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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
A Town Called Fortune


Author: Paul Sutton
Read by: Maggie Stables
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 487 0
Available 30 November 2010

Wanted dead or alive... for the murder of William Donovan!” Problems beset the Doctor and Evelyn Smythe as they travel by train to the Wild West town of Fortune. A young woman is investigating the murder of her father nine years earlier, and a wanted poster indicates that the Doctor is the killer! With the TARDIS lost to them and the law on their tail, can the travellers unravel the mystery - or will Rachel Ann Donovan take her revenge first...?

Until recently, Doctor Who Westerns had been few and far between, possibly due to the critical mauling that was suffered by The Gunfighters. Just lately, though, the Doctor cannot seem to stay away from the Wild West. Just a couple of months ago, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy visited the setting in The Runaway Train. Now the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn (a welcome return by Maggie Stables) make a similar trip.

Like Oli Smith before him, author Paul Sutton ticks boxes in terms of cramming in popular elements from the genre (a troubled sheriff, a corrupt mayor, a gold mine, a quest for vengeance) but his narrative heads in a different direction to The Runaway Train - quite literally in fact. Whereas Smith’s story started off in a town before boarding the locomotive of the title, this one begins with the TARDIS materialising on board a train but ends up in a town (called Fortune, as you’ve probably surmised) when the Doctor and Evelyn are forced to alight. I didn’t realise until some time after I’d finished listening to this audio book that it’s actually a purely historical tale, featuring no science fiction elements apart from the time travellers and the TARDIS. Though there may initially appear to be one sci-fi element in the plot (especially if you’ve already heard The Runaway Train), it is ultimately resolved in quite a different way.

Stables provides a good mixture of voices during her reading. In addition to Evelyn, she gives a good approximation of Colin Baker’s pompous tones as the Sixth Doctor, and successfully differentiates the voices of the young female characters Rachel and Maisie. Her depiction of Rachel includes some convincing weeping - something that can be difficult to pull off during narration.

Unusually for a Companion Chronicle, the frame narrative takes place not years but mere hours after the events described by Evelyn and the sheriff (guest voice Richard Cordery).

The placement note on the back of the CD indicates that this story is set between Thicker Than Water and Pier Pressure, which cannot be correct since Thicker Than Water takes place after Evelyn ceased travelling with the Doctor. Maybe the note should read between Medicinal Purposes and Pier Pressure.

That aside, we are fortunate to have A Town Called Fortune.


Richard McGinlay

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