I first became interested in Doctor Who in 2010 but, before I got into the Big finish audios I wanted to catch up on the televised version. Once I did that, I decided to concentrate on the Eighth Doctor's adventures because he didn't get a fair shake on TV. After that, I moved on to the Sixth Doctor, who didn't really get a fair shake, either (for a variety of reasons). But catching up on all of the TV and the Eighth Doctor on audio first put me way behind. Eventually, many of the earlier Sixth Doctor audios fell out of print and were available via download only, so there wasn't much chance of me ever getting all the CDs. But then, once in 2017 and once last weekend, I found a large number of used audios at Half Price Books. After buying up all the ones I needed and comparing them against my master list, I discovered that I do now, in fact, own all of the Sixth Doctor's adventures.
On TV, the Sixth Doctor's primary companion was Perpugilliam Brown (or "Peri"), but when the Doctor was put on trial in the 23rd season, a companion from the future, Melanie Bush, was brought in to testify. After the trial, the "future" Mel left with the Doctor, but the story of how they actually met has yet to be told. When the series returned for a 24th season, Mel continued to travel for a time with the newly-regenerated Seventh Doctor. BUT the TV show never told the stories of any of the the Doctor's other companions between Peri and Mel. That's what the audios are for. The Doctor's first "post-trial" companion was Evelyn Smythe.
Evelyn Smythe was played by Maggie Stables and she assayed the role for eleven years, right up until the time the actress herself died. Early on, Evelyn was diagnosed with a terminal illness, which she kept from the Doctor. Big Finish made something of a tactical error when it came to her character arc (which we will get to presently), but essentially they wanted to cap off her character arc when there were still stories left to be told. During the era of the "boyfriend Doctors" on TV, Evelyn was a breath of fresh air (or would have been, had I been listening at the time). She is a middle-aged historian, and a good match for the often brusque Sixth Doctor. For someone used to being the smartest person in any given room, the Doctor would often have to take a back seat to Evelyn in matters historical.
Here's a look at what's ahead.
The Marian Conspiracy
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor
Doctor Who and the Pirates
Arrangements for War
The Nowhere Place
Assassin in the Limelight
The Crimes of Thomas Brewster
The Feast of Axos
Thicker Than Water
A Death in the Family
THE MARIAN CONSPIRACY:
The episode begins with the Doctor auditing a history lecture being taught by Dr. Evelyn Smythe, a woman of 55. The doctor is tracking a time disturbance and is surprised to discover the anomaly is Evelyn herself. The Doctor learns that her interest in history stems from her being descended from someone in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, someone the Doctor has never heard of. Evelyn has been suffering from severe headaches recently and, if her ancestor has been erased from history somehow, that could accou8nt for them. If the mistake is not corrected, she may cease to exist. He invites her to accompany him back in the past and, as an historian (plus to save her own life), she cannot refuse.
Unfortunately, they overshoot the mark somewhat and arrive three years from the end of the reign of Queen Mary I. there is quite a bit of intrigue as the Doctor and Evelyn are mistaken for Protestant spies out to overthrow or assassinate "Bloody Mary" so that her sister Elizabeth can take the throne. The premise of this episode is to do a "Hartnell-era historical" for the Sixth Doctor, the Big Finish version of The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve, if you will, a political thriller featuring real figures from history with no science fictional elements. When the mystery has been solved and the Doctor attempts to return her to her proper time, Evelyn refuses to go, reasoning that she's an historian and he can return her to the moment she left regardless of how long she travels with him.
This is a really good start to Evelyn's story arc.
THE SPECTRE OF LANYON MOOR:
This is the second story to feature Evelyn, the third to feature the Sixth Doctor (fourth if you count "Sirens of Time") and the ninth overall. It seems clear that one of the first things Big Finish wanted to do was to reunite the Doctor with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (ret.), which the Sixth doctor never did on TV. Alistair Stewart is retired now, but UNIT sometimes asks him to undertake missions of an undercover nature and he sometimes accepts. This is the first mention of his wife, Doris (chronologically, anyway). The Brig's mission and the Doctor and Evelyn's interests take them to Cornwall, which writer Nicholas Pegg wanted to write about because he's familiar with the area and the Sixth Doctor never had the opportunity to visit on TV.
Speaking of the Brigadier, the revival show may have procrastinated until it was too late, but Big Finish made good use of Nicholas Courtney. Even today they have a sound-alike voice actor, but there's nothing like the real thing, baby.
As the story opens, the Doctor and Evelyn have already been traveling together for some time. the Cornish landscape is littered with the relics of prehistoric man (I know know more about fogous than I ever did before), but something hinky is going on. [SPOILER: It's an ancient alien who has been buried since the Iron Age.]
The Cybermen have discovered time travel and created a divergent timeline. "Real Time" refers not only to the timeline the Doctor is trying to restore, but also to the fact that every minute of the story occurs in "real time." It was originally broadcast (animated) on BBC's interactive "Doctor Who" website, but it was specifically written to be understood without the animation in anticipation of a future CD release. It was eventually released on CD in December of 2002, but it was originally broadcast in late August and early September of 2000, which places it approximately here in continuity. But what I remember it for is the Blue Coat.
In the initial post of this thread I alluded to a "variety of reasons" that Colin Baker didn't get a fair shake as the Doctor, and the "Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is chief among them. "Real Time" time replaces the Doctor's "coat of many colors" with a simple blue one which he will wear for the rest of his travels with Evelyn. We know from television that he was again wearing it by the time he travels with Melanie Bush, and Big Finish will provide the reason why he decided to wear it again at the proper time. As to why he switched to the blue coat in the first place, as the story opens he and Evelyn are returning from a funeral on a planet in which the color to signify mourning is blue.
Evelyn had previously asked him if he had a "morning coat" and he misunderstood her to say "mourning coat." The funny thing is, the Doctor thought the deceased was a friend of Evelyn's and Evelyn thought he had been a friend of the Doctor's when, in fact, neither of them knew him. Evelyn prefers the simple blue frock and insists that he continue to wear it. (I know he wasn't wearing it in "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor" because the Brigadier specifically mentions the other one. Even though these are audio adventures, just knowing that the Doctor is wearing a blue coat makes them more palatable somehow.
I think the reason I have fallen so far behind listening to Big Finish is that I allowed myself to become seduced by "extended universe" stories rather than concentrating on the Doctors themselves. When I had a regular commute, that wasn't a problem. Also, for whatever reason, I tend to listen to music when the weather's nice and audio dramas when it's cold and dark. Since that doesn't really apply anymore, I primarily listen to music in the car. I think I can, however, resolve to listen to at least one "Doctor Who" per week, during my weekly trip to my LCS. The only problem with that plan being that my weekly commute is roughly an hour and the audios are roughly two. I listened to half of one Wednesday, and the second half today, which brings me up to...
BLOODTIDE: "The prehistoric Earth is dying. Thunderclouds roll across the skies, cloaking the land in darkness. The seas crash and boil as the rain turns to acid. The remnants of the Silurian race place themselves in suspended animation, deep below the surface. One day they will awaken and reclaim their world…
"The TARDIS has landed on the Galapagos Islands, a desolate outcrop of rocks shrouded in mist and fear. In the settlement of Baquerizo Moreno, there are rumours that prisoners have been mysteriously disappearing from the gaolhouse. A fisherman has been driven insane by something he saw in the caves. And the Doctor and Evelyn are not the only new arrivals; there is also a young natural philosopher by the name of Charles Darwin…"
Listening to this one, I learned some things about Charles Darwin I did not know before. I've got a copy of The Origin of the Species around here somewhere, but I've never actually sat down and read the whole thing. A parallel is drawn between how humans perceive apes and how the Silurians perceive humanity. This is not the first time the Doctor has encountered the Silurians, but it is the first time the Silurians (this group of Silurians, anyway) have encountered the Doctor. But did humanity evolve through natural selection or did the Silurians give them a little evolutionary "push"?
Today is Wednesday, the one day each week I have set aside for the next little bit to listen to Doctor Who. I have discovered that, by adjusting the speed of my car, I can turn it into a TARDIS of sorts. In other words, by keeping my speed at or below the posted limit, it takes me a greater amount of time to cover the same amount of space, and I can get nearly an entire adventure in (if I detour for lunch, then finish up listening while I eat it). Which bring me to...
PROJECT: TWILIGHT: "In the renovated docklands of South East London, on the bank of the river Thames, the doors of the Dusk are open for business. Bets are called, cards are dealt and roulette wheels spun. As fortunes are won and lost, an inhuman killer stalks the local avenues and alleyways - a killer with a taste for human flesh. Is there more to casino owner Reggie 'The Gent' Mead or is he just a common gangster? What secrets are hidden in the bowels of the Dusk? And what connection does the apparently sleazy Bermondsey casino have to a long-buried government initiative known as Project: Twilight? The Doctor must form uneasy alliances where the line between friend and enemy is blurred, playing games of chance. But are the stakes too high?"
Project: Twilight is a subtle tale of vampires, "subtle" because the vampires aren't revealed until the part two cliffhanger. They are "science vampires" (my term), created during WWI to be literally bloodthirsty soldiers. These vampires can exist in sunlight, but each of them has a specific weakness (wood, iron, running water, etc.), genetically engineered to make them easier to control. They are teying to find a cure for themselves (or are they?). This episode introduces recurring villain Nimrod, as well as Cassie, a young girl who is the mother of an infant who will grow up to be one of the Fifth Doctor's companions (but the sixth Doctor does not realize that at this point). This story may occur earlier than "Real Time" because the Doctor is depicted in his "coat of many colors" (although it is not mentioned in the script one way or the other).
Had some errands to run today, so we listened to...
THE SANDMAN: "The Clutch is a fleet in constant motion, ships jostling for position, in an endless migration between the stars. For the Galyari, forbidden by an ancient curse from settling on a world ever again, the Clutch is home. But the curse travels with them! The Sandman, a figure of myth and folklore, preys on the young and old alike. He lurks in the shadows and it is death to look upon him. All too soon after the TARDIS arrives, it is evident that the Doctor and the Galyari share a dark history, and Evelyn is shocked to discover that, on the Clutch, it is her friend who is the monster. The Sandman, according to the tales, also goes by the name of the Doctor!"
The nemeses of the Doctor are often referred to as "monsters," despite the fact they are often merely aliens. (Sometimes his human adversaries are quite monstrous themselves.) "The Sandman" cast the Doctor as a "monster" in order to keep an alien race in line.
Blue Coat Update: As I mentioned above, although "Real Time" was originally broadcast on BBCi in August 2000, it wasn't released on CD until December 2002. That makes it the [Sixth Doctor] release directly after The Sandman (October 2002), in which the Doctor is definitely still wearing the pink coat.
JUBILEE: This is the audio the TV episode "Dalek" was based on. Both were written by Robert Shearman, but other than a single Dalek being held in captivity and being tortured, the stories themselves are totally different. But even if they weren't, it wouldn't be the first time the same story happened to two Doctors. "Shada" was originally supposed to have been a television episode starring Tom Baker, but production was halted by a work action (strike). Eventually it was retooled as an Eighth Doctor story and broadcast on BBCi. An elaborate (and unnecessary) prologue was written to explain how that could be, but it was left off the CD release. In any case, because "Jubilee" takes place in an alternate 2003 which branched off from an alternate 1903, it's easy to imagine that the wibbly wobbly Web of Time was the reason for the events to play out, albeit differently, two years later.
Back when I was still actively collecting previously released audios on CD, I was disappointed to learn that I waited too long and that "Jubilee" is now available via download only. However, I was able to go online and found a physical copy of the CD, which I summarized once before. I happy with that and an content to let it stand.
Coat status: Definitely pink in this one.
DOCTOR WHO AND THE PIRATES:
"All aboard, me hearties, for a rip-roaring tale of adventure on the high seas! There'll be rum for all and sea shanties galore as we travel back in time to join the valiant crew of the good ship Sea Eagle, braving perils, pirates and a peripatetic old sea-dog known only as the Doctor!
"Gasp as our Gallifreyan buccaneer crosses swords with the fearsome Red Jasper, scourge of the seven seas and possessor of at least one wooden leg! Thrill as Evil Evelyn the Pirate Queen sets sail in search of buried treasure, with only a foppish ship's captain and an innocent young cabin boy by her side! Marvel at the melodious mayhem which ensues as we sail the ocean blue!
"And wonder why Evelyn still hasn't realized that very few stories have happy endings..."
The story opens with Evelyn back on Earth in the present day. She has looked up Sally, a former student of hers, to tell her a story of time travel and life on the high seas, but it seems as if she's making up details as she goes along, or at least embellishing a great deal. She contradicts herself, gets historical facts wrong (she's an historian, but it's not her era), and gives all the pirate characters the same voice. (Similarly, when the story fades into flashback, the characters speak with Evelyn's narrative voice as they perform their parts.) Where is the Doctor? And why is she telling this story to this student at this time?
The Doctor finally shows up and begins telling his side of the story, which borrows as much from Gilbert & Sullivan as it does Robert Louis Stevenson. The cliffhanger to episode two: the Doctor begins to sing! Not only does episode three begin with the Doctor actually singing ("I Am the Very Model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer"), but the practically the entire episode is musical. It is unique, in that respect, to the whole of Doctor Who, but is remenicent of the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The entire drama is cast with musical stage performers, and Maggie Stables sings as well. the more familiar the listener is with the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, the more he will get out of it.
All is explained in the end, a very enjoyable story. Recommended.
Coat status: Still pink.
It's Wednesday so it must be time for...
"I'll survive Doctor. I always do."
A frightened girl is stalked in a land of eternal night.
A hunter longs for recognition and power.
A traveller in time returns to correct the mistakes of the past and faces a danger that could rob him of his future. Unless his future intervenes.
And in the shadows stands Nimrod. Waiting...
Welcome to the Forge.
I listened to this one for the first time just over a month ago and posted about it here. I didn't get as much out of it as I could because I listened to it out of the context of the audios leading up to it (or so I thought). Actually, it is a direct sequel to "Project: Twilight" and that's the only one I need have listened to to understand what's going on. As you can see from the index above, three monthly adventures occurred between the two, but that (I suspect) is only because a certain amount of time needed to have passed between parts (or it could have been for production reasons, such as writing and recording, I don't really know). Anyway, "Project: Twilight" and "Project: Twilight", taken together, make a nice little two-part story.
Actually, each of the parts itself comprises four chapters and, in chapters three and four of "Project: Lazarus" the Seventh Doctor joins the action as well. I'm not really certain whether or not "Project: Lazarus" fits in with Seventh Doctor continuity, but I don't feel as if I'm missing any part of the the story. (I'll have to check the Big Finish website to see if the Seventh Doctor has encountered Nimrod (the villain of both stories) "before" on his own. "Project: Lazarus" is also the story which reveals that Evelyn is dying of a heart condition, and it's the first story in the monthly range in which the Doctor wears the blue suit (meaning that "Real Time" occurs immediately before this one and there four stories between the two "Projects."
Coat status: BLUE!
ARRANGEMENTS FOR WAR:
“Onboard the TARDIS, nerves are strained.
“After escaping the Forge and the murderous clutches of Nimrod, the Doctor and Evelyn have things to talk about. The Doctor's attitude towards death is a subject that these days is too close to Evelyn's heart, and eventually she demands to be set down somewhere where she can be free of him for a while.
“And so they come to Világ, where the Doctor's meddling lands him in the middle of a truly dangerous liaison and Evelyn meets a man who wants to change the course of her life forever.
“Love is everywhere. But then war is too.
“Is it time for Evelyn to leave the Doctor? Or is the choice about to be taken out of her hands?
“And who is to say what is the beginning and what is the end of love?”
I have listened to this story once before, five years ago (see here for summary). The theme of this story is "consequences." It's not that the Doctor doesn't accept the consequences for his actions, it's that (from Evelyn's POV), he accepts them too easily. Specifically, Project: Lazarus ended in tragedy, and the Doctor blithely offered Evelyn a piece of cake. It is this seemingly insignificant action which has caused Evelyn to reevaluate her relationship with the Doctor, especially in light of her own condition. [I was going to say more about the specifics of the plot at this point, but I invite you to follow the above link if you're interested.] Throughout the course of the story, Evelyn develops feeling for Governor Rossiter, to the point she considers staying behind with him. More on the ramifications of her decision to continue travelling with the Doctor next week.
THICKER THAN WATER:
Look at this:
57. Arrangements for War - MAY 2004
60. Medicinal Purposes - AUG 2004
78. Pier Pressure - JAN 2006
84. The Nowhere Place - JUL 2006
100. 100 - SEP 2007
108. Assassin in the Limelight - MAY 2008
143. The Crimes of Thomas Brewster - JAN 2011
144. The Feast of Axos - FEB 2011
145. Industrial Evolution - MAR 2011
73. Thicker Than Water -SEP 2005
That's a detail of the same chronological list of stories as Evelyn experienced them as presented in this thread's initial post, except I added monthly release numbers and release dates. "Thicker Than Water" (#73) is a direct sequel to "Arrangements for War" (#57). "Thicker Than Water" is a nonlinear story which takes place one year and two years after the events of "Arrangements for War". I think you see the problem. As you will recall from last week (if you don't, see above), Evelyn developed feelings for Governor Rossiter during the previous story and almost stayed behind with him. "Thicker Than Water" reveals that, one year after leaving Világ, the Doctor and Evelyn return for a visit, and this time Evelyn does stay behind. They had something of a falling out. Evelyn expected the Doctor to give her away at the wedding, but he ended up not even attending, which hurt her a great deal. Now another year has passed.
From the Doctor's point of view, many years have passed and he is currently travelling with Melanie Bush. When Evelyn's name comes up in conversation, Mel says that she would like to meet her, and the Doctor takes her back in time to make that happen. This story reveals that Evelyn never told the Doctor about her illness (he finds out about it for the first time in this episodes), and she was treated for it shortly before the story begins, although we don't know yet whether or not the treatment was a success.
The problem is, Maggie Stables wasn't through playing Evelyn and Big Finish wasn't... uh, "finished" telling Sixth Doctor and Evelyn stories. They must have thought at the time that they had left themselves some wiggle room, when actually they had written themselves into a corner. From this point on, every story (seven years worth) must take place within a limited time frame and must lead to a pre-determined point: Evelyn will stop traveling with the Doctor to marry Rossiter within a year. What's more, Evelyn must remain sick and the doctor mustn't find out about her illness, so that plot point is effectively frozen.
This was fairly early on in BF's existence and they learned from it. For example, when BF was granted permission to tell stories set during the Time War, they didn't take the Eighth Doctor's adventures directly up to it so that Eighth Doctor stories could continue to be told both before and after the beginning of the Time War.
Evelyn takes ill during the course of "Thicker Than Water" and she has a very special (secret) visitor: the Seventh Doctor. He tells her about a young man currently traveling with him, Hex, who is the son of Cassie (see "Project: Twilight" and "Project: Lazarus" above). This revelation does a lot to smooth over the differences between the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn and leads to their reconciliation. This is a really good culmination to the overall arc, but BF told it too soon.
(More on "Thicker Than Water" here.)
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