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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Jigsaw War


Starring: Frazer Hines
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 622 5
Available 31 May 2012

A cell: four walls, one door. James Robert McCrimmon can escape, but it means unravelling a puzzle of extraordinary complexity. And there are more than just two players in this game. The Doctor is there, though he can provide little in the way of help. So too is his opponent, Side. As a hero turns into a killer, and a rebellion becomes anarchy, the lines between good and evil become blurred - as does the distinction between cause and effect...

Big Finish seems intent upon producing at least one Companion Chronicle for each Doctor not in the usual audio-book format but as a performed drama, albeit it one with a minimal cast. A couple of months ago we had the Third Doctor story Binary, starring the much-missed Caroline John. This month we have The Jigsaw War, by the same writer, Eddie Robson. This time, however, I did not actually notice the change of format until the six-minute interview at the end of the CD, perhaps because by now I am getting used to the notion of a Companion Chronicle without narration, but more likely because my attention was focused on this story’s more unusual use of time.

Alex Mallinson’s cover illustration led me to expect a parallel universe tale, in which two alternative Jamies meet or swap places, but in fact the jigsaw of the title refers to the disjointed timeline in which the Scotsman finds himself. Jamie (Frazer Hines) experiences the adventure in ten separate chunks (five per episode), which do not follow in chronological order. These chunks involve the imprisoned Jamie and his guard Moran (Dominic Mafham), though in some of them the roles of prisoner and guard have somehow been reversed. Jamie must work out the correct sequence of events if he is to discover what is going on and gain his freedom. The prison setting certainly comes in useful for two-handed drama, just as it did during The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Though the cast numbers just two, the actors are able to double up. Side, the mysterious being who has set up this time trap, occasionally speaks to Jamie through Moran, and sometimes the Doctor speaks to Side through Jamie. This, of course, allows Hines to treat us once again to his Patrick Troughton impersonation. Jamie’s fellow travelling companion Zoe is mentioned, but we don’t hear from her directly.

As has often been the case during the new television series, the Doctor’s motives are called into question. Is he just using his human “friends” as weapons, manipulating them into becoming his own private army to commit acts of violence while claiming to be a pacifist? This argument does not feel forced in a Second Doctor story, though. It is particularly applicable to his era of the show, and actually led to a bust-up between the Doctor and Jamie in The Evil of the Daleks.

For all its cleverness, the story’s resolution came as something of a disappointment to me. The explanation for Side’s motivation and time-bending abilities is rather uninspired, the ending decidedly abrupt.

However, it is possible to experience the adventure again in chronological sequence, as the production team have ensured that each temporal chunk occupies a discrete track of the CD, which adds value to the listening experience. Thanks to its fractured narrative, The Jigsaw War is greater than the sum of its parts.


Richard McGinlay

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