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
CHARLOTTE POLLARD – SERIES 1
1.1 The Lamentation Cipher
1.2 The Shadow at the Edge of the World
1.3 The Fall of the House of Pollard
1.4 The Viyran Solution
CHARLOTTE POLLARD – SERIES 2
2.1 Embankment Station
2.3 Seed of Chaos
2.4 The Destructive Quality of Life
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.
I’ll bet you hoped thought this discussion was over, didn’t you? Just because the Sixth Doctor’s “Travels with Charley” have come to an end doesn’t mean ours have to. I’ve taken a break from writing reactions to Big Finish audios, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped listening to them. Most recently I’ve be re-listening to certain stories as a set-up to upcoming (now recent) releases, including “Patient Zero,” “Paper Cuts” and “Blue Forgotten Planet” (#124, #125 and #126 above) leading into Charlie’s solo adventures with the Viyrans. I direct those interested in a refresher to pages 3-4 of this discussion.
CHARLOTTE POLLARD — EDWARDIAN ADVENTURESS
“Charlotte Pollard’s adventures are over. She escaped death aboard the R101 and travelled in time and space - but now in the service of the monolithic, unknowable Viyrans, their unending mission is stifling her. An encounter with would-be adventurer Robert Buchan, near the mysterious Ever-and-Ever-Prolixity, provides the opportunity Charley needs for escape…
“So, the adventuress is abroad once more: meeting a lost expedition in uncharted forests, solving enigmas, and hoping beyond hope to see the people she misses most: her family. But Charley cannot run forever. The Viyrans know the power of the ‘Lamentation Cipher’ and they have a solution… for everything.”
I’ve updated the initial post with a look at what’s ahead.
TOMORROW: “The Lamentation Cipher”
It was a year ago when I finished up Charley Pollard’s final adventures with the Sixth Doctor. Then we went on vacation and, by the time we retuned, my interest turned elsewhere. Tracy continued listening, though, but it has been a year, so I don’t know if we can count on her participation. Moving on now with…
1.1 - THE LAMENTATION CIPHER:
COMMENTARY: This story serves as an introduction (or re-introduction, as the case may be) to Charlotte Pollard and the Viyans. Charley is no longer able to travel with the Doctor due to potential danger to the Web of Time. With the Doctor’s co-operation, his memories of her have been wiped and replaced with those of “Mila.” Charley is travelling with the Viyrans until such a time as they are able to return her to her proper time and place. Here’s what Jonathan Barnes had to say about this initial adventure.
WRITER’S NOTES by Jonathan Barnes:
“It’s easy to forget, if you’re involved in their creation, that stories have influence once they’re out there in the world, that they can touch people, that they have power.
“When Charlotte Pollard was introduced in 2001 in that inaugural run of adventures for the eighth incarnation of a certain time traveler, I was working in a full-time office job (photocopying, filing, making the tea) and living, in a small dismal part of London, in a room in a shared flat above a fish and chip shop. Our landlady didn’t believe in mattresses, preferring the unmerciful solidity of a reasonably-priced futon. I listened to each instalment of that series, which brought Paul McGann and India Fisher together for the first time, on a portable CD player, trying, fruitlessly, to get comfortable on a barely-padded futon for one.
“It would only be a small exaggeration to say this not especially cheerful patch of my life was made materially better by those stories, and by the fun that the writers and the cast were evidently having. Did I ever imagine that I would one day be writing for Big Finish and for the splendid Miss Pollard in particular? Of course not. And yet, thirteen years later, here we are, bringing Charley back again, brought to life once more by India Fisher—every bit as brilliant as I’d always hoped.
“Since that first encounter, high in the skies aboard the R101, the Edwardian adventuress has come a long way. We all have. But her story goes on in the box set you hold in your hands—mostly because of the enduring strength of what went before, of the work of Alan Barnes, Gary Russell and Nicholas Briggs, of the charm and ingenuity of India herself. Here’s hoping that we’ll still be following her exploits another thirteen years from now.”
1.2 - THE SHADOW AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD:
COMMENTARY: Charlie awakens, without her memory, in a forest populated by beast known as the “Slatherings,” described as a cross between a silverback gorilla and Mr. Hyde. She is soon befriended (although that might be too strong of a term) by a group of women, the only survivors of an ill-fated expedition. She is shocked to learn that she has arrived in Scotland in the year 1936. When the Viyrans arrive, they have no idea who she is. Hints are dropped that she is more than she appears to be and has an important role to play in the future.
WRITER’S NOTES by Jonathan Barnes:
“Among the many highlights of being involved in the first series of Charlotte Pollard—meeting India Fisher; crafting Viyran dialogue for Michael Maloney; the sheer giddy thrill of tackling one of the most beloved of Big Finish’s original creation—was the pleasure of collaborating with those very talented writers, Matt Fitton and Nicholas Briggs.
“Last summer, I got the chance to sit down with the brilliant Mr. Fitton to plan out the shape of the series. What kind of stories should we tell? What should their tone be? In how much danger should we plunge poor Miss Pollard? Our answers were as follows: as many as possible; adventurous fun, leavened, just a little, with melancholy; as much as we could conjure.
“My job, we decided, would be to get things started, meaning that I had the very considerable
Challenge of writing what was effectively a follow-up to the high space opera of ‘Blue Forgotten Planet.’ For the second story, keen to produce something as different in style ad texture as possible, I chose to set the piece on earth and work with some of the iconography of classic weird stories by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Placing Charley in the midst of such claustrophobic horror would, I hoped, create an interestingly incongruous quality with plenty of opportunity for shadows and fear.
“In realizing these ambitions, I was fortunate to work closely with script editor Nicholas Briggs, who did a great deal to bring this aspect of menace more sharply into focus. And as a result of these collaborations with Matt and Nick, the dangers for Charley in our mysterious forest are visceral, immediate, severe. The stakes are high now, of course, but be sure to listen right to the end as, from hereon in, they’re only going to get higher.”