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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
Crime of the Century


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 491 7
Available 31 May 2011

The year is 1989. In London, safe cracker Raine Creevy infiltrates a fancy dinner party to crack open the safe - and finds more than the family jewels. That’s where she discovers the Doctor. In the Middle East, the kingdom of Sayf Udeen is being terrorised by Soviet invaders and alien monsters. And on the Scottish border, a highly guarded facility contains an advanced alien weapon. These are all part of the Doctor’s masterplan. He is gathering rare artefacts and distributing them carefully. But masterplans can go awry...

Whereas other Lost Stories have been adapted from previously written scripts or story outlines, Crime of the Century, which was originally intended to be broadcast third in the 1990 television season that never was, hadn’t really got any further than Andrew Cartmel’s widely reported idea for the opening scene.

What an opening scene it is, though. Beth Chalmers immediately captures the listener’s imagination and affection as the sophisticated female felon Raine Creevy, who breaks into a safe - only to find the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) waiting for her inside. The Doctor’s devious plan doesn’t stand up well to close scrutiny, because if he is cunning enough to get into a locked safe, then why does he need to employ a safe cracker, but as an introduction to a new companion, it’s an unforgettable sequence.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Doctor has encountered Raine. He - and we - first met her when she was born during the previous release, Thin Ice. Though these stories have only now made it into production, aspects of the companion’s complicated debut did eventually make it to the screen during the revived series, in the introductory scenes of Lady Christina de Souza in Planet of the Dead (posh lady thief bumps into the Doctor while stealing a valuable artefact) and Amy Pond in The Eleventh Hour (the Doctor meets his new companion as a child, then again as an adult, though only a short time has elapsed for him).

In the planned television season, Ace (Sophie Aldred) would have left the show by this point, but the Doctor and Raine still enjoy plenty of scenes together, as Ace has been dispatched to a Middle-Eastern country that resembles 1980s Afghanistan.

In common with the UNIT era that preceded his tenure as script editor, and the revived series that followed it, Cartmel also develops a number of recurring supporting characters. Both Ricky Groves as wide boy Markus Creevy and John Albasiny as Russian bad guy Colonel Felnikov reprise their roles (both excellent) from Thin Ice. The writer also introduces the Metatraxi, insect-like aliens who will resurface later in this promising season arc...

Though enjoyable, the script is not without its problems. The cliffhanger ending to Part 2 is rather difficult to follow on audio, while the drama of the final episode is offset by the heavy-handed comedy of a translation device that talks like Bill and Ted (dude). Oh well, at least it’s appropriate to the era.

Note that this story is set in 1989 rather than 1990, the year in which it was intended for broadcast. This is because the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 effectively marked the end of the Cold War, which would have undermined the Russian aspects of Cartmel’s plot.

Special mention must be made of Simon Robinson’s incidental music, including a memorable “caper” theme, which carries us through the entire adventure. Crime of the Century is further bolstered by 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes interviews.

It would be a crime to miss it.


Richard McGinlay

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