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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Company of Friends


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 411 5
Available 31 July 2009

Big Finish takes a break from its recent pattern of three-month seasons of adventures to bring us this, an extra Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) release. And it’s a rather unusual one...

Deep in the mines of Epsilon Minima, Professor Bernice Summerfield is up to her neck in it... as usual. The Countess Venhella has hired her to recover a lost Time Lord artefact: a TARDIS key, as it turns out. Guess whose...?

All the other Big Finish Doctors have had an “anthology” release, comprising four stories of one episode each, and now it’s McGann’s turn. The Company of Friends demonstrates what a diverse array of adventures and companions the Eighth Doctor has enjoyed outside of the Big Finish range, in media such as novels and comic strips.

The media to which the first episode, Benny’s Story, pays homage is the novel, specifically Virgin’s New Adventures, in one of which, The Dying Days (just before the company lost its licence to produce original Who fiction), Professor Bernice Summerfield (played here by Lisa Bowerman) met the Eighth Doctor. The pair have since appeared together in a handful of short stories in charity anthologies and the Short Trips series. The Dying Days author Lance Parkin returns to pen this re-teaming, and refers back to his earlier work in order to bring the listener up to speed.

It’s a jolly little adventure, and the characters make a good team. The emphasis is very much on light-hearted banter in the face of impending disaster, as is also the case with the next two stories...



On the planet Entusso, the Doctor and Fitz investigate Alien Defence Incorporated - your one-stop shop for protection against extraterrestrial invasion! But which is the greatest menace: the hideous Vermin Queens or ADI itself...?

Fitz’s Story stays within novel territory, this time harking back to the “Eighth Doctor Adventures” published by BBC Books. Former editor and contributor to that range, Stephen Cole, evidently enjoys writing for the character of Fitz Kreiner once again.

I never really had much of an idea of Fitz’s voice in my head whenever I read about the character, possibly because I never read his first few novels (but never fear, because each episode is preceded by a brief monologue, which tells you everything you need to know about the character in question). Therefore, I cannot really comment on Matt di Angelo’s realisation of the character, except that he seems to be having almost as much fun as Cole.

Now, Izzy on the other hand...



TARDIS travel opens one’s eyes to a universe of possibilities, reckons the Doctor. For geek girl Izzy, it’s also a fantastic way to track down ultra-rare back copies of Aggrotron!, the most dangerous comic in history...

I followed Izzy’s adventures with the Eighth Doctor in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip right from their beginning in 1996, and I can safely say that Jemima Rooper brings the character’s geeky enthusiasm to life quite splendidly. She sounds, in fact, like a character in a comic strip.

As with the previous episodes, the writer, in this case Alan Barnes, is one who is familiar with the medium being alluded to. Izzy’s Story is easily the one I enjoyed the most, as Barnes takes a satirical swipe at comics themselves, especially British comics. Rare back issues, the dreaded comic mergers (“Great news kids!”), and 2000 AD’s “alien” editor are all covered here, though the fate of Aggrotron! is more akin to that of 2000 AD’s forerunner, the controversial Action.

As Izzy would say... Top!



Switzerland, 1816: at the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron’s house guests tell each other tales to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart. With a monster on the loose outside, young Mary Shelley isn’t short of inspiration...

Mary’s Story, by Jonathan Morris, is the odd one out of this collection. Whereas the other three stories feature established companions from other media, this one features... Mary Shelley (Julie Cox). It’s not as if there aren’t any other companions who could be brought back - what about Stacy and Ssard (from the short-lived Radio Times comic strip), President Romana and K-9 (from the webcast Shada) or even the untapped potential of Gemma and Samson (from Terror Firma)?

This episode doesn’t tap into any previously published branches of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures - unless you count the TV movie. In both the TV movie and Mary’s Story, the ailing Doctor is brought back to life in a manner that echoes Frankenstein. In this case, the event inspires Mary to pen her famous novel.

It’s an intriguing story, and Cox is utterly convincing as Mary, but Morris fiendishly teases us with the possibility of a regeneration into the Ninth Doctor (perhaps he actually intended the story to end that way, but the BBC vetoed it).

It’s a curious beast.



As if four stories weren’t enough, there’s also the fourth mini-episode of The Three Companions at the end of Disc 2. Polly’s (Anneke Wills) eerie story of the dead world comes to an end, and it looks as though it will be the Brigadier’s (Nicholas Courtney) turn next.

All in all, with this double CD, you’ll be in good company for a good couple of hours.

Richard McGinlay

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