The year is 1989. In London, safe cracker Raine Creevy breaks into a house – and finds more than the family jewels.
In the Middle East, the kingdom of Sayf Udeen is being terrorised by Soviet invaders and alien monsters.
And on the Scottish border, a highly guarded facility contains an advanced alien weapon.
These are all parts of the Doctor’s masterplan. But masterplans can go awry…
I have to say that I have not frequently experienced coming away from a Big Finish story feeling so utterly frustrated as I did after Crime of the Century. After a really promising start, the story just grinds to a halt and doesn’t really go anywhere, which is a shame when considering how bright Beth Chalmers shines as the new companion Raine.
You hired me to steal all of these things?
Well, to recover them from third parties who had obtained them illicitly. So not stealing really.Raine Creevy and the Seventh Doctor
By far and away the best part of this story is the majority of the first part. We have our introduction to the Doctor’s new companion Raine from the outset and that iconic image of her opening a safe to find the Seventh Doctor ensconced within it, which is something that Andrew Cartmel envisaged for the start of the televised Series 27 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This scene and the cat and mouse game that the Doctor and Raine play through this first part are easily the best part of the episode and Beth Chalmers and Sylvester McCoy have great chemistry in any scene they are in together. I like the fact that the Doctor has clearly taken an interest in Raine through her childhood, and even the playing around with time that he knew when he met her through reading her diary – which is not entirely complimentary about him! Their meeting made me think about Moffat-era Who, which is not entirely a bad thing – and of course, this idea had been around for longer. There’s a lot to love about these opening moments – the Doctor taking the black pepper to distract the dogs and just the setup of Raine’s character and her skills, including fencing, which makes it all the more baffling when Ace is involved in a sword fight with the leader of the Metatraxi rather than Raine.
Ultimately though, the continued presence of Ace is a real problem here, as I feel that she should have departed to leave space for a new companion. Here it leaves the narrative feeling quite fractured and almost destroys the sense of momentum as the Doctor and the adult Raine meet in the first part. I know that Big Finish like the character of Ace, and McCoy and Aldred are good friends and I like Ace but there’s a part of me that would rather have seen Ace leave in the previous story. I am no fan of the idea of Ace going to Gallifrey to become a Time Lord part of the “Cartmel Master Plan” but it feels like this would be preferable to what we get here. I’ve been going through the first series of the Sixth Doctor Lost Stories, and whilst not all of those are perfect, they benefit from Big Finish being able to adapt them. With the Lost Series 27, there’s a sense that so much of this is dependent on Andrew Cartmel’s cooperation to the extent that some of the weaker ideas have slipped through, which means that this does feel very in keeping with his tenure as script editor. When it’s good, it’s very good but when it’s bad in his era, it is usually terrible. The plot in the Middle East doesn’t feel connected to the set up in the first part and doesn’t feel like it would be something that would feature in the television show. I have limited experience of the New Adventures novels but know that they had a grimmer and darker tone, so I wonder whether it would feel more at home in the novels rather than the television series. I’m not sure Andrew Cartmel would even be able to tell you for certain what the titular crime even is here, as it seems to be something to do with Black Monday, but that seems relatively minor for such a serious title.
This has a real problem with keeping track of its characters, especially Ace and Raine. Unusually for a debut story for a new companion, Raine does seem to disappear for long stretches, and she and Ace are only really together for the closing moments of the story. It’s the same for Raine’s father, who appears briefly in the first two parts, and for the Prince and Felnikov, and this story struggles with its guest cast. I never felt attached to them or even able to work out what their motivations are, so when Prince Udeen is killed by the Metatraxi attack it is difficult for the audience to care too much about this, which is difficult when the story tells you that it is so important. It also randomly throws a Government Minister at you – with all the subtlety in the transition of having a weird version of Rule Britannia playing underneath it – without really explaining who this is or why they are relevant, except for where the final alien artefact is held.
I usually talk about the aliens in this piece but I felt that the Metatraxi were a little underdeveloped and I didn’t really come away feeling like I understood them. I think that the sound engineering for their laughter was really effective, although conversely, the translator fix to turn them into 60s slang spouting aliens became really grating after a while. I understand that they will crop up later on in this run of Lost Stories, so I hope that we get to know them a little better then.
Verdict: Unfortunately, Crime of the Century is a bit of a drag, made all the more disappointing when considering how positive its first part is. Uninteresting guest characters and a seeming absence of plot does not help. 3/10
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Beth Chalmers (Raine Creevy), Ricky Groves (Markus Creevy), Derek Carlyle (Nikitin/Parvez), John Albasiny (Colonel Maxim Alexandrovitch Felnikov/Party Guest/Waiter), John Banks (Metatraxi/Walnuf/Gunman) & Chris Porter (Prince Safy Udeen/Valentin).
Writer: Andrew Cartmel
Director: Ken Bentley
Behind the Scenes
- Raine Creevy is based on the character of Raine Cunningham, the companion who would have succeeded Ace as the Seventh Doctor’s companion had the show not been cancelled. The character was renamed as Andrew Cartmel discovered that someone of the name Raine Cunningham existed.
- The production is coy in naming the British Prime Minister, who would have been Margaret Thatcher in the real world. This is in contrast to other audio plays set in the 1980s which do name her.
- Derek Carlyle has appeared in numerous Big Finish productions, including Leviathan, Brotherhood of the Daleks and The English Way of Death.
- John Banks has also appeared in a number of stories for Big Finish, including The Feast of Axos, Thin Ice and The Doomsday Quatrian.
- Chris Porter provided the voice of the Smilers in The Beast Below, as well as playing a Winder. He has also appeared in The Architects of History, The Acheron Pulse and Planet of the Rani amongst other credits for Big Finish.
Your coming was foretold, apparently.
Yes, I must remember to arrange that.Felnikov and the Seventh Doctor
Previous Seventh Doctor review: Thin Ice