I will probably never get around to reviewing all of the “Eighth Doctor and Charley” adventures, but after Charlotte Pollard stopped travelling with the Eighth Doctor, she travelled with the Sixth for a time. How it is that the Eighth Doctor doesn’t remember travelling with her before remains to be seen, but chronicling those stories is a much less daunting task. Here’s what lies ahead…
105. The Condemned - p1
111. The Doomwood Curse - p1
114. Brotherhood of the Daleks - p1
L.A. The Red House - p2
vii. Return of the Krotons - p3
116. The Raincloud Man - p3
124. Patient Zero - p3
125. Paper Cuts - p4
126. Blue Forgotten Planet - p4
105. THE CONDEMNED – (Sixth Doctor & Charley):
“Manchester, 2008. The TARDIS lands inside a run-down tower block, beside a dead body – which leads to some awkward questions when the Doctor is found there by the police. Made the prime suspect, how can the Doctor prove to the no-nonsense DI Patricia Menzies that this is not the open-and-shut case it seems, and that she’s actually investigating the death of an alien?
“Higher up in Ackley House, a girl named Maxine watches the Doctor being taken away in a squad car. Someone wants her to find out what happened in that room, and isn’t going to be happy if she doesn’t come up with the goods. But she’s got hold of someone who knows – someone very important to the Doctor.
“A deadly conspiracy is at work – one whose effects will be felt far beyond the walls of Ackley House…”
A girl whimpers.
At the sound of the TARDIS materializing, the girl cries, “He’s alive! He’s alive!”
She begins pounding on the TARDIS door, shouting, “Open up! I knew it! I knew you’d come back!”
When the door opens, she says, “I’m sorry, I… I was expecting someone else.”
The Sixth Doctor says, “’Someone else’? I hadn’t realized dimensionally transcendental vehicles disguised as police boxes were quite so commonplace.”
The girl introduces herself as Charlotte Smith, adding that her friends call her Charley. The Doctor replies, “Should we become friends I’ll bear that in mind,” and proceeds to address her as Charlotte. When he informs her that they are in a time machine, she absently responds, “Mm.” After a pause, she adds, “Oh! Uh… Good lord! Really!?”
The TARDIS materializes smack in the middle of a locked room murder mystery. Charlotte displays a greater knowledge of the TARDIS that she would be expected to have, and the Doctor doesn’t trust her completely. He sends her to call for the police, but before she can do so she is kidnapped by another tenant in the building. When the police do arrive, the Doctor quite naturally becomes the prime suspect. The Doctor soon discovers the murder victim is an alien disguised to look like a human. His investigation leads to other aliens masquerading and humans, and the doctor they all have in common. (In that respect, this story bears a similarity to the later Torchwood series “Aliens Among Us.”) Charley is being held in a dark room where she is communicating with another of the buildings’ tenants by telephone.
The listener is led to make certain assumptions about the situation which may turn out to be incorrect. Both plots progress simultaneously until the mystery is resolved. The Doctor learns from the police that when Charley eventually did get ahold of them, she gave her name as Charlotte Pollard, not Smith. He has been able to piece together certain inconsistencies in her story. She is able to convince him to allow her to travel with him for the time being, despite the fact he doesn’t fully trust her, but presenting herself as a mystery to be solved. I suspect that this would be a pretty good jumping on point for new listeners. New listeners might find themselves confused as to the identity of Charlotte/Charley, but they would be in no worse position than the Doctor himself.
ACTOR’S NOTES – INDIA FISHER:
“I was very upset when I thought the end of my Doctor Who journey was imminent. Then during the recording of ‘The Girl Who Never Was’ Nick Briggs said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got an idea of what will happen to her later.
“I was thrilled, because I’d met Colin at conventions and we did ‘Zagreus’ together. He’s a lovely man, and I’d always enjoyed his Doctor Who performance.
“I’ve just done my first two scenes with Colin and suddenly it’s a completely different dynamic and that’s lovely. It’s an opportunity to breathe new life into the character of Charley.”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES – NICHOLAS BRIGGS:
“I’m a big fan of Eddie Robeson’s writing. His scripts keep me awake at night and make me laugh out loud — not necessarily always at the same time, but actually quite often at the same time… What I particularly love about his work is his ability to combine fascinating, really neat ideas with excitement and fear, and then ifuse the script with a genuine sense of fun.
“‘The Condemned’ is in so many ways a very bleak tale, involving some really disturbing science fiction ideas; but the wit of the dialogue and the detail of the characters lift it high above any possible suffocating numbness. Eddie’s view of the universe seems to coincide somewhat with mine, which is that despite all the amazing and terrifying stuff out there, individual people will still have their odd obsessions, trivial tragedies and personality ticks. And sometimes, when you look at these facets in an Eddie sort of way, it makes you laugh.
“Oh, and by the way, my favorite line is ‘Wait! What on Earth is a Balti?’”
I listened to this last night. I thought it was pretty good, I especially liked the character of DI Menzies, she was fun. I hadn't realized that she was played by the same actress that played Novice Hame on TV.
The plot was interesting, with some good twists.
Also, Baker was quite good in this - I'm glad he got a second chance to shine with these audio stories.
One thing from the audio extras is that someone (I forget who it was) pointed out that Colin Baker is sort of the “Big Finish Doctor” because, sick of coming in last (or second to last ahead of William Hartnell) as fans’ favorite Doctor, he agreed to reprise the role only if Big Finish would turn his character around. The strategy worked, with the Sixth Doctor now making a much better showing in polls due largely to the audios. [Personal note: I also think of Paul McGann as the “Big Finish Doctor” because he, like Collin Baker, didn’t get a fair shake on TV.]
Regarding Charley not telling the Doctor she’s from his own future, you know as much as I do. I can only assume that her time with the [Eighth] doctor impressed upon her the importance of not contradicting the “Web of Time.” I don’t know how it’s all going to play out myself, as I have never listened to these stories before.
Because I am listening to Dark Shadows this week, Tracy has moved ahead of me to the next “Travel with Charley.” Because she doesn’t listen to as many of these as I do and now that she’s an “eager participant,” here’s the liner notes for the next one if she’d care to comment before I get to it.
THE DOOMWOOD CURSE:
“England, 1738. On the trail of a lost book, the Doctor and Charley arrive at the beautiful country estate of Sir Ralph and Lady Sybil. But all is far from idyllic. There’s a murderer on the loose, and the nearby woods are the haunt of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin. “And that’s not all. Something else has journeyed here. Something that could destroy the very fabric of reality. The Doctor and Charley have just forty-eight hours to solve the mystery before the whole world succumbs to The Doomwood Curse.”
“FACT: Doctor Who is an iconic British character.
“ADDITIONAL FACT: So is Dick Turpin.
“QUERY: But was Turpin really a hero, or just a thug?
“GOOD FACT: Charley is the Doctor’s best friend.
“BAD FACT: but he doesn’t know that yet…
“GOOD FACT: Paul Cornell’s Grel are fabulous monsters.
“ADDITIONAL FACT: I love writing for them!
“QUERY: Doesn’t it sound as though all these facts might add up to a thrilling adventure for the fearless and fun Sixth Doctor?
“CONCLUSION: There’s only one way to find out…”
GOOD FACTS ABOUT THE GREL:
“The Grel first appeared in the 1997 Bernice Summerfield Oh No It Isn’t by Paul Cornell.
“They’re tentacle-faced data pirates, obsessed with gaining new information—‘good facts’—and eradicating contradictions and continuity errors—‘bad facts.’
“They get their good facts by smacking their ‘dataxes’—basically, axes—into things and sucking the information out.
“The 1998 audio adaptation of Oh No It Isn’t was Big Finish’s first ever production.
“The Grel have since appeared in the 1998 Bernice Summerfield novel Where Angels Fear by Rebecca Levene and Simon Winstone, the 2001 Bernice novel The Glass Prison and the 2004 Bernice audio The Grel Escape, both by Jaqueline Rayner.
“This is their first appearance in Doctor Who.”
These audio historicals are becoming a real education for me. Here is the link to the Dick Turpin Wiki.
That's right. I, and Jeff, have said I am an eager participant. At the time Jeff received the audios, I was currently between reading (and re-reading) several of my favorite series of novels. I was looking for something new, something different. The DW audios were a good fill-in until I settled on a new series to read. However, as with much of Doctor Who, you're often running in a completely unexpected way.
"The Doomwood Curse" starts with Charley unable to finish a book she found in storage because it is 300 years overdue. The Doctor wants to return it immediately, despite the fact that Charley wasn't quite finished. "Rookwood" is a gothic romance from 1834. "Oh, Doctor! It's thrilling!"
Charley describes the book in such glowing terms that when I arrived at my destination, I immediately downloaded "Rookwood" as my next reading adventure.
The Grel mix fact and fiction together in a knot for the Doctor and his friends to unravel. My favorite scene is on the road with the Doctor, John, and Eleanor, driven by the coachman.
In this world of plot-twisting fiction, the Doctor needs to explain the appearance of Falstaff, a character from Shakespeare, and what the reference is doing in a gothic romance.
Eleanor - "...perhaps to those in the romance, his presence would be clear as day."
The Doctor - "Coachman! If I were to say to you, Falstaff, what would you understand by it?"
Coachman - "Falstaff? You mean the Falstaff Inn in Kilbourne, sir, where Dick Turpin may often be found with Gypsy Charlotte at his side?"
The Doctor (mutters) - "Yeah. It's as easy as that."
In fairness, I must add that while I thoroughly enjoyed "The Doomwood Curse," the actual novel "Rookwood" is proving harder to enjoy. I am not so far in but I will persist. After all, "it's thrilling!"
I started listening to “The Doomwood Curse” this morning.
The Doctor becomes increasingly suspicious of Charley as she keeps making little “slips” as to who she is. For example, when the TARDIS arrives at its intended destination, she comments, “For once.” When the Doctor mentions her amnesia, she responds, “Amnesia? Oh, that amnesia!” When the Doctor realizes the book Rookwood is 300 years overdue, he makes plans to return it shortly after he checked it out. When Charley questions whether or not that breaks the rules of time travel, the Doctor replies, “Young lady, if there are such rules governing time travel they are none of your business.”
Cut to: the Grel. They are busy examining works of literature. “Fact: ‘It was the best of times.’ Fact: ‘It was the worst of times.’ That is a Bad Fact. The two conditions are contradictory.” When they find “bad facts,” they destroy the books which contain them. They also have a problem with “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
The book Rookwood did much to enhance the reputation of highwayman Dick Turpin. In the process of returning it, the Doctor and Charlie become involved with the Doomwood family. A rotten limb falls from a tree, barely missing Charley, causing the family to become distraught. The curse of the title refers to the legend that, whenever a bough falls from a particular tree, the eldest male family member dies. The Doctor asserts that such a thing is merely superstition, yet part one ends with the death of the family patriarch.
I listened to part two over lunch.
Sir Ralph is dead, but not from the curse... from poison. The Grel aren’t out to destroy books, but rather, make fiction reality. I don’t know about Rookwood, but I did read Weiland (1798) in college. Until then, I didn’t think an 18th century novel could be, well… “thrilling.” The plot of “The Doomwood Curse” is intended to mimic the style of an 18th or 19th century gothic novel. Everything is quite melodramatic and over-the-top. Part two ends when the Doctor realizes that, in Rookwood, Dick Turpin kills his partner… and in the reality, Charlotte is his partner.
Last night I told Tracy that I didn’t enjoy “The Doomwood Curse” as much as she did, and she asked me why not? I got the gist of it (that fiction was overwriting reality), but I didn’t follow exactly how that came about, and I didn’t understand what, exactly, the Grel had to do with it. She explained it in a way that made perfect sense. It had to do with the method the Grel used to establish their “good facts.” Charley’s book became infected with these “Grel particles,” which are sort of nanites used to re-write reality. When Charley and the Doctor attempted to return the book, the particles began to re-write the reality of anyone they came in contact with. At the time in history, novels were just becoming popular, and as the virus spread, multiple fictional realities began to overlap.Because Dick Turpin is both real and fictional, he was like a lightning rod for these particles. His duality also led to the resolution.
The Doctor was having little success trying to reverse the effects of the particles dealing with them in reality. The people affected were following the rules of fiction. For example, they didn’t have to go to the bathroom, they didn’t have to eat necessarily, and they were able to stay ahead of the Doctor because they could progress as time jumps between chapters. They are also governed by coincidence and other plot contrivances. That’s what was being illustrated in the scene Tracy transcribed above, which is when the Doctor had his epiphany. (He wasn't trying to account for "Falstaff," though, per se; he was trying to locate/Charley.)
She told me she’s not enjoying “Brotherhood of the Daleks” as much as she did “The Doomsday Curse,” so maybe I can help her appreciate that one. She’ll finish listening to it today, and I’ll begin next Monday. Charley has encountered the Daleks at least twice before, so I’m looking forward to the Doctor’s reaction when he finds that out.
114. BROTHERHOOD OF THE DALEKS
“The TARDIS makes a return trip to the jungle planet of Spiridon, where the Doctor and Charley fall in with a lost platoon of shell-shocked Thal soldiers - victims of a sneak attack by their blood enemies, the Daleks.
“Besieged by deadly flora, surrounded by invisible monsters, and with all hope of rescue gone, the Thals are the victims of a grim experiment in psychological warfare.
“With the very nature of reality under threat, the Doctor and Charley need each other more than ever. But dark forces are conspiring to tear them apart...”
COMMENTARY: “Brotherhood of the Daleks” (C. Baker) is a sequel to “Planet of the Daleks” (Pertwee) in the same way “Planet of the Daleks” is a sequel to “The Daleks” (Hartnell). Charley lets slip that she’s familiar with the Daleks, as I anticipated, but she also lets slip she knows about Skarro, too. Later in the episode the Doctor warns that any foreknowledge of his own timeline “could affect the Web of Time” Charley echoes. “Yes, how did you know that?” the Doctor asks. “Oh, well, you’re always on about it,” she replies. He doesn’t remember ever bringing up the Web of Time since they’ve been traveling together, but she asserts he mentioned it “last Thursday.”
Later she refers to “your friend Sigmund Freud,” to which the Doctor replies, “I’ve never met Sigmund Freud.” She accuses him of being a “fibber,” but he insists. She finally relents, “Oh. No, I guess you haven’t.”
India Fisher’s comedic timing and delivery are spot on throughout. One line was particularly funny the way she delivered it. The Doctor makes a lame pun and Charley explains to one of the other characters, “That was a joke,” then adds. “I think.” India and Collin Baker work so well together one almost believes Paul McGann is Baker’s other self.
As often happens in a Dalek serial, the Daleks first appear at the end of part one. But this time they say, “WE ARE NOT DALEKS! WE ARE THALS! WE ARE THALS! WE ARE THALS!” For the cliffhanger of part two, Charlie is poised to reveal her secret. Something happens to distract her at the beginning of part three, but by the end she does reveal it, and it’s not what you think: she’s a Dalek replicant!
This serial is full of twists and turns and is told on at least five different levels of reality. It’s never clear who’s who or what’s what. Are the “Thaleks” really Thals made into Daleks, or are have they been Daleks all along. That sort of thing. In the “extras” portion, the actors, the director and even the writer talk of how difficult this one is to follow. It’s pretty dense, and no one is expected to fully understand what’s really going on the first time through. Here is what Alan Barnes and Nicholas Briggs have to say about it.
WRITER’S NOTES: “Some stories don’t turn out quite the way you planned. ‘Kingdom of the Daleks’ was going to be a story about Sara Kingdom’s mother and father, bringing up two captive Daleks as replacement s for the children they’d lost in the Daleks’ Master Plan affair. But, well—we had a sara Kingdom Companion Chronicle in the works (true); and wasn’t Daleks in the kindergarten just a bit too Evil (I guess); and, be honest, wasn’t the whole thing just a feeble excuse to bring back Celation, Trantis, Malpha and other members of the species in Mavic Chen’s inner circle…? (Yup.)
“Back to the drawing board. Back to the Daleks. Nick Briggs pointed out to me that Terry Nation would always give the Daleks a new gimmick each time they reappeared. This time… they’ve got a TARDIS! They’re invisible! Their guns don’t work! (Etc.) So, this time they’re—
“...well, I’ll let you find out for yourself.”
DIRECTOR’S NOTES: “When Alan wrote ‘The Girl Who Never Was,’ he started e-mailing me the script in little installments every day. It was his idea and it was mainly a way of keeping himself on deadline,
“So when it came round to ‘Brotherhood of the Daleks,’ we made the same arrangement. Every day, I’d get an exciting mini-episode of great Doctor Who in script form. It was like reading an old newspaper serial. And as each thrilling sequence of ‘Brotherhood’ arrived on my desktop,
I lapped it up. It is very nearly one of the craziest stories I’ve ever read. And we had a crazy time doing it. Hearing all those other actors chanting Dalek lines at me through the glass was slightly unnerving!
“And for a good portion of our studio time, Alan was there, helping with script alterations and reassuring the actors. From time to time, we all need a story that stretches our brains to the limit. And this was this year’s! Sit down, listen, enjoy, wrestle with it and then… relaaaxxx…”