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)
Robophobia – (Seventh Doctor)

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“IZZY'S STORY” by Alan Barnes

“TARDIS travel opens one's eyes to a universe of possibilities, reckons the Doctor. For geek girl Izzy, it's also a fantastic way to track down ultra-rare back copies of 'Aggrotron!', the most dangerous comic in history...”

IZZY SINCLAIR: “Born to unknown parents in 1979, but brought up in the sleepy village of Stockbridge by adoptive parents Les and Sandra Sinclair, sci-fi nut Izzy boarded the TARDIS in 1996, after helping the Doctor escape a trap set by the Celestial Toymaker.”

WRITER’S NOTES: “Nothing’s ever struck me quite so hard as the horrific realization that the funky geek-queen I invented to accompany the Eighth Doctor in the pages of the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip is now—aaargh!—a period character, Britpop Britain made flesh. Izzy was (variously) part Jarvis Cocker, part Louise Wener from Sleeper, part the girl from the Trainspotting poster, part Kira of This Life… and part me. Unlike me, however, Izzy is as fresh and vibrant as she ever was in the heady days of 1996; she, at least, gets to Live Forever.”

Izzy’s from the comics. I have reprints of the comics featuring Doctors Four through Eight which appeared in Doctor Who Magazine. I’ve read the Fourth Doctor stories twice each (some of them three times), and the Fifth Doctor stories once. I stopped getting them after the Eighth because 1) I’m not as interested in the newer doctors, and 2) I had fallen so far behind. Volume 4 of the Eighth Doctor switches to color. I’ve got a good idea of what Izzy looks like. This audio makes me want to take up reading them again. This story was very funny and highly entertaining. Izzy wants to use the TARDIS to track down a back issue of an ultra-rare comic book she needs to complete her collection but, as one might expect, there’s a bit more to it than that.

“MARY'S STORY” by Jonathan Morris

“Switzerland, 1816: at the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron's house guests tell each other tales to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart. With a monster on the loose outside, young Mary Shelley isn't short of inspiration.”

Mary Shelley: “Born in 1797, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (1818)—conceived, she always claimed, during her residency at the Villa Diodati, Switzerland, the the company of Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, John Polidori and Claire Clairmont. But Mary wasn’t telling the whole truth.”

WRITER’S NOTES: “July 2008, and I receive an email from Alan Barnes. It’s an unusual brief. Ever since Storm Warning he’s been hinting in his stories at an untold adventure where the Doctor met Mary Shelley. Now he wants me to be the one to write it, based on his original outline: Mary, Byron, Shelley and Polidori, 1816 and the origins of Frankenstein. Quite an honor. The only drawback being, I’d actually have to read Frankenstein first...”

Of the four stories in this set, “Mary’s Story” is the one I looked forward to the most. As mentioned above, script editor Alan Barnes had been dropping hints in many of the Eighth Doctor stories that he had met and/or travelled with Mary Shelly from the beginning. (Storm Warning is the first Eighth Doctor story in the main range, from 2001.)

The story begins on the stormy night in 1816 when the five young intellectuals first decided to each write a “ghost story.” Suddenly, there is a pounding at the door. They open it and in stumbles a disheveled Eighth Doctor. He mumbles the words “doctor” and “Frankenstein” then passes out. He has been through a severe temporal storm which has disoriented him and also inhibited his ability to regenerate. The young people Care for him for several days, but eventually he… dies. Under the influence of laudanum, Percy suggests taking him to the attic bedroom and running a piano wire from the lightning rod on the roof to his body. When the lightning strikes, it does revive him, but it also has the effect of transforming him into a creature as his body tries in vain to regenerate. Driven nearly insane, the creature flees into the woods.

Mary follows him to a small blue “house” with the words “police,” “public,” “call,” and “box” written on it. She follows him inside. The TARDIS helps to stabilize his condition, but he begins to babble about traveling with “C’Rizz, Charlie, Lucy, Tamsin, Alex… and you.” This makes little sense at first because Storm Warning (2001) established that the Doctor had met Mary Shelley before he met Charley or any of the others he mentioned. He first met Alex in An Earthly Child (2009), but this Doctor is likely from a time post-2011 (To the Death) because he speaks of them all in the past tense. (The Company of Friends was released in 2009.) Obviously, this Doctor comes from the “future” (so to speak).

Just then a TARDIS appears and another version of the Eighth Doctor steps out (summoned by an emergency signal sent by the creature-Doctor it turns out), a younger version who has never met Mary and the others. The creature-Doctor goes wild, but the younger Doctor manages to hypnotize him. The younger Doctor stabilizes the creature-Doctor and theorizes that, after encountering the temporal storm, the creature-Doctor’s TARDIS took him to Switzerland in 1816 because it had “remembered” being there before. The Doctor had needed a massive jolt of electricity to bring him back to life (which he got from Shelley), but he also needed the care of a Time Lord (which he got from his younger self). The younger Doctor uses his own TARDIS to repair the creature-Doctor’s TARDIS, and the TARDIS in turn helps to revive the Doctor.

The creature-Doctor resumes his normal form and then things really start to get weird. The two versions of the Eighth Doctor don’t get along very well, and the older version storms off abruptly. The younger version, it seems, has left “Sampson” and “Gemma” in Vienna. I haven’t heard of them, but a quick internet search tells me they first appeared in the audio Terror Firma (the Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’Rizz adventure, #72, where I left off).

It is at this point the Doctor invites Mary to travel with him. She accepts, and all of their adventures together (#153-155) apparently take place between scenes of #72, before he returns to Sampson and Gemma. That doesn’t make much sense, either, now that I think about it, because how did he know Mary Shelley prior to Storm Warning (#16) if he didn’t meet her until the middle of Terror Firma (#72)? Oh, well. I’m sure I’ll figure it out. One of these days I will listen to the adventures of “The Eighth Doctor and Mary” and at some point I will no doubt return to “The Eighth Doctor and Charley” as well.

"I’m sure I’ll figure it out."

INTERNET RESEARCH: “Terror Firma is the first story to depict the Eighth Doctor's travels prior to the events of Big Finish's first Eighth Doctor audio drama Storm Warning and goes some way to explain why the Doctor was travelling alone in that story.”


EPISODE FOUR: “Cremation Point”

“As the end of the world approaches, Polly, Ben and Jamie attempt to escape the Gathernaut.”

Eh. It’s a middle chapter of a longer story, and if its inclusion here is designed to entice listeners to buy the Three Companions, it failed to do so with me. Both Anneke Willis and Nicholas Courtney perform, and Willis does imitations of Ben and Jamie when she reads their lines.

ROBOPHOBIA - written and directed by Nicholas Briggs

“Nothing has ever been officially confirmed, but there is a rumor that on a Sandminer, bound for Kaldor City, the robots somehow turned homicidal and nearly wiped out the entire crew. Can that really be true? The robot transport ship Lorelei has a cargo of over 157,000 robots on board, all deactivated. So even if there were any truth in the rumor of that massacre, there'd still be no danger. Surely, there wouldn't... But then, the Doctor witnesses a murder.”

“Robophobia” is a direct sequel to the Tom Baker television serial “The Robots of Death” and it takes place a few months after. That’s one reason for buying it. Another is that it’s the first appearance of med-tech Liv Chenka, who would go on to have a long tenure as the Eighth Doctor’s companion. Finally, it’s both written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, and his stuff is always good. This is a “whodunit” so I don’t want to give too much away. Here’s what Nick Briggs himself has to say about it.

WRITER’S NOTES: “The Robots of Death is one of my favorite Doctor Who stories. Like The Ark in Space, it is part of a Doctor Who template for how to ‘do’ that kind of story. You know the one: The doctor arrives somewhere, which is in some way totally isolated, and has to save the ever-decreasing number of survivors from some terrible foe. The element that The Robots of Death added was the ‘whodunit’ vibe; except that the audience was in on who ‘dunit’ right from the start, Columbo-style.

“So, for a sequel, how do you get the unique floavor of the original without just repeating the same story? Let’s face it, most sequels are just elaborate reworking of the original, because, in a way, that what’s expected from them.

“What we decided was to add a new twist and give the Doctor a different role. That was our theory. All the ingedients that made The Robots of Death are there, but for different reasons and in a different context.”

DIRECTOR’S NOTES: “Directing your own script is particularly enjoyable. You’ve lived with the story for months, discussed it with your brilliant script editor (Alan Barnes), pored over every detail of it and now here it is, coming to life before your very ears. It was also a chance to work with some particularly fine actors. Well, you always need good actors, don’t you? But in a story which is all about fear and how it affects people’s behavior, really good emotional acting is essential. And because the Doctor has a more mysterious role in this story, it was important that the ‘supporting’ cast were able to take center stage with ease. It’s their story, not the Doctor’s.

“It was a long-held ambition of mine to work with Nicola (Ruth from Spooks Walker, and a great chance for me to finallywork with Dan Starkey, who is superbly dexterous with his voice. Nicholas Pegg is a great old mate of mine, and frankly, every time I wrote Captain Selerat’s lines, I kept hearing Nick’s voice in my headf. Maybe I should see a doctor about that. As for Toby Hadoke… well, he does some breathtaking stuff in this story. A privilege to behold.”

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