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Audio Drama Review




Starring: Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £25.00
ISBN: 978 1 84435 511 2
Available 30 November 2010

Abby and her sister Zara are not real people. They were made, created by pan-dimensional beings - the Grace - to help save space and time. The Grace gave them special powers. With just a thought they can be anywhere or when in the universe. They can affect people, see into their heads, influence their thoughts... They’re still learning what they can do. Now they’ve completed their mission, the Grace have left them to fend for themselves. The universe is dangerous, unpredictable. Abby is not so good-as-gold as she appears. Zara has already destroyed a whole world. And they’ve only got each other...

Though not listed as a Doctor Who release, this box set of three adventures, all of them written by Simon Guerrier and directed by Lisa Bowerman, follows on from the events of Big Finish’s Key 2 Time trilogy of Fifth Doctor stories (which began with The Judgement of Isskar and ended with The Chaos Pool). It reveals what happened next to the humanoid Tracers Amy (Ciara Janson) and Zara (Laura Doddington).

Even more so than the Bernice Summerfield range, Graceless plays down its Who connections, never once referring to the Doctor or his home planet by name. As a result, it somewhat over-simplifies the role of the Grace in the girls’ fate. The beings didn’t exactly leave the Tracers to fend for themselves, but rather were dispersed throughout eternity as a result of the Doctor’s actions (though it’s doubtful that Amy and Zara would have lasted for long had they been left to the Grace’s tender mercies).

Amy now calls herself Abby, as is established in the first story of the set, The Sphere...

It’s great here. You can get anything!” The Sphere is a private satellite complex offering every kind of entertainment. It doubles in size every week, as new hotels and casinos are lashed to its outer skin. Zara came here by mistake and was quickly caught up in the noise and excitement. It’s got into her head. When her sister Abby comes to the rescue, Zara insists that she can’t leave. What is the secret that Zara is carrying with her? Why is Abby so ill? How long can she resist the Sphere getting into her head as well...?

The reason for Amy’s name change to Abby is presumably to avoid confusion with the companion Amy Pond, who was introduced into the Doctor Who TV series after the release of the Key 2 Time trilogy. However, since Graceless isn’t being billed as a Who release, I have doubts about the logic of this. Within the context of the story, Amy adopts her pseudonym in order to gain entry to the Sphere, by stealing someone else’s identity. However, Zara so often refers to her as Amy, only to be corrected by the Tracer now known as Abby, that I cannot help wondering whether the overall effect will be more confusing to new listeners than simply sticking with the old name.

What shines through, though, is a very convincing sibling relationship between the two characters, with Abby’s compassion for the troubled Zara, and Zara’s teasing of Abby: “Did you learn that at special school?” However, the pair’s empathic powers backfire on them, and soon the distinctions between the “goody two-shoes” Abby and “bad girl” Zara become blurred - to dramatic and tragic effect.

The environment of the Sphere is vividly brought to life by sound designers Kelly Ellis and Steve McNichol at Fool Circle Productions, with music, the sounds of gaming tables, background chatter and other noises constantly battling with the dialogue. As a result, there is an audible sense of relief when our heroines finally escape from the place.



There’s no such thing as witches.” Abby and Zara find themselves in the small town of Compton in October, 1912. In the local pub they meet Nan, who offers them the local beer and then has them arrested. Something is killing the town’s children, something that hides in the fog, something that prevents Abby and Zara from leaving. Abby knows something worse is coming to the town, something that will kill them all. Can they prove their innocence and help solve the mystery - or is it sometimes better not to know...?

Following the hi-tech nightmare of The Sphere, the setting and themes of The Fog could scarcely be more different: a quiet English town in the early 20th century facing an apparently supernatural menace. The subject matter is reinforced by the casting of David Warner as the magistrate Daniel. There’s more than a passing similarity to Sapphire & Steel as the two otherworldly time teleporters encounter a doomed settlement and echoes of the dead.

As a result of their empathic natures, which in previous adventures had seen them assimilating behaviour patterns from those around them (such as the Doctor), Abby and Zara are gradually becoming more and more alike as they spend more time in each other’s company. An unfortunate side effect of this, from a storytelling point of view, is that it becomes difficult to tell their voices apart. It turns out that the two actresses’ voices are actually quite similar, and it was mainly the characters’ personalities and affiliations that had distinguished them previously.

I wonder whether this trilogy was originally intended for release as individual CDs. The reason why I wonder this is because Alex Mallinson’s cover illustration for the final adventure, The End, contains something of a spoiler regarding the cliffhanger ending to this one. Therefore, I advise you to try not to look at that cover until you’ve listened to the whole of The Fog. That way, you won’t have the foggiest idea what’s going to happen!



The Grace don’t know everything. We have to do what’s right!” Abby and Zara realise that their past is catching up with them, in more ways than one. A man they did wrong by has hunted them down across all of time and space, just to sell them out. Meanwhile, a space pirate called Kreekpolt knows that the sisters can save his daughter’s life - even if doing so will burn Abby and Zara away completely. After that, ten thousand dead souls, hungry and empty and furious, want whatever is left of the sisters...

The End combines elements and themes from the previous two adventures: the futuristic sci-fi of The Sphere and the spiritualism of The Fog. Abby and Zara also face the consequences of their actions in those stories. A further sense of resolution is achieved by a return visit to the rainy planet on which the Key 2 Time trilogy began and concluded in The Judgement of Isskar and The Chaos Pool.

This time the principal guest star is Michael Keating. His performance as the pirate Kreekpolt is as eccentric as one might expect from his work on Blake’s 7 and Soldiers of Love, but it is also complex and unpredictable: urbane one moment, threatening the next.

Director Lisa Bowerman also puts in an appearance, though her voice seems to have undergone some kind of electronic treatment, possibly in order to distinguish her character from her better-known role as Bernice Summerfield. It isn’t very convincing, though, and her casting is especially ironic when her character calls for an archaeologist!

If Abby and Zara are to return (and, without giving too much away, I think that they might) then the writers and performers will need to do more to differentiate them from each other, perhaps by splitting them up once more. Nevertheless, it was nice to hear from them again.


Richard McGinlay

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