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
125. PAPER CUTS
“The Empire is lost. The Deathless Emperors are dead. The future may never happen.
An urgent summons returns the noble Doctor to a planet he saved from disaster long ago. But Draconia, so elegant and so savage, is in worse turmoil than ever.
“Who will be next Emperor? The highest Prince? The lowest peasant? The soldier with no name? Or the Doctor himself – his life at their command? Who controls the army of deadly origami warriors? And is the truth about Charley painted on paper walls in the Emperor’s tomb?
“History is taking revenge on the Doctor.”
Of the two cliffhangers from the end of “Patient Zero,” the temporal explosion is dealt with in short order. The bomb does explode, but the Doctor had left TARDIS in “regeneration mode” (whatever that means). The resolution of the second cliffhanger, that Mila has usurped Charley’s identity, is just as unsatisfying. When individual Doctor’s stories are told in a series of three sequential releases, the best of those “trilogies” are standalones with a common thread or story element linking the three. “Patient Zero,” “Paper Cuts” and “Blue Forgotten Planet” are not only parts of such a trilogy, but they are the last of Charley’s travels with the Sixth Doctor. As such, I expected more from the middle part.
“Paper Cuts” is a sequel to the televised Third Doctor story “Frontier in Space.” It’s not a bad story in and of itself (it’s actually pretty good with a lot of court intrigue and the like), but the Charley/Mila switcheroo plot doesn’t progress at all. In fact, the previous episode’s temporal explosion cliffhanger was dispensed with so quickly and only lip service is paid to the fact “Charley” is not Charley, that one strongly suspects “Paper Cuts” to be a random script shoe-horned into this trio of stories. Granted Mila believes herself to be Charley, but she behaves so much like the real Charley would she might as well be Charley.
There were some bits I liked: in the throes of the temporal explosion, Mila/Charley sees “shadows” of Doctor’s past selves; the First Doctor has a cameo (a non-speaking role); and ambulatory origami sazou pieces (Draconian chess) are utilized as assassins (thus the title). Here’s more about the Draconians from the liner notes, followed by the writer’s notes for this episode.
DRACONIANS – A Brief History:
“A proud race of people, the Draconians are lizard-like creatures who come from a society not unlike Earth’s feudal Japan. They are bound by a code of honor and although they will fight if provoked, they are essentially a peaceful race.
“The Third Doctor encountered them 20 years after the race’s first contact with the Earth Empire, during which a misunderstanding had resulted in the destruction of a Draconian vessel. In the aftermath of a short but vicious war, a peace treaty was signed, which the Master attempted to disrupt.
“Using mind control to make humans and Draconians perceive their greatest fears instead of the Ogrons in front of them, he almost succeeded. Had it not been for the Doctor and Jo’s intervention, the war would doubtlessly have begun again, more bloody and terrible than before, allowing the Daleks, who’d been manipulating events from the shadows, to seize power for themselves.”
WRITER’S NOTES – Marc Platt:
“When I think back 36 years to ‘Frontier in Space,’ the Jon Pertwee story that features the Draconians, my first reaction is ‘Welcome to Japan’. Draconia has a fiercely hierarchical society ruled by a system of honor, headed by an Imperial family, peopled by a noble caste of warriors – and females are forbidden to speak in the Emperor’s presence. Not that that kept Jo Grant quiet!
“So taking that lead, I added ancestor worship, palaces (and tombs) made of paper, a peasant underclass and a role for Draconian females that makes them more than equal to the males. Draconian elegance meets Draconian brutality. And then there are the deadly Sazou.
“In his story shopping list, Nick Briggs prescribed only four ‘other’ voices and the coldness of space. And the he added that Charley might not be who she appeared to be. Thanks Nick. Welcome to Draconia!”
126. BLUE FORGOTTEN PLANET
“On Earth, civilization has ended and time is running out for the Doctor and Charlotte Pollard.
Will the mysterious Viyrans really help?
As the story opens, Charley and the Doctor have already stopped travelling together. He is in a drinking establishment explaining to the bartender how much he misses her. The explanation of how they parted is told in flashback. Quite some time has passed since “Paper Cuts.” As a matter of fact, by this point, it is revealed that the Sixth Doctor has traveled longer with Mila/Charley than he has with the real Charley.
Speaking of whom, the real Charley has been travelling with the Viyrans, largely in suspended animation, but they wake her up for help from time to time. They promised to wake her when they track down the Doctor. The Viyrans inform her that there is an exact duplicate of her travelling with the Doctor, and she knows it is Mila. The Viyrans claim to have encountered the Doctor several times in the past and have altered his memory at least once. [The Fifth Doctor had his memories altered by the Viyrans in “Mission of the Viyrans” when he last visited Gralista Social.]
The Viyrans are attempting to eliminate one of the viruses spread through time in “Patient Zero,” but their values are so alien that they are willing to exterminate the entire population of Earth even though there’s only a one in seven billion chance that it will spread. Chronon particles that get released in the time vortex are the cure for the virus, so the Doctor extends the time field of the TARDIS around the entire planet, and everything within the sphere reverts the Earth’s timeline to a point before the Viyrans fired their first disseminator.
Charley finally confronts Mila face to face and she finally tells the Doctor the truth of who she is. In an excellent performance by India Fisher, she plays both roles and pitches her voice in such a way that it’s perfectly clear which one’s Charley and which one’s Mila. (The CD “extras” reveal that she played both parts simultaneously, rather than recording each part separately and editing them together in post.) I had a pretty good idea of what was coming, but one particular bit of dialogue, the way it was delivered by Fisher, really choked me up.
At the conclusion of the story, the Viyrans insist that the Sixth Doctor's memories of Charley must be wiped, but the Doctor suspects the process won’t work on him. Charley realizes that the only way it will work is if the Doctor is a willing participant. It is for this reason that Charley reveals her history with the Doctor, knowing that he will not risk corrupting the Web of Time with foreknowledge of his own future. Luckily, I found the following exchange elsewhere on the internet so I don’t have to transcribe it myself.
THE DOCTOR: I think the Viyrans are going to wipe out the human race…
CHARLEY: Let me tell you a story. You meet a girl on the R-101 airship. She’s meant to die in the crash.
THE DOCTOR: If this is something from my future I don’t think…
CHARLEY: But you save her and that tears at the fabric of time itself, the Web of Time. But in a way, you don’t care because you love her.
THE DOCTOR: Sounds like I became reckless in my old age…
CHARLEY: Isn’t that what old age is for?
THE DOCTOR: Perhaps.
CHARLEY: Then one day you and this girl, this woman, decide to go your separate ways. But before this happens she sees you die…
THE DOCTOR: Charlotte! I don’t want…
CHARLEY: …and you don’t regenerate!
THE DOCTOR: Why are you…?
CHARLEY: You die!
THE DOCTOR: Why are you telling me this?
CHARLEY: I think the only way the Viyrans can erase your memory without killing you is if you really want to forget. And now you know when you meet Charlotte Pollard your life will nearly be over!
THE DOCTOR: Everyone dies, Charley. Even me. I’m prepared for that.
Ultimately, Mila stays on Earth, Charley continues her travels with the Viyans, and the Doctor’s memories are altered so that he remembers his time with Charley with Mila's name and face. The flashback comes full circle to the opening scene of Doctor missing his most recent companion. It brought a tear to my eye when the Doctor confessed, “I will never forget… Mila.”
Nicholas Briggs provides both the writer’s notes and director’s notes this time.
“Big Finish script editor Alan Barnes said to me, ‘You can write her out this time. I can’t do it again, I’m emotionally exhausted.’ I accepted the challenge with a mixture of delight and a heavy heart. You see, just like Alan Barnes, I love Charlotte Pollard. She’s been a huge part of my life since she bumped into the Eighth Doctor on the R101. Having worked on sound design and music for her earliest adventures, her voice had inevitably implanted itself on my brain.
“By the time the former producer Gary Russell tentatively approached India to suggest that her time with the Eighth Doctor might be over, I already knew that she was thinking of leaving. But when Alan Barnes suggested that she should ‘accidentally’ end up with another Doctor… I couldn’t resist it. Then, when Colin Baker, India, David Richardson and most of our listeners demanded that hcarley’s adventures should last longer than the planned three stories, who was I to argue?
“But all good things… as they say. And I willingly confess, I cried buckets over the keyboard. Almost literally…”
“I started off, way back during ‘The Mission of the Viyrans,’ with this crazy idea that the Viyrans would use the voices of lots of people to speak. Although I had created the Viyrans when I was 14 years old, their limited communication skills had emerged during their first trial run in a Doctor Who Magazine storybook story titled ‘No One Died’ (a title inspired by a sketch from ‘The Day Today’). In that story, they only communicated in sign language. Yeah, great for audio!
“So, in ‘Mission of the Viyrans,’ they used Peri’s voice. And in an early draft of ‘Blue Forgotten Planet,’ they were using Peri’s voice again. How confusing would that have been for the Sixth Doctor? But then, of course, Michael Maloney had provided the Viyrans with Fratalin’s beautifully modulated voice in ‘Patient Zero.’ And Mivhael was such fun to work with, and so vocal in his requests to ‘come back soon,’ that I felt I had no choice but to make him the voice of the Viyrans. And I didn’t regret it.”
Tracy is out of town for a few days but I can hardly wait until she gets to listen to this one.