I remember when the Sixth Doctor began traveling with Constance Clarke. It seemed like a really good jumping on point to me, however I was still a ways away from completing my Eighth Doctor collection, a priority at the time. Constance’s first adventure with the Doctor was “Criss-Cross” (Sep 2015), but her first actual appearance was the month before, part of “The Last Adventure” box set, which I did listen to. With my Eighth Doctor collection now long since complete, I am finally prepared to move forward with the Sixth Doctor and Constance. Here’s a look at what’s ahead…
204. Criss-Cross - p1
205. Planet of the Rani - p1
206. Shield of the Jötunn - p1
218. Order of the Daleks - p1
219. Absolute Power - p1
220. Quicksilver - p2
225. Vortex Ice / Cortex Fire - p2
231. The Behemoth - p2
232. The Middle - p2
233. Static - p2
238. The Lure of the Nomad - p2
239. Iron Bright - p3
240. Hour of the Cybermen - p3
246. The Hunting Ground - p3
253. Memories of a Tyrant - p
254. Emissary of the Daleks - p
255. Harry Houdini's War - p
259. Blood on Santa's Claw - p
Added to the list.
Under normal circumstances, I would be able to listen to an entire episode (or almost) during the span of a one way commute. Lately it’s been taking me nearly two OW commutes, which screws up the logistics for posting a reaction before moving on to the next episode. Because I took the day off last Friday, It has taken me seven days to get through what would usually take me four. I’m still working on a proper listening schedule, but I’ll be on this thread for a while in any case.
“Bletchley Park. Britain's most secret weapon in the Second World War. Inside draughty huts, the earliest computers clatter day and night, decoding enemy transmissions and revealing intelligence crucial to the country's defense. Leading WREN Mrs. Constance Clarke directs her charges to provide vital assistance to the boffins stationed in the Manor House. But a recent arrival among the code-breakers, the mysterious Dr. Smith, has attracted the attention of MI5's spycatchers. Over in mainland Europe, Nazi agents are briefed, covert operations planned, and a German submarine embarks on a very secret mission. As encrypted radio waves criss-cross the planet, unearthly forces stir. And when certain ciphers are cracked, something will emerge to threaten all humanity, regardless of allegiance.”
COMMENTARY: The primary purpose of this episode is to introduce the new companion. (More on her in a moment.) Storywise, it’s a typical WWII espionage story. (The “Criss-Cross” of the title refers to Agent Criss-Cross, a double agent. Or is he just looking out for his own best interests?) Also, there’s the matter of sentient, alien radio waves complicating the matter.
Constance Clarke (or “Mrs. Clarke”) as she insists the Doctor call her, has an agenda of her own. Her husband is missing under mysterious circumstances (it is implied he may be working undercover behind enemy lines). She is very intelligent, but she’s not the usual companion the Doctor chooses to travel with. On that spectrum, she falls somewhere between “young and single” and Evelyn Smythe. She joins the Doctor apparently to use the resources at his disposal to track down her missing husband, but I’m sure her story will be slowly unspooled in episodes yet to come.
Sounds a bit like "The Curse of Fenric".
Jeff of Earth-J said:
"Sounds a bit like 'The Curse of Fenric'."
Hmm... a bit, I suppose. It's been a while since I've seen that one; I'd have to watch it again to better familiarize myself with it. Liek I said, the main purpose of this story was to introduce Constance Clarke to the listener. I can tell you this: on the commentary track, the writer said he had recently watched a documentary on Bletchely Park and the WRENs (or it may have been about one WREN in particular), and a lot of that made it into the plot.
I've decided to try to get through one of these each week, starting on Mondays and continuing for as many trips as it takes to get through the entire play. Also, the weather has started to turn hot, and for whatever reason, I generally tend listen to more music in the summer, audio dramas in the winter.
PLANET OF THE RANI:
“Miasimia Goria was a quiet planet, an ancient world of bucolic tranquility… until the Rani arrived with ideas of her own. She planned to create a race of new gods… gods that she could keep on her leash, but those plans went horribly wrong. Now, she languishes in the high security of Teccaurora Penitentiary, consigned there by her arch enemy and old student colleague, the Doctor. But the Rani, always resourceful, ever calculating, knows things about the Doctor’s past that he would rather forget. She wants revenge, even if it takes a hundred years… and then she has other unfinished business.
The ruins of Miasimia Goria await.”
COMMENTARY: Constance has an ordered mind and orderly habits. When she finds dozens of unanswered messages, she freaks out a little. Being a time traveler, he’s not really too concerned, but there’s one about a parole hearing for the Rani she is particularly concerned about, especially after he explains who she is. They arrive at Teccaurora Penitentiary only to discover she has finagled herself into a position of trust and authority. Shortly after that she escapes and returns to the planet Miasma Goria, where she was once in control.
Miasma Goria is a planet with a unique means for traveling between settlements. The “Roof of Trees” is a canopy of closely clustered stone trees, either petrified of made of stone, and people are able to walk across the top of it. Some of the trees have carved staircases inside their trunks leading to the lower levels where the people are forbidden to go. The Doctor sees a need, however, and they discover many of the people below who have been petrified into living statues, some apparently in pain.
The Rani’s plan is to create a racer of gods subservient to her wishes, but the first one she creates rebels against her. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen. This is the second appearance of this particular version of the Rani (and she has more than one TARDIS). Chronological note: this story takes place before her television appearances from the Doctor’s point of view (obviously), but after from the Rani’s.
SHIELD OF THE JÖTUNN:
“A.D. 2029. In the desert of Arizona, billionaire philanthropist Dr. Hugo Macht is trying to save the world from climate change. But his great project to ‘scrub the sky clean’ with nano-atomic machines grinds to an unexpected halt when his diggers break into something unexpected: a Viking burial barrow containing eight corpses, a mysterious shield, an even more mysterious inscription... and a yet more mysterious traveler in time and space, known only as the Doctor. And that's not even the strangest part of Dr. Macht's day. Soon, it'll begin to snow. Soon, the Doctor and his Girl Friday, Mrs. Constance Clarke, will come face-to-face with an ancient horror in the blizzard. A Frost Giant, in need of a new body. In need of flesh.”
COMMENTARY: The story begins with a humorous sequence of the Doctor and Constance roaming the halls of the TARDIS looking for the kitchen. (It seems the Doctor has misplaced it.) He wants to do something nice for Mrs. Clarke and has decided to make her lunch. He is later forced to admit that he has never known where the kitchen is. With the best restaurants throughout all time and space readily available, finding the kitchen was never a priority.
Just then the TARDIS comes to an emergency stop within what is apparently a Viking tomb… but a shield has been taken from the corpse. Suddenly a bulldozer comes crashing into the burial mound and they discover they are in 21st century Arizona. To cut to the chase, the tomb is actually a crashed spaceship and the missing shield is alien tech. the expedition is actually in the process of building a climate control center, but something has gone terribly wrong and a blizzard begins.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has revived the alien. He offers to take him to where ever his races nearest colony world might be, but soon learns that the “Viking” comes from a Dyson shere whose sun has gone out. It is his mission to build a new one for his race around Earth’s sun. Unfortunately, Earth would be destroyed in the process. There are no other colony worlds because in his ship is his entire race, each of whom has a purpose is building their new world.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, I like this story much more than the last two. Constance is very smart and very likeable. The supporting characters this time are well thought-out, too, with lots of witty banter.
NEXT The Daleks!
SHIELD OF THE JÖTUNN (revisited):
I made the mistake (again) of posting a reaction before I was finished listening. Consequently, I have made some errors ans incorrect assumptions above, primarily that the aliens and the Vikings were the same. They're not. In fact, it was the Vikings who defeated the aliens centuries ago. It's up to the Doctor to fiqure out how they did it.
ORDER OF THE DALEKS:
“In the Galactic Census, idyllic Strellin is recorded as a Grade Three planet – its inhabitants possessing neither advanced technology, nor knowledge of other worlds. Accordingly, Strellin is protected: landings by off-worlders are strictly prohibited. Unless, of course, those off-worlders are officials of the Galactic Census itself, come to investigate the origin of a mysterious sub-space signal – a signal no native of Strellin should be able to send. Breaking all local by-laws, the time-travelling Doctor and his companion L/Wren Mrs. Constance Clarke (AWOL) have only just landed on Strellin, too. But they and the Census officials aren't the only off-worlders to have come here. Inside a nearby monastery, the monks of the reclusive Brotherhood of the Black Petal are guarding a strange and terrible secret. Something that might bring disaster not just to Strellin, but to every civilized world in the galaxy!”
COMMENTARY: Just started listening to this one this morning; haven’t even finished episode one. But if one picture is worth a thousand words, I’m intrigued by this “stained glass” Dalek…
Constance (who is unfamiliar with the Daleks), thinks they look like "mobile works of art." Even the Doctor admits that their new casing looks "snazzy."
A Dalek ship crash-landed on a planet and were saved by local monks. Using an indigenous “dream plant,” the lead Black Dalek was able to take over the mind of the head monk, then the monastery, then the government. As always, the Daleks are played by Nicholas Briggs. Briggs is, by turns, actor, writer, director, producer… he can do it all. Sometime he wears two hats. In this one, he naturally plays the possessed monk as well. I’m sure he uses the same “voice” he uses for the rank and file Daleks, but without the modulator. It’s eerie hearing a “Dalek” voice come from a human being. There was another time, on the extra features of a CD he was both directing and performing in, in which he was recorded giving direction with his regular “human” voice but through a Dalek modulator. That was pretty eerie, too.
It'll be weird if/when Briggs does finally move on from being the Daleks' voice.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
“Two thousand years ago, all civilization on the planet Teymah was wiped out in an AELE – an Anomalous Extinction Level Event. Now, the galactic entrepreneur Lyam Yce hopes, at last, to learn the reason why the ancient Teymahrians went extinct – by funding a huge archaeological dig.
While the Doctor probes a strange sphere found by Yce's diggers, his companion, former Bletchley Park cryptographer Constance Clarke, agrees to help translate symbols written in the lost ancient language of the Teymahrians. And soon, they'll learn that ancient Teymah's secrets were best left buried deep beneath its shifting sands.”
[LACK OF] COMMENTARY: I had a difficult time following this one, not necessarily because it is complex or boring, but because I just couldn’t focus. I’ll return to it at some point in the future.
NEXT: The return of Flip