Neverland

Doctor, of all the countless billions of people in the whole of space and time; why did it have to be you?

Romana

Synopsis

The Web of Time is stretched to breaking. History is leaking like a sieve. In the Citadel of Gallifrey, the Time Lords fear the end of everything that is, everything that was…everything that will be.

The Doctor holds the Time Lords’ only hope – but exactly what lengths will the Celestial Intervention Agency go to in their efforts to retrieve something important from within his TARDIS? What has caused the Imperatrix Romanadvoratrelundar to declare war on all creation? And can an old nursery rhyme about a monster called Zagreus really be coming true?

The answers can only be found outside the bounds of the universe itself, in a place that history forgot. In the wastegrounds of eternity. In the Neverland.

Review

When I reviewed Ghost Light last week, I wrote about how that story had great ideas but felt as though it didn’t have enough time to realise them fully. Neverland is a story that has the best of both worlds – it has some fantastic ideas at its heart and has the running time to explore them to a satisfactory conclusion. This story brings to a head the issues that have been pursuing the Eighth Doctor and Charley in this series of Big Finish audio adventures following the Doctor changing history by saving her from the crash of the R-101 and its cliffhanger leads directly into Zagreus, the Big Finish audio play marking the show’s fortieth anniversary.

There are a lot of good story elements here – we have the threat of an Anti-Time universe taking over ‘our’ universe as Charley’s continued existence allows this universe to start bleeding through into the main universe. Obviously, this has alerted the Time Lords who are keen to rectify the damage to history, whilst also keen to eradicate the threat to their supremacy. Add to this central element the fact that the villains have been created by the Celestial Intervention Agency, the possible survival of Time Lord founder Rassilon and the culmination of the threat of Zagreus that has dogged the Eighth Doctor’s time on audio and it needs the extended run time. The writer Alan Barnes subsequently admitted that he thinks that this story is too long, but I struggle to see a scene that I would cut. There are some lovely and tragic ideas here, like the Neverpeople being those who have never had a chance of life, having been victims of the Oubliette of Eternity, erasing their timelines, and the fact that one of Vansell’s predecessors as head of the C.I.A., Sentris, sentenced himself to the same fate once he realised that it was still being used. This helps reinforce that things on Gallifrey aren’t always as rosy as the Doctor would like to portray, even before events such as the Time War that the revived series would bring into continuity at a later date. The Neverpeople’s plan to get their revenge on Gallifrey is quite good too. They spread rumours that Rassilon entered their universe to destroy the “Realm of Zagreus”, ensnaring Time Lords like Vansell, then trick them into taking a cabinet of Anti-Time back to Gallifrey in order to destroy history and create utter chaos. I also really liked the resolution of Charley’s paradox – because the Web of Time was saved by her existence, it cannot be imperiled by her survival – which is quite simple but really good.

The sound design in this story is fantastic throughout. The story begins with the Matrix reciting historical events, breaking down as a result of the paradox Charley surviving the crash of the R-101 set up the story really effectively. We also have some great distortion on the voices of the Neverpeople, especially on Sentris, distorting India Fisher’s voice to an eerie extent. This works well on Paul McGann and Anthony Keetch’s voices when they are infected with the Anti-Time during the course of the story, creating a great and creepy distinction between their usual and infected selves. There are some other more minor moments of great sound engineering, such as when Charley hits the fast return switch at the beginning of the story or when the Doctor, Romana and Vansell travel through to the Anti-Time reality.

I am not the Doctor! I have become he who sits inside your head, he who lives among the dead, he who sees you in your bed and eats you when you’re sleeping. I am…Zagreus!

The Eighth Doctor/Zagreus

Lalla Ward returns here as Romana and she has got great chemistry with Paul McGann, to the point where it is utterly believable that McGann and Tom Baker are the same person, just with a different face. It probably helps that the Eighth and Fourth Doctors are quite similar in many respects, but they are wonderful in the scenes that they share together. Ward also manages to sell the harsher Imperatrix Romana really well and it is believable when the Doctor sees her in the alternative time line as someone whose top priority is to ensure Time Lord superiority over all races. When we come back to the ‘main timeline’ version of Romana, the audience can appreciate why power hungry figures such as Vansell may be frustrated with her to the point of treachery. Vansell is also played well by Anthony Keetch, fulfilling the turncoat role here, and Don Warrington completes a strong guest cast as Rassilon, bringing gravitas to his brief scenes in the story. I wish we had more of Warrington, but I know he plays a big part in the next story so that’s something to look forward to.

This story is Charley-centric as it resolves the ongoing storyline about her survival of the crash of the R-101, and India Fisher is on top form here. Whether she is letting the Doctor know that she is okay with him killing her to prevent the Neverpeople achieving their plans, or berating the Doctor for not telling the truth about why the Time Lords are so interested in them. There is certainly a maturity about this relationship now and I really think the two have great chemistry together. There is something disarmingly charming and childlike about the Doctor wanting to drop Charley off at an eternal party whilst he goes and sorts everything out with the Time Lords, and McGann is good here too, with him flipping between this childlike innocence and paternal protective figure of Charley. The Doctor tells Charley he loves her, taking this romantic version of the character to new levels, a couple of years before the revived show would explore this on television. This is probably the strongest outing for this TARDIS pairing and a great end to their second season together.

It’s alright, Doctor, I’m not afraid. It’s like I said on the TARDIS, my time is up. There is no alternative. Oh Doctor, you rescued me from the R-101. You gave me these last few wonderful months. The things that I’ve seen, the places I’ve been. I’ve lived more than I could ever have dreamed of and all thanks to you. And you’re the sweetest, the kindest, most wonderful man I’ve ever met and I’m sorry it’s come to this and I’m sorry that it has to end like this but if the Web of Time is destroyed all the time I’ve had, everywhere I’ve been, all those fabulous, fantastic things we’ve done they won’t ever have happened at all. I know it’s an awful, terrible thing but I want you to do it.

Charley Pollard

Verdict: A really great story, Neverland does some wonderful things and interesting things, and has great performances from the main and guest cast. 10/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Lalla Ward (Romana), Don Warrington (Rassilon), Anthony Keetch (Coordinator Vansell), Peter Trapani (Kurst), Holly King (Levith), Lee Moone (Undercardinal), Mark McDonnell (Rorvan), Nicola Boyce (Taris), Jonathan Rigby, Dot Smith and Ian Hallard (Matrix Voices) and Alistair Lock (Dalek Emperor).

Writer: Alan Barnes

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The conclusion of this story leads directly into Zagreus, however, there was a gap of 1 year and 5 months between the release of this story (July 2002) and Zagreus (November 2003).
  • Despite being billed as a traditional four part story, Neverland was released as two parts of 72 minutes each.

Cast Notes

  • Anthony Keetch reprises his role as Vansell from The Sirens of Time and The Apocalypse Element. He has appeared in different roles in various other stories, including The Fires of Vulcan and The Black Hole.
  • Peter Trapani also appears in The Shadow of the Scourge.
  • Holly King previously appeared in The Shadow of the Scourge, and would go on to appear in Kingdom of Silver and Last of the Titans.
  • Lee Moone, Mark McDonnell and Nicola Boyce had previously appeared in the two Eighth Doctor audio adventures directly preceding this one, Embrace the Darkness and The Time of the Daleks.
  • Jonathan Rigby previously appeared in Phantasmagoria and Invaders From Mars.
  • Dot Smith appeared in The Time of the Daleks and also Dalek Empire.
  • Ian Hallard went on to appear in Robot of Sherwood and An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Alistair Lock provided music and sound design as well as appearing in numerous other Big Finish plays including Invaders from Mars, Minuet in Hell and Dust Breeding.

Best Quote

Happy Birthday Charley! Only it isn’t my birthday, is it? It isn’t my birthday because I’m not supposed to have any more birthdays. No more cake, no more candles, no more presents, not now, not ever, no more birthdays since I died! That’s right, isn’t it Doctor? No more birthdays because I’m supposed to be dead. Dead and burned in the wreck of an airship. Born on the day the Titanic sank, died in the R-101. Poor tragic little Charlotte Pollard, her life snuffed out before it had even begun.

Charley Pollard

Previous Eighth Doctor story: The Time of the Daleks

Neverland is able to stream on Spotify, or to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Other Stories Mentioned:

Ghost Light

The Time of the Daleks

We are the Masters of Time!

The Daleks

Synopsis

The Doctor has always admired the work of William Shakespeare. So he is a little surprised that Charley doesn’t hold the galaxy’s greatest playwright in the same esteem. In fact, she’s never heard of him.

Which the Doctor thinks is quite improbable.

General Mariah Learman, ruling Britain after the Eurowars, is one of Shakespeare’s greatest admirers, and is convinced her time machine will enable her to see the plays’ original performances.

Which the Doctor believes is extremely unlikely.

The Daleks just want to help. They want Learman to get her time machine working. They want Charley to appreciate the first-ever performance of Julius Caesar. They believe that Shakespeare is the greatest playwright ever to have existed and venerate his memory.

Which the Doctor knows is utterly impossible.

Review

The Time of the Daleks feels impeccably researched, or at the least like the writer showing off his knowledge about Shakespearean plays. Whilst the idea at the heart of this story is undoubtedly a good one, ultimately, the story is not the strongest. It is to the credit of Nicholas Briggs, the director, in making Paul McGann’s first meeting with the Daleks not be an unmitigated disaster, and the central premise is sound enough to see this through.

The idea at the core of this one is pretty solid – William Shakespeare has been removed from history, causing humans in New Britain and Charley to gradually forget him. It is a plot that would only work for a story set in this location, as the concept of remembering Shakespeare is almost weaponised. It is certainly powerful enough to convince the opposition to General Learman that the poet and playwright disappearing from history is a plot by the ‘benevolent’ dictator and a side effect of her attempts to develop a means to time travel. As bizarre as it sounds, hearing the Daleks, and in the opening moments, Rassilon, quoting Shakespeare as Skaro’s famous children prepare to detonate their temporal extinction device is really quite powerful and well done. This is probably the most verbose we ever hear the Daleks and I appreciate that this probably won’t be for everybody but I rather enjoyed this aspect of this story. I think that it’s good to see different things attempted with the Daleks, and although this does eventually and inevitably dissolve into traditional Dalek action, it is at least to this story’s credit that they try and do something a bit different. The idea of time travel through mirrors is a nice one, if a bit silly, and something that we would see on the television in Turn Left. My favourite moment was probably the transformation of Learman into the Dalek mutant and the suicide of a ‘failed’ Dalek to include her in their plans. It’s a lovely moment, almost like body horror in audio and is executed really well.

Nick Briggs’ direction of this story does help it slightly, especially with the sound design and background music. There is a nice bit of piano that teases the arrival of the Daleks, and of course we get the traditional Dalek heartbeat. One of my favourite things in this story was the effects used on the voices of Viola and Charley as they attempt to use the mirrors to time travel, distorting their voices, which is a really nice way of realising this on audio. His key role of course, is the Daleks, which it feels obvious to say that he does well here, but having a solid presence in a story like this is always useful, playing the usual Daleks and the Supreme. He also has a lot more work to do than normal, given the fact that the story gives the Daleks more to say than usual.

I feel that the first two parts are good, but starts to fall down in the concluding two parts. It almost feels as though there is enough material to be put into two stories here – one, with the Daleks invading Earth through its history, and the other with Shakespeare (and maybe other famous literary figures) disappearing from time and the impact on time and the present. I will never criticise a writer for doing their homework, as it were, but Justin Richards feels as though he throws every possible Shakespearean reference at this and not all of them work. Part of the problem might be that there are too many characters, and certainly the majority of the guest cast don’t make much of an impression. The exception to this is Mariah Learman, played by Dot Smith, who ultimately wants to be the only person who can remember Shakespeare as she descends into insanity, bemoaning the fact that his skill is taken for granted. Smith is really good in the role and makes the most of this part, but I don’t think the other guest characters are written as well, and so this causes them to feel quite similar.

Whilst Paul McGann and India Fisher do put in decent performances, this isn’t the greatest Eighth Doctor and Charley story ever. In fact, I think this story could work with any Doctor/Companion pairing, with nothing really to tie it to these two other than the final scene, which links into the ongoing arc surrounding Charley.

Verdict: I actually managed to talk myself up in the course of writing this review. There are some interesting ideas in The Time of the Daleks, but a promising start leads to a bit of a convaluted ending. 6/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Dot Smith (General Mariah Learman), Julian Harries (Major Ferdinand), Nicola Boyce (Viola), Jem Bassett (Kitchen Boy), Mark McDonnell (Priestly), Lee Moone (Hart), Ian Brooker (Professor Osric), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Voice), Clayton Hickman (Dalek Voice/Yokel), Robert Curbishley (Marcus), Ian Potter (Mark Anthony/Army Officer/Tannoy) & Don Warrington (Rassilon).

Writer: Justin Richards

Director: Nicholas Briggs

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks the first credited appearance of Rassilon in an audio story. He appeared at the end of Seasons of Fear, but was not credited.
  • The first Dalek story for Paul McGann – despite the Daleks briefly making an audio cameo at the start of the TV Movie, the Doctor and the Daleks did not share any scenes.
  • Whilst the Doctor has met Shakespeare on a number of occasions, this is chronologically the first meeting between the two.

Cast Notes

  • Dot Smith appeared in Dalek Empire as Milvas.
  • Julian Harries also appeared in Bloodtide.
  • Nicola Boyce appeared in Embrace the Darkness and would go on to appear in Neverland.
  • To hide the fact that Shakespeare was being portrayed by a woman, Jemma Bassett was credited as Jem.
  • Mark McDonald would go on to appear in Neverland, as well as featuring in the War Doctor audios and had previously appeared in Embrace the Darkness.
  • Following on from his appearance in Embrace the Darkness, Lee Moone would go on to appear in Neverland.
  • Ian Brooker had previously appeared in Embrace the Darkness.
  • Clayton Hickman designed a lot of DVD and Big Finish CD covers.
  • Robert Curbishley has appeared in numerous releases across the Main Range and UNIT releases.
  • Ian Potter has written a number of stories for both novels and Big Finish.

Best Quote

It’s a strange partnership where they do all the work and we get all the reward.

Major Ferdinand

Previous Eighth Doctor Review: Embrace the Darkness

Embrace the Darkness

The first new dawn in the Cimmerian System for a thousand years. And it’s my fault.

The Eighth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor and Charley travel to the distant Cimmerian system to unravel the mystery of its sun. But darkness has embraced the scientific base on Cimmeria IV in more ways that one…

In a fight for survival, the Doctor must use all his wits against a deadly artificial life-form and an ancient race whose return to the Cimmerian System threatens suffering and death on an apocalyptic scale.

Review

Nicholas Briggs’ early Big Finish stories show promise but ultimately fall short and sadly Embrace the Darkness is in this mould. This story does feature a lot of problems that beset the four part stories in the original run of Doctor Who, including what feels like a shortfall of plot which makes the middle of the story sag a little bit, whilst it also manages to make the finale feel rushed.

Where the story does really succeed, however, is in the audio landscape. Nicholas Briggs has been done a really great job here of creating a creepy and unsettling atmosphere through mostly sound effects rather than music. Like all of the Big Finish audios I have listened to so far for this blog, I listened to this on headphones and this story really felt three-dimensional and believable. The Cimmerian voices are also suitably unnerving and reminded me slightly of the voice of Gollum from The Lord of Rings films. This is also true of The Sword of Orion, Briggs’ previous story for the Eighth Doctor, but this story feels slightly more confident and ever so slightly better.

The story also has an interesting idea in its central premise – a star system devoid of light, afraid of the return of the light due to a belief that it will lead to their destruction. We also have a lot of time spent with the Doctor believing that his actions will lead to the Cimmerians destruction and questioning the effect of his interference. A story set on a planet devoid of light naturally lends itself to audio and helps the listener feel engaged in the story. There are some other stories which use the constraints of audio to their advantage in the Big Finish range – another one that jumps to mind is The End of the Line in which the characters spend a lot of time stranded in thick fog. Whilst this element works really well, the story feels as though it spends a lot of time treading water in the middle, especially as those stranded on the base don’t seem in any urgent hurry to leave in the rescue ship. The story doesn’t take the opportunity to delve into giving the guest characters more characterisation despite a small cast. They can largely be described as being one dimensional, and only really have one defining characteristic each. Orllensa is lucky and has two – she is Russian or at least East European and cynical. We do get some of her bask story but Haliard and Ferras get nothing.

The ending is also pretty poor, with the reveal that the perceived descending army of Solarians are actually Cimmerians feeling both rushed and overly simplistic. It does skirt around the idea of fear enhancing to the point where the Cimmerians are terrified of the light and deprive it of everyone in the system, which leads to some particularly effective body horror when we learn that Orllensa and Ferras have had their eyes burnt out. What I do like about the story is that, despite the Doctor and Charley mentioning the TARDIS and even trying to escape from the advancing Solarians, the story doesn’t allow them to take that shortcut. Despite my issues with the conclusion, I also really like the idea of their ships which are powered by solar sails.

This is not a tremendous story for the Eighth Doctor or Charley, however, McGann and Fisher do some good work here. The story spends a lot of time with the Doctor feeling like a pedestrian to the plot and he seems to spend most of it being quite reactionary but the moments in which he ponders whether interfering in the life of alien races and planets is right. Meanwhile, despite spending most the story apart, Charley doesn’t feel as though she has very much to do. She does have some good moments – I like her reaction when ROSM disables offensive weaponry previously targeted at her. McGann and Fisher feel as though they have really got the relationship between the two characters down and even in a story like this, they are capable of elevating it. The story does not advance the ongoing arc about Charley’s survival and its impact on the Web of Time, although the gathering of the Type 70 TARDISes at the beginning of the story might be hinting at the Time Lords tightening the net, and ROSM states that his readings flag something up as unusual, but nothing more is made of it.

Verdict: A story with an interesting premise and great sound design, which falls down in its execution. The ending feels particularly rushed. 5/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Nicola Boyce (Orllensa), Lee Moone (Ferras), Mark McDonnell (Haliard), Ian Brooker (ROSM/Solarian/Cimmerian) & Nicholas Briggs (Cimmerian Voice).

Writer: Nicholas Briggs

Director: Nicholas Briggs

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was originally supposed to feature the Morestrans from Planet of Evil, but the rights could not be obtained from the BBC.

Cast Notes

  • Nicola Boyce and Lee Moone also appeared in The Time of Daleks and Neverland, along with Mark McDonnall who also appeared in The Fear Monger and Dalek Empire.
  • Ian Brooker has played numerous roles for Big Finish, most notably playing the shortest lived alternative incarnation of the Doctor (who lived for 11 seconds) in Full Fathom Five.

Best Moment

The build-up to the cliffhanger at the end of the first part, ending with the reveal that Ferras and Orliensa have no eyes.

Best Quote

Your eyes…

What about them?

You’ve lost your eyes.

Charley Pollard and Ferras

Previous Eighth Doctor review: Seasons of Fear

Other Reviews Mentioned:

The Sword of Orion

Seasons of Fear

Seasons of Fear

It was at the Singapore Hilton, on the cusp of the yars 1930 and 1931, that I first met Mr. Sebastian Grayle.

The Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor brings Charley to the Hilton in Singapore, her original destination when she originally boarded the R101, to meet Alex Grayle.  Whilst Charley enjoys her date, the Doctor encounters the immortal Sebastian Grayle, an old adversary of the Doctor whom the Doctor has not met yet.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, Sebastian Grayle succeeded in killing him years before this meeting and he has only come here to gloat.  The Doctor realises that there is something drastically wrong with time and he and Charley have to fix it.

Review

It is perhaps an understatement to say that following the superb Chimes of Midnight is an unenviable task for Seasons of Fear, however, I am pleased to say that this story largely succeeds.  The two are very different stories, with this story a quest through various time eras and it is to the director’s credit that the various periods of history and locations this story contains feel so well developed and different. which certainly helps to make this story to work as well as it does.  It also features a very strong performance from Stephen Perring as the central antagonist Sebastian Grayle, who feels like a juggernaut and the Doctor certainly seems like he is steps behind.

My new state and the slow processes of influence and investment have given a land of my own.  A Bishopric.  And soon they will give me more.

An Earldom, perhaps?

The World, Doctor.  What less could one desire?

Sebastian Grayle (disguised as Leofric) and the Doctor

One of the strongest parts of this story is the performance of Stephen Perring as Sebastian Grayle.  The performance bristles with menace and resentment towards the Doctor, in part down to the Time Lord’s interference in his attempt to become immortal at the end of Part One.  Perring manages to maintain this throughout the story down to the character’s final moments in Part Four and certainly feels like a worthy adversary.  He is frustrated that the Doctor at times isn’t willing to give him his full attention at times and there is a lovely moment where he gets angry as the Doctor switches his attention to Charley instead, resulting in Charley being able to render Grayle unconscious with the TARDIS hatstand.  Grayle’s Masters who have interferred with time to the extent that they have rendered the Time Lords powerless are eventually revealed to be the Nimon, and they certainly work better on audio than they did in the Tom Baker era.  The Nimons attempted to set themselves up as God species on Earth, however, were earlier foiled by Mithrais, who later has a religion set up in his name.  The Nimons are able to exploit Grayle with promises of immortality in return for a sacrifice and setting up a ground station to establish a link between Earth and the Ordinand System, with the opportunity first arrising in 305AD Britain, and then later in 1055 and 1806 when the stars align correctly.  The Nimon are brough to life effectively by Robert Curbishley, and I’d say that they are used sparingly and effectively here.

So, Grayle, or should I say Leofric?  You’ve got yourself a grand old Saxon name now.  Why are you at court?  What are you planning?

Doctor…is that what they called you?  Doctor Who?

My enemies never ask me that.  Isn’t that terrible?  But they know me better than my friends.

The Doctor and Sebastian Grayle

The story is a romp through time which is something that certainly hasn’t been done very much on televison – the only example I can think of in the revived series is Spyfall, Part Two, where the Thirteenth Doctor visits various eras.  Husband and wife writing team Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox do a good job here, with a script that is both quite scary and funny in places.  The scenes in Roman Britain feel unsettling, however, there are elements of dark humour here – there are similarities to the Church of England’s standard services in parts, which no doubt come from Symcox’s experiences as a vicar.  The story ultimates concludes with the innocent original Grayle being so horrified by what he becomes after being given immortality that he kills his older self, which works quite well here too.  I do enjoy this story, however, if I had to pick a minor niggle, I would say that the use of narration is a bit jarring and took me out of the story in places, however, I can understand why it is necessary in a story which includes multiple different time periods and is quite fast paced at times.  The story also reveals that the disruptions to time are a consequence of the Doctor saving Charley from the R-101, an important arc that would continue through the next few stories

Paul McGann and India Fisher are on fine form here and have a really easy chemistry which makes their relationship work really well.  The Doctor and Charley have certainly settleed into an easy relationship and both of them are likeable – this is probably one of my favourite TARDIS pairings.  Outside of this central dynamic, I really enjoyed Lennox Graves and Sue Wallace as Edward the Confessor and Edith of Wessex respectively.  Both certainly bring a lot of regality to their performances and they are playing historical figures who personally interest me and are not really very commonly featured in drama.  This is surprising considering how important Edward the Confessor is in the grand scheme of British history, even if he is known for the chaos he left in his wake by essentially allowing anyone and everyone to inherit the throne on his death in 1066, leading to the Norman invasion.

Verdict: Seasons of Fear is another strong story for the Eighth Doctor and Charley which features a strong antagonist and a good story jumping through different time periods, which each feel distinct thanks to good direction. 8/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Stephen Perring (Sebastien Grayle), Stephen Fewell (Lucillius/Richard Martin), Lennox Greaves (Edward the Confessor), Sue Wallace (Edith), Robert Curbishley (Marcus/Nimon voice), Justine Mitchell (Lucy Martin), Don Warrington (Rassilon) & Gareth Jenkins (Waiter/Prisoner).

Writer: Paul Cornell & Caroline Symcox

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first appearance of the Nimon since The Horns of Nimon.

Cast Notes

This story boasts a lot of actors who have been involved in Big Finish productions, which I have done my best to list the most significant of below:

  • Stephen Perring (The Eyes of the Scorpion, Zagreus and the Kro’ka during the Eighth Doctor’s time in the Divergent Universe);
  • Stephen Fewell (Red DawnThe One Doctor, Zagreus and The Twilight Kingdom, and also Jason Kane in the Bernice Summerfield stories);
  • Lennox Graves (The Shadow of the Scourge, The Chimes of Midnight, The Condemned and The Whispering Forest);
  • Sue Wallace (The Chimes of Midnight and The Whispering Forest);
  • Robert Curbishley (The Fires of VulcanThe Chimes of MidnightThe Time of the DaleksThe Church and the Crown and The Game;
  • Gareth Jenkins worked for the company ERS who did sound design and post production for Big Finish.  He also appears in Dust Breeding and Bang-Bang-a-Boom!
  • Don Warrington makes his first appearance here as Rassilon.  He went onto appear in Rise of the Cybermen.

Best Quote

I’d like to lock him in here for a while, but left alone he could do serious damage.  besides, in the end he would get out of any confinement.  That’s one of the wonderful things about Lady Time, isn’t it?  How nothing’s constant, how everything decays and changes?

You call that wonderful?

I call that absolutely beautiful.  How would it be if everything was always the same?  If you never got too big for your dresses, if you never got to pass them on to you sister?  If the rainy autumn lasted forever and spring never came?  At least I change.  I’m stumbling my way through bodies like I own a particularly dangerous bicycle.  Grayle never changes, not inside.  Not who he is.

The Doctor and Charley Pollard

Previous Eighth Doctor review: Living Legend

Living Legend

Doctor Who - Living Legend

Synopsis

The world faces imminent destruction when Italy win the 1982 World Cup!  Can the fabled Time Lord Charleyostiantayshius save humanity from the dreaded Threllip Empire, or will her idiot companion, the Doctor, ruin everything?

Review

At only 20 minutes long, this story is a bit different and quite difficult to review.  It seems to fit logically between Invaders from Mars and Seasons of Fear as a short 20 minute adventure for the Eighth Doctor and Charley before everything escalates towards Neverland and Zagreus.  As such, it’s not essential listening, but as it is free and quite a lot of fun, I would recommend giving it a listen.

Whilst short, this story does have some nice moments fbetween the Doctor and Charley and the chemistry between Paul McGann and India Fisher is evident.  The story revolves around the Doctor and Charley switching places, with Charley becoming the Doctor-like role and the Doctor playing her companion and in a story that is largely light hearted, there are nice moments of them both mocking the Time Lords and their garb.  The alien species, the Threllips are also played largely for laughs, with both actors using West Country accents.

As mentioned, the story is quite light and fun.  Unlike other alien invasions in Doctor Who, the invasion is foiled quite comically.  The Doctor takes Vengorr to the Italian village of Ferrara where the citizens are celebrating their World Cup win and convinces the alien that he has contracted World Cup Fever, whilst Charley tells Thon that he goes down as a mere footnote in Vengorr’s history.  It is difficult to imagine a story being televised where the Doctor convincing an antagonist that the only way to cure the fever is to drink a copious amount of wine.  I think if this was a full four part storyline played in the same way it would really grate on me, but as it is, it works really nicely.  It is perhaps surprising that Scott Gray has not been asked back to write for the Eighth Doctor again.

Verdict: A fun interlude before the story delves into the Web of Time, Living Legend is a nice fun story.  7/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Stephen Perring (Vengorr) & Conrad Westmaas (Thon)

Writer: Scott Gray

Director: Gary Russell

Behind the Scenes

  • This story was released with Doctor Who Magazine issue 337, along with a documentary about the making of the 40th anniversary story, Zagreus.

Cast Notes

  • Stephen Perring has appeared in a number of Big Finish audio stories, with his most prominent roles being the Kro’ka during the Eighth Doctor’s time in the Divergent Universe and Mathias in the Gallifrey audio series.
  • Conrad Westmaas was also heavily involved in the Eighth Doctor’s audios as companion C’rizz.

Previous Eighth Doctor review: Invaders from Mars