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New kid (and old monsters) on the block
on 19 May 2007
"On the morning of 12 October 2021 Hex woke up. He was expecting to go to work at St Gart's in London as normal and, that evening, have a great time in the bar of the White Rabbit, celebrating his 23rd birthday.
"But after his ex-flatmate is wheeled into A&E following a bike accident, and the strange young woman from Human Resources tries to chat him up AND an eight-foot tall guy in a Merc tries to run him down, Hex realises things are not going quite as he expected.
"Then in a Shoreditch car park he meets the enigmatic Doctor, who explains that he's an extra-terrestrial investigator and something very strange is going on up on the thirty-first floor of St Gart's.
"Therefore, aided and abetted by the Doctor, and his other new friend, 'Just McShane', Hex decides to investigate. Trouble is, everything that goes on at the hospital is being observed and noted by the occupants of the thirty-first floor; occupants who are none too pleased that people are poking their noses into business that doesn't concern them; occupants who will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that no one discovers the truth..."
In "The Harvest", writer Dan Abnett has the privilege of introducing the Doctor and Ace's new travelling companion, Thomas "Hex" Schofield (Philip Olivier). He also provides many of the classic ingredients for a successful story: a hospital setting, a misguided scientist who is carrying out unpleasant experiments at the behest of a persuasive villain, and the return of a classic monster, the identity of which I won't spoil for you in this review (although it is common knowledge to many by now).
The story plays out primarily from the perspective of new boy Hex, a young northern medical student who turns out to be a very likeable character, in over his head but determined to find out what has happened to his late ex-housemate. It is through his concern for his ex-housemate that he becomes involved in the unpleasant goings-on at St Garts and attracts the ire of the secretive villains of the piece, before falling in with the Doctor and Ace ("Just McShane"), who are the only people in St Gart's who can protect him and who seem to know what's going on.
Aside from a slightly intrusive, fast-paced musical score, The Harvest is a well put-together production featuring good performances from the regulars (including the often variable Sophie Aldred) and with a strong guest cast (Richard Derrington is convincing as the misguided Doctor Stephen Farrer, Paul Lacoux suitably cowardly as the hapless Doctor Mark Mathias, and David Warwick arrogantly officious as the villainous Garnier). The story's near future London setting gives it a gritty edge and helps us to identify with the characters and the threat that the Harvest represents. Hex makes a promising start as a companion and the development of his relationship with the well-established crew of the Doctor and Ace will be interesting to follow in future plays.