For a while now, I’ve been posting reactions to big “meaty” arcs such as The Eighth Doctor Adventures, Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition and The Collected War Doctor. Some of the stories I plan to listen to in the near future, though, are either one-off adventures or three story arcs. I thought it would be easier on the indexer (Hi, Bob!) if I started one “catch-all” thread and maintain the index in the initial post myself. I invite others to contribute to this discussion as well, and it doesn’t have to be strictly Doctor Who, either; anything from Big Finish will qualify. I’m going to start in a couple of days) with…
The Company of Friends - (Eighth Doctor)
Benny's Story - p1
Fitz's Story - p1
Izzy's Story - p2
Mary's Story - p2
The Transposition Trilogy
The Defectors - (Seventh Doctor and Jo Grant) - p2
Last of the Cyberman - (Sixth Doctor, Jamie and Zoe) - p2
The Secret History - (Fifth Doctor, Stephen and Vicki) - p2
The Masters Trilogy
And You Will Obey Me - (Fifth Doctor and old Master) - p3
Vampire of the Mind - (Sixth Doctor and new Master) - p3
The Two Masters - (Seventh Doctor and both Masters) - p4
Doctor Who "Bonus Releases"
Her Final Flight - (Sixth Doctor and Peri) - p4
Cryptobiosis - (Sixth Doctor and Peri) - p4
Return of the Daleks - (Seventh Doctor) - p5
Return to the Web Planet - (Fifth Doctor and Nyssa) - p5
Trial of the Valeyard - (Sixth Doctor) - p3
Doctor Who - Novel Adaptations
Love & War
Sixth Doctor Reunited with Peri
The Widow's Assassin - p4
Masters of Earth
The Rani Elite
Eighth Doctor and Mary Shelley
The Silver Turk - p5
The Witch from the Well - p7
Army of Death - p7
The Third Doctor Adventures
Prisoners of the Lake - p5
The Havoc of the Empires - p5
The Tenth Doctor Adventures (Vol. 2)
Infamy of the Zaross - p6
The Sword of the Chevalier - p6
Cold Vengeance - p6
4.12. Solitaire - (Charlotte Pollard vs. The Celestial Toymaker) - p12
51. The Wormery – (Sixth Doctor) - p7
57. Arrangements for War – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p8
60. Medicinal Purposes – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p8, 12
65. The Juggernauts – (Sixth Doctor & Mel) - p8
68. Catch 1872 – (Sixth Doctor & Mel) - p8
73. Thicker Than Water – (Sixth Doctor, Mel & Evelyn) - p9
75. Scaredy Cat – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C'rizz) - p9
77. Other Lives – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C’rizz) - p9
78. Pier Pressure – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p9
80. Time Works – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C’rizz) - p9
83. Something Inside – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C’Rizz) - p9
84. The Nowhere Place – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p9
86. The Reaping – (Sixth Doctor & Peri) - p7
90. Year of the Pig – (Sixth Doctor & Peri) - p7
88. Memory Lane – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C’rizz) - p10
94. I.D. – (Sixth Doctor) - p10
97. The Wishing Beast – (Sixth Doctor & Mel) - p10
100. 100 – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p11
101. Absolution – (Eighth Doctor, Charley & C’rizz) - p10
103. The Girl Who Never Was – (Eighth Doctor & Charley) - p11
107. The Haunting of Thomas Brewster – (Fifth Doctor & Nyssa) - p12
108. Assassin in the Limelight – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn) - p11
110. The Boy That Time Forgot – (Fifth Doctor & Nyssa) - p12
113. Time Reef – (Fifth Doctor & Nyssa) - p12
140. A Death in the Family – (Seventh Doctor & Evelyn)
143. The Crimes of Thomas Brewster – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn)
144. The Feast of Axos – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn)
145. Industrial Evolution – (Sixth Doctor & Evelyn)
149. Robophobia – (Seventh Doctor & Liv Chenka) - p2
156. The Curse of Davros – (Sixth Doctor & Flip)
157. The Fourth Wall – (Sixth Doctor & Flip)
158. Wirrn Isle – (Sixth Doctor & Flip)
166. The Acheron Pulse – (Sixth Doctor)
169. The Wrong Doctors – (Sixth Doctor & Mel) - p3
“What if there were a game you didn’t know you were playing? Where you didn’t know the aim and you hadn’t seen the rules?
“Charlotte Pollard arrives in a toyshop, but she doesn’t know where she is – or even who she is. The mysterious owner wants to play games. He’s the Celestial Toymaker, and he has already defeated the Doctor, whose essence is hidden inside a ventriloquist’s doll.
“The Doctor is gone. The TARDIS is lost. But the game is only just beginning...”
COMMENTARY: “Solitaire” is the twelfth release of the fourth season of the “Companion Chronicles” series. It is unique among that range because it is actually a two-person play, Charley pitting her wits against the celestial Toymaker; the other releases in that range are stories (including narration) performed by a single actor. “Solitaire” is set between “”Embrace the Darkness” and “The Time of the Daleks,” the eighth and ninth of Charley’s adventures with the Eighth Doctor, but it was released some nine months after the end of her time with the Sixth Doctor.
It was fun to play along with Charley. I solved one of the puzzles before Charley did. Eventually I stopped trying and just enjoyed the story. I don’t have to say much about this one, I don’t think. The notes below say pretty much all there is to say.
WRITER’S NOTES by John Dorney:
“I’ve always loved games. Board games, word games, card games. Doesn’t matter. And for me, writing is like a game. Like a puzzle. You have a ton of ideas—thoughts, concepts, moments, images. And the game is about finding out how to put the pieces together in the right way.
“‘Solitaire’ was a particularly tricky one. The brief was intimidating: Charlie versus the Celestial Toymaker. No other characters. All dialogue, no narration. And maybe the Doctor as a ventriloquist’s puppet. How on Earth to make that work?
“And then the fragments appear. A two word phrase I’ve always wanted the Toymaker to say. A genre that Doctor Who has never really tackled. The title. And you search for the way to join those pieces together. You ask yourself questions and write yourself into corners, and slowly something emerges that resembles a story.
“Hopefully the end result is as much of a game for the listener as it is for Charley. Feel free to play along. Everyone loves games.
PRODUCER’S NOTES by David Richardson:
“The idea for ‘Solitaire’ came to me in the shower. I knew I wanted to do a Companion Chronicle for Charley Pollard, and I knew that I wanted John Dorney to write it, because by that stage I’d read his ‘Echoes of Grey’ script and it was wonderful. So there I was, reaching for the shampoo, and I was thinking about how much I loved “Scherzo” (the two-handed play between the Doctor and Charley), and how much I wanted to get David Bailie back as the Celestial Toymaker. These random thoughts coalesced into one—within the boundaries of a Companion Chronicle, we could do a two-handed play with Charley and the Toymaker. And—to explain the absence of Paul McGann as the Doctor—we could have our hero transformed into a ventriloquist’s doll, leaving Charley to perform the lines!
“I immediately dried off and e-mailed John, who loved the idea. And he set to work on a script that I think is truly brilliant. An exciting, character-based piece that explores the very heart of the toymaker and his world, and let us into the mind of the much-loved Charley. It remains a personal favorite in the ever-expanding Companion Chronicles range.”
THE HAUNTING OF THOMAS BREWSTER:
“Thomas Brewster is haunted by the ghost of his drowned mother. But she is not the only apparition to disturb his dreams. Every few years, he is visited by a mysterious blue box...
“Helped by his new assistant, the young Scots scientist Robert McIntosh, the Doctor struggles to unravel the twisted knot of temporal implausibilities which bind the TARDIS to Thomas Brewster. Meanwhile, lost in the stews of Victorian London, Nyssa must face a host of spectral creatures gathering in the fog.”
COMMENTARTY: In many ways, Big Finish is the home for Doctors who didn’t get a fair shake on TV. To wit…
Colin Baker was fired.
The show was cancelled during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure.
And Paul McGann didn’t really even get a shot.
But on audio, those Doctors can go on to have new adventures, retroactively inserted into continuity, with their established companions from television, or they can have new adventures with companions never seen on TV. There’s plenty of wiggle room for the Sixth Doctor between the trial and travels with his last companion, Melanie Bush; for the Seventh Doctor, after the end of the series; and the Eighth Doctor is wide open. But what about the Fifth Doctor? His companions are pretty much set, with seven overlapping combinations of five people.
Adric, Nyssa and Tegan
Nyssa and Tegan minus Adric
Nyssa and Tegan plus Turlough
Tegan and Turlough minus Nyssa
Turlough minus Tegan
Turlough plus Peri
Peri minus Turlough
“Untold tales” can be (and, of course, have been) written using those groupings, but it’s difficult to allow the Fifth Doctor to travel with someone new. That’s why Thomas Brewster intrigues me. This is ostensibly a Fifth Doctor and Nyssa story, but they become separated and, although only a couple of hours pass for Nyssa, the Doctor finds himself stranded in Victorian London for a year, where he has grown a beard for the scientists of the day to take him seriously because he didn’t look old enough.
Part one focuses almost entirely on Thomas Brewster, with just a few cameo appearances by the Doctor and Nyssa as they pop in at certain times in Brewster’s life. Brewster is being manipulated by aliens from an alternate 2008. They are manipulating the past in such a way as to make the quantum reality they are from more of a probability than a mere possibility. At least that’s the Doctor’s theory. Brewster is convinced that he is being visited by the ghost of his mother, who drowned when he was five years old.
She leads him to steal certain equipment from the Doctor and instructs him how to build a time machine of his own. At one point, he even manages, with the “ghost’s” assistance, to steal the TARDIS, which he pilots to the year 2008. Back in Victorian England, the Doctor discovers another TARDIS in an old, abandoned curiosity shop. It is actually his own TARDIS, which had been in the shop for more than 30 years.
He pilots the TARDIS to 2008 and materializes within his own TARDIS. It is Nyssa who points out to the Doctor how dangerous that is, but he brushes her concerns aside saying, “Really? I thought it was rather clever.” He then programs the other TARDIS to return in time to where it will be found and closing the time corridor behind it.
What the Doctor must do is sever the connection between the Victorian aliens and the 21st century aliens, creating a paradox which would cause the whole scheme to collapse. Unfortunately, the “ghost” of Thomas’s mother convinces him that the doctor is actually causing all the problems. There are a lot of twists and turns, but perhaps the biggest (for me, anyway) came at the end, when Thomas Brewster stole the Doctor’s TARDIS… again!
Here is another example of that timey-wimey audio continuity. I thought “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” would give me sufficient background to follow “The Crimes of Thomas Brewster.” Although I already knew that the Doctor would meet Thomas Brewster again (#113. “The Time Reef”), I now realize that there’s another adventure (#110. “The Boy That Time Forgot”), without Thomas Brewster, that deals with the Doctor getting his TARDIS back.
WRITER’S NOTES by Jonathan Morris:
“There’s something about Victorian London which is just so… Doctor Who. It’s a time of overgrown churchyards and creaking floorboards, of rat-infested sewers and oak-paneled corridors. A time of looking glasses and grandfather clocks and gas lamps. A time of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s a time for ghost stories.
“And, like all ghost stories, ‘the haunting of Thomas Brewster is best enjoyed at night. To get the full effect, you should be listening, alone, in a dark, candle-lit room. This isn’t an adventure for the tube journey to work or to have on in the background while you’re doing the washing up. Unless, of course, you’re the sort of person who does the washing up alone, in a dark, candle-lit room.
“With this play, I have done everything I can to frighten you, and the actors, the director and the sound designers have done everything they can, too.
“So, please… have nightmares.”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Barnaby Edwards:
“This is the second script by Johnny Morris which it has been my great pleasure to direct—and it’s an absolute cracker! I love the Dickensian setting with its murky London streets shrouded with fog and peopled with characters straight out of Great Expectations and Hard Times.
“But the real skill here is in Johnny’s ability to take these literary elements and stock figures, and to mae them serve his own vision. The London of this story is not Oliver Twist’s but Thomas Brewster’s: we see it through his eyes and we hear about it from his lips.
“This is a good old-fashioned Victorian ghost story, so pull up a footstool, rest your head against an antimacassar and toast a crumpet before the glowing embers in the grate. Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…”
Ah, yes. The Doctor dropped her off at Heathrow Airport in “Time-Flight,” didn’t he? (I still remember the look on the Doctor’s face when he got her back in the very next story.) That would make the established list of companion combinations…
Adric, Nyssa and Tegan
Nyssa and Tegan
Nyssa and Tegan (again)
Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough
Tegan and Turlough
Turlough and Peri
It strikes me that the four parts “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” each employ a different Doctor Who trope:
Part one is a ghost story;
Part two is a detective story;
Part three is a “base under siege” story;
Part four is “timey-wimey” science fiction.
I’m really looking forward to where this story is going.
Big Finish is releasing a six-way crossover for their 20th anniversary in July 2019.
MEDICINAL PURPOSES (see p. 8): A good deal of the action takes place in The Last Drop, a pub near the Haymarket in Edinburgh where the body snatches Burke and Hare used to hang out. (The Last Drop is a play on words because the pub is on the square where criminals were once publicly hanged, literally “the last drop” for some.) Now that I have actually visited the pub and had a drink there, I re-listened to “Medicinal Purposes” with a greater appreciation.
I gave myself a short break from writing commentaries by listening to “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” a second time before moving on to see how the Fifth Doctor got his stolen TARDIS back.
THE BOY THAT TIME FORGOT:
“A lost world. A prehistoric civilization. A dark secret.
“The Doctor and Nyssa find themselves transported from Victorian London back to the dawn of time, accompanied by debonair adventurer Rupert Von Thal and no-nonsense novelist Beatrice Mapp. Together these unlikely heroes must brave primitive jungles and battle ravening insects as they make their way to the city of the giant scorpions, ruled over by... The Boy That Time Forgot.”
COMMENTARY: As the story begins, the Doctor and Nyssa have gathered a group ten others to participate in a Block Transfer Computation ritual. On the surface, it looks very much like a séance, but harkens back to the TV stories “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva.” The Doctor has the participants link hands and chant a series of binary numbers. His goal is to track the TARDIS’s recent trail through the vortex. I rather like this idea as it ties in tangentially to my other favorite serial drama to come out of the ‘60s, Dark Shadows. I never did really buy the idea of physical time travel via a séance, but it works for me if the Collins et al somehow accidentally struck upon a Block Transfer Computation (which could be another aspect to the Dark Shadows/Doctor Who fanfic I intend to write someday). But I digress.
But some of the participants are nonplussed by the experience, “the circle is broken,” and the Doctor, Nyssa and two others end up stranded in a primeval forest, impossibly populated by a race of scorpion creatures ruled by an ancient human being known as the “Scorpion King.” The TARDIS is nowhere around because the humans cannot understand the scorpion creatures language or vice versa. The recording uses an audio effect to “fuzz up” the scorpions’ language when heard by the humans’ and the humans’ language when heard by the scorpions, but the listening audience knows what everyone is saying.
Here comes an extra SPOILER for the rest of this post, successfully kept from fans in 2008 when this story was initially released, and one which I managed to avoid until I listened to it. When the Doctor and his party are brought before the Scorpion King, he not only knows them, but they recognize him as well. The “boy” of the title is not Thomas Brewster, but Adric! This story is a sequel not only to “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” but to “Earthshock” as well. The scorpion creatures are mathematically inclined, and Adric has shaped the colony into a “Logopolis” of its own.
Big Finish does not tell stories that contradict television continuity. The best example of that is “The Last Adventure” which tells the story of what was really behind the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration into the Seventh. Another more recent example are the adventures River Song had with the first four Doctors which she remembers but they do not. Keeping that in mind, there is a logical explanation for how Adric survived the end of “Earthshock” (and what killed the dinosaurs in this reality). I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I will reveal that it’s an alternate timeline which is capped off by the Doctor by the end of the story.
When the adventure is over, Adric returns with the Doctor and company to Victorian England, but he has one final Block Transfer Computation to make. He disappears for a time, and when he reappears he is so exhausted that he doesn’t live for long after that. On the way home from the funeral later, the doctor and Nyssa are startled to hear the sound of the TARDIS materializing. Inside is Brewster, and he tells them the story of how an old man named Adric appeared in the TARDIS and told him how to pilot it back to where the Doctor and Nyssa are. The Doctor understands why Brewster ran away, forgives him (sort of) for stealing the TARDIS, and invites him to travel with them.
I like this story because it gives a (mostly) happy ending to Adric’s story, one that can be completely ignored if one has a mind to. There are also subplots concerning the Doctor’s other two allies, Rupert Von Thal and Beatrice Mapp which I didn’t even mention. This one has put me in the mood to re-watch "Logopolis" (and maybe "Earthshock").
In the “extras” section, Peter Davison does a lot of riffing at Matthew Waterhouse’s expense... and he’s not even there! Because Adric is so old in this one, he’s not played by Waterhouse. Davidson remarks, “I was surprised when I came in to find that Adric was played in this one by an actor.” He goes on to say, “Of course, the bad news is they brought back Adric, and if they did it once they could do it again.” Both Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton do a fair amount of riffing on Janet Fielding as well… and she’s not there to defend herself, either.
WRITER’S NOTES by Paul Magrs:
“When I was starting to think about this story last summer, I was also rediscovering my love of Flash Gordon serials of the 1930s, Filmation cartoons of the ‘70s and the outrageous stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. As filmed by Amicus. In my own way, I wanted to tap into that genre of swashbuckling otherworld adventure, in which immaculately-attired Victorians are propelled into unfamiliar savage lands, either beyond, above or inside the earth. This being Doctor Who, it seemed just the thing that the foreign country ought to be the past…
“I knew there had to be monstrous beast, secret rites, awful dangers and a mysterious city. There had to be a sense of our heroes wandering bravely but blithely into the unknown.
“And ultimately, in the heart of the prehistoric darkness, they had to come face to face with… who? what?
“I knew. I knew from the start who and what they were going to meet.
“You won’t believe it. Seriously. Just wait!”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Barnaby Edwards:
“I have a confession to make: I’m a huge fan of those old 1970s adventure yarns The Land That Time Forgot, At The Earth’s core, The People That Time Forgot, and Warlords of Atlantis, all starring the inimitable Doug McClure. So I was understandably a bit overexcited when I heard that Paul Magrs wanted to write a prehistoric caper with giant scorpions, a lost city and some monster-infested catacombs. But would it work without the widescreen visuals?
“I needn’t have worried; Paul knows his stuff. The trick is, as with all special effects extravaganzas, is to have strong characters who won’t be overpowered by the monsters and the enormous sets. Amd it’s a testament to Paul’s writing that we attracted such a high caliber guest cast to play his creations. Oliver [Senton], Claire [Wyatt], Andrew [Sachs], Harriet [Walter] and Adrian [Scarborough]: swashbuckling heroes, all of them!”
“Drawn by the siren call of a distress beacon, the TARDIS crash-lands on an uncharted time reef. However, the Doctor, Nyssa and Brewster are not the only mariners marooned on this barren rock. Commander Gammades and his crew of returning war heroes have been similarly shipwrecked, as has the beautiful but mysterious Lady Vuyoki. But there's something else here, too. A thing of darkness which crawls blindly across the surface of the reef hunting for prey: the Ruhk.”
By whatever measure the Doctor may have “forgiven” Brewster for stealing the TARDIS in the first place disappears into the Vortex when he sees the state of the ship: corridors are rearranged, rooms are missing, equipment has been scavenged. Brewster insists he was in possession of the TARDIS for five minutes or so, but evidence suggests otherwise. The Doctor checks the record of where the TARDIS was last, but those coordinates don’t exist in normal space-time.
He sets the controls to return to that position, and ends up stranded on a “time reef” within the Vortex. It is an unnatural place that exists within a bubble of time and has drawn other travelers to it. Among those trapped are Commander Gammades and his crew f adventurers (think Ulysses), Lady Vuyoki (who claims to have been on the way to her wedding but actually her execution), and the Ruhk ( the collective name for a race that is “a cross between a bird and a broken umbrella”). All of these factions are in conflict with each other, and it’s Brewster’s fault they are there.
What’s worse, one of the vital components missing from the TARDIS is the causal geometer. Without it, the TARDIS is dying. Brewster has been here before, passing himself off as the Doctor, and sold the causal geometer off. Now the Doctor has to convince everyone of his identity, regain the geometer and set right everything Brewster has messed up.
WRITER’S NOTES (“Time Reef”) by Marc Platt:
“At the end of Jonny Morris’s corking story ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster,’ cosmic Artful Dodger Brewster ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS, marooning the doctor and Nyssa in Victorian London. ‘Now carry on,’ said Alan Barnes in his e-mail. ‘Off-Earth/sci-fi-ish. A bit peculiar would be good.’
“The Doctor and Nyssa have been stranded for months before Tom reappears, but how long was he away in his own personal time stream? Five minutes or five years, joyriding around Time and Space in a ship he can’t control with a load of possessions he doesn’t own, tangling with alien cultures he doesn’t understand?
“It’s up to the doctor to clear up the mess and salvage what’s left of his own worldly goods and reputation. Director Barnaby Edwards heroically fleshed the story out with a dream cast, giving the peculiar bits all the reality needed to create the strange new world that Thomas Brewster has caused.”
A PERFECT WORLD”:
Did you ever wonder just what would happen if someone other than the Doctor tried to pilot the TARDIS? Someone who simply pushed buttons at random without really knowing what he was doing? This story goes a way towards illustrating just what might happen.
“Time Reef” was only a three-part story, leaving space for this one-part adventure. During Brewster’s time alone in the TARDIS, he visited the year 2008. Previously, he has seen only the dystopian “false 2008” of “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster,” and he wanted to see what it was supposed to be like. He met and fell in love with a girl named Connie who dreamed of living in a perfect world. Brewster had some trouble understanding this, comparing 2008 to the Victorian London which was his home.
When the situation on the “time reef” was set right, Brewster asks to visit 2008, pretending it’s the first time he’s been there. (The Doctor realizes something is up, though, when Brewster takes all of what should cause culture shock in stride.) When Brewster was in 2008 before, he hadn’t closed the TARDIS door properly and created a time fissure in which was created a “perfect world.” Because she was at the center of the disturbance, the original Connie exists alongside her perfect counterpart.
Brewster learns that he prefers the real Connie to the perfect Connie, and the Doctor closes the time fissure and restores 2008 as it was meant to be. When the Doctor and Nyssa are ready to leave, Brewster stays behind with Connie.
The following Huey Lewis lyrics (now hopelessly stuck in my head) are not inappropriate:
Everybody's dreamin' 'bout a perfect world
Where you could have everything your heart desires
A perfect boy will meet a perfect girl
And their perfect love will set the world on fire
Ain't no livin' in a perfect world
There ain't no perfect world anyway
Ain't no livin' in a perfect world>
But we'll keep on dreamin' of livin' in a perfect world
Keep on dreamin' of livin' in a perfect world
I must say, Peter Davison had been among my least favorite [TV] Doctors, but listening to these audios has demonstrated to me what he could have been given decent material to work with. (I’m sure Peter Davison would agree.)
WRITER’S NOTES (“A Perfect World”) by Jonathan Morris
“My four favorite parts of the process of writing a Doctor Who audio:
“1. Being asked.
“2. Getting paid.
“3. Going to the recording. For ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster,’ I’d just suffered a severe bout of flu, and could only manage to pop into the studio for a half an hour in haze of Lemsip. But for ‘A Perfect World’ I was there for the whole thing. Because of the way the studio’s arranged, you can’t see the actors, you just hear their voices coming through the speakers and it’s like, well, it’s like alchemy. Characters that had previously only existed in your imagination became real; just like you’d imagined, but also better than you’d imagined. You just sit there, smiling, trying to be cool about the whole thing when really you want to leap about in a frenzy of excitement and joy.
“4. Listening to the finished play.”
THE CRIMES OF THOMAS BREWSTER:
“Sent down south to assist the Metropolitan Police in their efforts to investigate the gangland kingpin known only as 'the Doctor', Detective-Inspector Patricia Menzies finds herself up to her neck in laser-armed robot mosquitoes, gun-running criminal overlords, vanishing Tube trains... and not one, but two Doctors.
“Meanwhile, the real Doctor and his academic assistant Professor Evelyn Smythe have become ensnared in the machinations of an old acquaintance – time-travelling Victorian guttersnipe Thomas Brewster. But what's Brewster's connection to the rapacious robot Terravores? And can anyone contain the gathering swarm?”
Moving on from the Fifth Doctor & Nyssa, we return to the Sixth Doctor & Evelyn as we follow the misadventures of Thomas Brewster. In his “writer’s nots” below, Jonathan Morris mentions “the maddest, most action-packed opening sequence [he] could imagine.” Honestly, it’s more of a scene one would expect to find in a James Bond movie rather than in Doctor Who. It begins in medias res, and honestly I had to check the disc to assure myself I had inserted parts one & two and not 3 & 4. As they are racing down the Thames in a speedboat, pursued by mechanical insectoid Terravores, the Doctor points out places of interest, including a spot where, in Victorian times, “mudlarks” could be found scavenging along the shore (thereby foreshadowing the return of Thomas Brewster). Only the Doctor would attempt a guided tour during a life and death boat chase!
Part one reintroduces DI Patricia Menzies in the third part of her trilogy of appearances (or the first part, depending on your point of view). We’ve met Menzies twice before (in #105. “The Condemned” and #116. “The Raincloud Man”) when the Sixth Doctor was travelling with Charlotte Pollard. But the Doctor travelled with Charley some time after he stopped travelling with Evelyn. In point of fact, Menzies does recognize the Doctor, but the Doctor does not know her because those previous stories hasn’t happened in his timeline yet. But Menzies knows from Charlotte that she herself met the Doctor in “the wrong order” and Charley told her how dangerous it would be for the timestream if the Doctor knew too much about his own future. So Menzies pretends not to know him, and assumes that when the Doctor first met her that he was doing the same.
Meanwhile, Brewster is up to his old tricks, pretending to be the Doctor and having the police and a group of gangsters as well as the alien Terravores out to get him. Director Nick Briggs refers to “the Crimes of Thomas Brewster” as Big-Finish companion-fest because it features Evelyn Smith and Thomas Brewster and Patricia Menzies, but it also introduces a new character, Philippa (or “Flip”) who will later become a regular companion if the Sixth Doctor.
Connie (see “Time Reef”) has died, and Brewster longs to return to Victorian England. His attempts to reach it have attracted the attention of the Terravores (actually the Race is called the Locus) from the planet Symbios. The Doctor and Evelyn become separated, Evelyn with Brewster and the Doctor with Menzies. The doctor is working under the assumption that this other “Doctor” is one of his other selves. Evelyn pokes through Brewster’s charade with little effort.
When the Doctor confronts Brewster he immediately recognizes him, but decides to pass himself off as “Norman” so as to keep the upper hand. Evelyn had previously revealed the Brewster that the Doctor had regenerated, so Brewster doesn’t fall for it. Then Menzies pipes up and volunteers that she is the Doctor and the Doctor is her assistant.
“What?” asks the Doctor.
“He hates to be called my ‘assistant’,” explains Menzies. “My companion, then”
There is a lot of fun interplay while the Doctor is pretending to be Menzies’ companion.
“I’m the companion,” says the Doctor. “It’s my job to ask stupid questions.”
“Doesn’t the Doctor ask any of her own questions?”
“It’s all right,” Menzies replies. “I’m training him. Work experience.”
Flip as a character was little more than a bystander, but someone at Big Finish must have liked working with Lisa Green wood because, as I mentioned earlier. She will soon return as a regular companion. When the Doctor takes his leave of Menzies he reveals that he figured out the knew him before. “See you earlier," he says. When the Doctor and Evelyn return to the TARDIS they find the door open. Brewster lifted the key from the Doctor’s pocket, and now he’s hijacking the TARDIS at gunpoint.
WRITER’S NOTES by Jonathan Morris:
“The Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, together with Brewster, on contemporary Earth. With Brewster back to his old tricks…”
This story started with a single, powerful image. The idea of being on the last Tube train home, very much the worse for wear after a wild night out and, instead of pulling into a Tube station, suddenly the train is bathed in sunlight as it emerges into an alien jungle. Where is the Tube train? How did it get there? And why?
Answering those three questions gave me the story; a bonkers, spectacular rollercoaster of a story. Something like Russell T. Davies’s season openers; lots of character, lots of humor, lots of scary monster action. Plus the maddest, most action-packed opening sequence I could imagine.
Plus the return of the marvelous DI Menzies! I’d written in a snarky policewoman, in the hopw that Alan Barnes would suggest replacing her. But then he pointed out that the Doctor’s adventures with Evelyn take place before the stories where he met DI Menzies, which made things a little complicated…”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Nicholas Briggs:
“‘The Crimes of Thomas Brewster’ is a bit of a Big-Finish companion-fest, isn’t it? The delightful Evelyn is back, and not before time. And then there’s Thomas himself and the wonderfully dry Patricia Menzies. It all just seemed to fit beautifully into place and, most importantly, made Colin Baker very happy. He loves all his companions, but I know he’d missed Maggie Stables and had campaigned quite heavily for the return of Anna Hope.
The chirpy John Pickard was an entirely new challenge for Collin, and the two of them sparked off each other rather well. It was also nice for me to work more closely with John, who I’d spent a lot of time with at conventions but never actually directed. He’s hilarious to work with, because he more or less physically does everything his character is doing. As a result, he almost gives the impression of being a caged animal in his recording booth. ‘John? Is that you rustling around on the carpet in there?’ ‘Oh, yeah… sorry!’ he’d laugh. You’ve gotta love that guy’s energy.”
THE FEAST OF AXOS:
“Many years ago, the vast space parasite Axos attempted to suck the planet Earth of its energy. Now it’s all but forgotten – a dried-up husk, marooned in orbit, still stuck in the time loop it was placed in by Earth’s defender, the Doctor.
“Forgotten, that is, except by space tourism billionaire Campbell Irons – who’s hatched a plan to solve the world’s energy crisis by reviving Axos, and transmitting its power back to Earth. But the crew of the spaceship Windermere aren’t alone aboard the parasite. The Doctor has returned, to correct an error of decades past…
“And Axos is waiting.”
COMMENTARY: I listened to parts 1 & 2 on Monday and parts 3 & 4 on Tuesday. Now I’m trying to write this summary when the plot is no longer quite so fresh in my mind. As you might guess, “The Feast of Axos” is a sequel to the Third Doctor television serial “The Claws of Axos.” (“If you want something done right, don’t leave it to one of your former selves to sort out.”) In the mid-21st century, Campbell Irons was a multibillionaire who specialized in private trips into space for the super-rich. When ecological disaster struck, his company was the only organization with space travel infrastructure already in place.
The Windermere is caught in a “figure eight” time loop which passes through four dimensions. While caught, they are able to hear their own radio transmissions from the past. They’re fairly certain of their success because on their way there, they picked up some of their own transmissions from the future. The on-going sub-plot deals with the Doctor and Thomas Brewster. Evelyn trusts Brewster more than the Doctor does, but at one point Brewster overhears part of the Doctor’s plan that would put Brewster’s life at risk, which causes Brewster to betray the Doctor once again.
Once everything is sorted, the Doctor agrees to return Brewster to Victorian England.
WRITER’S NOTES by Mike Maddox:
“I clearly remember the first time I had spaghetti. Mum had to give us lessons. She said it came from Italy and it probably became popular in England after the war. Perhaps soldiers had tried it out there and brought some home with them, we wondered.
“I’m romanticizing here, naturally, but I’m sure than Mum also let me spend that week on the sofa, watching an Apollo launch. From countdown to splashdown, I watched the whole thing. Blurry figures with implausible first names playing golf live on the Moon!
“It seems impossible that Britain could ever afford a space program now. But men with brown lab coats and slide rules once tested space-capable rocket engines on the Isle of Wight. And in Doctor Who, British astronauts conquered the entire solar system for Queen and Country. The only trouble was that every now and then they’d bring something back with them.
“And sometimes… sometimes it would be something a bit like spaghetti. Only bright orange. And murderous. And very, very hungry…”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Nicholas Briggs
“Bernard Holley is back. You can sometimes forget the effect a voice can have on you. A lot of Doctor Who fans give ‘The Claws of Axos’ a bit of a hard time, don’t they? But I’ve always loved it, so the moment Bernard stepped into the studio and uttered those words, ‘Axos calling Earth,’ I was… I dunno… transported back to an earlier, innocent time. Almost as if Axos had taken control of my mind. Steady, Briggs, resist the nostalgia overload!
“But seriously, working with Bernard was a joy. He’s a proper gentleman actor, immaculately turned out, totally professional, charming and absolutely bursting with irresistible anecdotes.
“As for the rest of the cast, it was lovely to get to work with Peter Forbes again. I hadn’t directed him since we were fighting the Daleks in ‘Dalek Empire III.’ And let’s not forget the amazingly vocally versatile Duncan Wisbey… I think he could have probably played all the parts on his own.”