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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Crimes of Thomas Brewster


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)

ISBN: 978 1 84435 543 3

Available 31 January 2011

Sent down south to assist the Metropolitan Police in their efforts to investigate the gangland kingpin known only as “the Doctor”, Detective Inspector Patricia Menzies finds herself up to her neck in laser-equipped robot mosquitoes, gun-running criminal overlords, vanishing Tube trains... and not one but two Doctors. Meanwhile the real Doctor, and his academic assistant Professor Evelyn Smythe, have become ensnared in the machinations of an old acquaintance - the time-travelling Victorian guttersnipe Thomas Brewster. But what is Brewster’s connection to the rapacious robot Terravores, and can anyone contain the gathering swarm...?

This, the first in a new trilogy of adventures for the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Evelyn (Maggie Stables), also sees the welcome return of a couple of semi-regular characters from previous releases. As the title of the piece makes obvious (somewhat to the detriment of the cliffhanger ending to Part One), that time-travelling artful dodger Thomas Brewster (John Pickard) is back - though I was more excited about the reappearance of no-nonsense Mancunian police officer Patricia Menzies (Anna Hope), from whom we haven’t heard since 2008’s The Raincloud Man. She’s doing a bit of a Gene Hunt here, as she’s gone to London on attachment to the Met Police.

However, Menzies’s inclusion posed a bit of a problem for writer Jonathan Morris, because the character’s two previous appearances had been alongside the Sixth Doctor and Charley, at a later point in the Time Lord’s timeline than his travels with Evelyn. As a result, in order to protect the web of time, Menzies has to pretend that she doesn’t know the Doctor, and assumes that he was similarly pretending when they met in The Condemned. Actually, I theorised something similar as an explanation for the seemingly contradictory “first” meetings between Evelyn and Mel in Instruments of Darkness and Thicker Than Water. Nor is this Big Finish’s first explicitly out-of-sequence encounter for the TARDIS crew. We’d had lots of complicated time-travel interaction lately, including the Sixth Doctor travelling with former companions of the Eighth Doctor (Charley) and the Second Doctor (Jamie), and the Forge clashing with the Seventh Doctor out of sequence. This is something that the classic TV series shied away from, but, as is pointed out during the 19 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two, one would expect this sort of thing to be a regular occurrence for time-travellers.

At least one aspect of the plot isn’t as timey-wimey as I had expected. When we first encounter Brewster in this story, I assumed from his garb that this adventure was set between the Fifth Doctor stories The Haunting of Thomas Brewster and The Boy That Time Forgot for him. As it happens, though, the chronology is much simpler than that.

In addition to this appealing mix of regular and semi-regular characters, David Troughton makes a memorable guest appearance as gangster Raymond Gallagher.

Morris keeps his story interesting by regularly changing the direction and emphasis of the plot. It starts off rather like a James Bond film, with the Doctor and Evelyn already in the midst of an adventure, being pursued along the Thames in a speedboat. A present-day Earth-based mystery gives way to an intriguing alien setting, and one reunion follows on the heels of another, complicated by the complexities of time travel and a series of amusing deceptions regarding the Doctor’s identity.

The first disc also includes 11 minutes of isolated music by Howard Carter, while the interviews at the end of the second disc include a discussion of the history of Evelyn Smythe and how Maggie Stables came to be cast in the role.

Its title may be The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, but this double CD also does justice to the Sixth Doctor, Evelyn and especially DI Menzies.


Richard McGinlay

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