WREN, has long admired. They talk about France under the occupation, giving an idea of why he was so angry. Constance accepts this, believing the French have "earned the right to be angry." Yet even with the war over, Lucien continues to be angry and speaks of the need for revenge. This makes Constance feel uneasy. Lucien takes her to see "justice" in action.
By a statue of the great French traitor, Marshal Pétain of the Vichy government, Lucien summons fire from his cigarette lighter to "burn the collaborators" inside Clementine's flat. Within second, the building is engulfed in flame, with Flip and Clementine trapped inside. Lucien is seemingly in a trance as he demands "An eye for an eye!" and "Death to the collaborators!"
Constance tries to get through the door to rescue Flip and Clementine but the heat stops her. After spotting the smoke in the distance, the Doctor arrives to help. They break down the door with the statue and Flip and Clementine escape. The fire shifts to try and reach her but the Doctor and company surround her so that the fire can't reach her without burning innocents. Defeated, it is recalled. The British soldiers bring up fire-fighting equipment but the scene is all clear, save for the smouldering wreckage of the flat.
The TARDIS crew confer with each other. Flip tells them Clementine's story while Constance warns the others about Lucien summoning the fire. The Doctor theorises the fire creature feeds off high negative emotions and it has attached itself to Lucien as a "Terran guide". While he was part of the war, he directed it against the Germans, and now he is directing it against his new enemies, the collaborators.
Although the threat it presenting itself, Walter and his men are called away by their superiors to join the front lines, leaving behind only their POWs. Left to deal with the problem themselves, the Doctor and his companions confront Lucien. Lucien explains the creature is called a Furio, and that he found her in a crater on the first day of the year. As a tiny spark, she spoke to Lucien, saying she fed on hate and thereby removed it. Lucien used her to fight the Germans in the Resistance but now that they have gone, he wants to use her to bring retribution to anyone who collaborated with the Germans.
When the travellers insist Lucien must release the Furio, he denounces them as collaborators and locks them up with the Germans. Lucien unleashes the Furio on the barn but the Doctor convinces her that they are small fry compared to the hate, anger, fear and guilt coursing through Berlin. Unable to resist, the Furio breaks free from Lucien's influence and speeds off to follow Walter's convoy. Yet Constance is far from pleased. She admonishes the Doctor for saving their lives by condemning hundreds of thousands of innocent people living in Berlin to death.
Seizing her chance, Constance assaults Lucien and then demands the Doctor explain himself. He admits Berlin was the first credible target he could use to send away the Furio and save their lives; however, he has no intention of allowing her to cross the German border and believes Lucien may be the key to subduing her. Clementine offers the Doctor the pilot seat of her de Havilland Tiger Moth, while the Germans agree to help with their Mercedes-Benz 540K.
Walter's convoy detects the Furio approaching them, endangering all 400 men. They drive on while firing back until the Doctor contacts them from the Tiger Moth. He assures them the Furio is not hunting the convoy but following it, hoping to reach Berlin. When the convoy stops on the Doctor's advice, the Furio stops in wait. The Doctor tries to distract her by telling Clementine and Flip and think happy thoughts. The positive emotions conjured by the happy memories gives the Furio, in the Doctor's words, "indigestion" and makes her feel "queasy".
Klaus, Jorgen and Constance, with Lucien tied up in the back, catch up. The Doctor informs them that Lucien is the only one that can truly release her. Constance admits that when she first met Lucien that morning, she was fond of him, and understood his hatred of the Nazis. Now she realises that the hate has been controlling them to no constructive end. It is time for him to let go, by releasing the Furio.
In flight, the Tiger Moth is knocked out of the sky and crashes, although the Doctor, Flip and Clementine are not seriously harmed. The Mercedes pulls up and Lucien tries to calm her but the Doctor advises that the only way to stop her is to sever his psychic connection with her completely, like a parent sending a teenager away from home. Lucien complies. Now that the Furio is free to think for herself, the Doctor tells her of a place far more suitable to her than Berlin: Skaro, where she can sate her hunger on all the hatred felt by the Daleks and its other inhabitants, although he warns her not to trouble any visiting Thals.
The Furio is gone before Walter meets up with the Doctor again. Lucien turns himself in, to pay recompense for the blood on his hands. Klaus and Jorgen drive off after saying their farewells. The Doctor reckons they won't get far but thanks them for their help all the same. At the TARDIS, Flip says goodbye to Clementine and then speaks privately to Constance, who asks for forgiveness. Flip accepts. Constance tells the Doctor she now feels at peace. Happy to hear it, the Doctor invites her inside and they prepare to depart.
- The Doctor - Colin Baker
- Flip Jackson - Lisa Greenwood
- Constance Clarke - Miranda Raison
- Walter / Jorgen - Christopher Black
- Harris / Klaus - James Boswell
- Lucien / Max - Philip DeLancy
- Clementine - Katarina Olsson
- Flip compares the Doctor's coat to something made by Julie Andrews, while Constance makes a similar comparison about Scarlett O'Hara.
- Flip has watched Saving Private Ryan and 'Allo 'Allo!.
- Flip last visited France during a Year 8 school trip.
- Flip had a fling with a German at Butlins when she was younger.
- Clementine's German lover died fighting at Stalingrad.
- The Doctor claims all the inhabitants of Skaro are full of hate; any Thals there may only be "visiting".
- The Doctor calls Adolf Hitler a "dreadful man".
- Upon hearing La Marseillaise, the Doctor remarks that he has met "Claude Joseph Rouget de...".
- Flip refers to herself, the Doctor and Constance as the TARDIS Gang.
- The story was released within a week of the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8 May 2020. It was one of two WWII stories released by Big Finish that month, the other being Operation: Hellfire in The Third Doctor Adventures: Volume Six, which was released the following day on 14 May 2020.
- Chris Chapman cited various books by Anthony Beevor as among the historical literature of the war which inspired the storyline. (BFX: Scorched Earth) Beevor was also among the historians credited in History 101, having written a military history book about the Spanish Civil War.
- While discussing the Doctor's behaviour during the scene in which he refuses to stop the cutting of Clementine's hair, Chapman and Colin Baker both considered that, had he been alone, he would almost certainly have intervened. In the story, his priority is protecting Flip and Constance. (BFX: Scorched Earth)
- Acknowledging that Doctor Who is an anthology series, Chapman thought it was important to resolve any character arcs within the confines of the story so that it worked as a standalone tale, and so he ended the story with Constance and Flip making up. However, he suggested that this incident could nevertheless put something of a strain on their relationship going forward. (BFX: Scorched Earth)
- Colin Baker referred to the Furio as "Orlando Furioso". (BFX: Scorched Earth)
- Miranda Raison compared the story to the film 1917. (BFX: Scorched Earth)
- The Sixth Doctor also embarked on a wartime mission in France in July 1944 in The Shadow in the Glass.
- This story was recorded on 16 and 17 January 2020 at the Moat Studios.
- Constance mentions spies at Bletchley Park. (AUDIO: Criss-Cross)
- Constance recalls her trip to to Vienna with the Doctor and Flip. (AUDIO: Quicksilver)
- Flip recalls meeting Davros and the Daleks, and remembers that they come from Skaro. (AUDIO: The Curse of Davros)