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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
Project: Nirvana


Authors: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Performed by: Maggie O’Neill and Amy Pemberton
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 948 6
Available 30 September 2012

The place is Eastern Europe. The year is 2015. The TARDIS materialises in mid-air above the Carpathian Mountains, and Captain Lysandra Aristedes is dropped into a daring mission in her own past. A train is racing through the snow, with an important acquisition on board, as Private Sally Morgan is about to discover. There are enemies and creatures out there in the night, and the Doctor is waiting at the rendezvous point. This is all part of his bigger picture, and Aristedes is going to learn something about herself…


This is one of those rare Companion Chronicles that slots in between the main range’s monthly releases, opening out a specific aspect of the mythology - in this case the military-trained crew of the Seventh Doctor’s black TARDIS. Though set between House of Blue Fire and Protect and Survive from the Doctor’s perspective, Project: Nirvana could not have been released any time before now, because of revelations made at the end of Protect and Survive and the start of Black and White. You should listen to those stories before attempting this one.

To be honest, I had been hoping to hear more of the particular adventure we heard snippets from in the first episode of Black and White, in which Captain Lysandra Aristedes (Maggie O’Neill) recalled being “recruited” by the Doctor. Perhaps one day that tale will be told in full... but for now writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright return us once again to the sinister world of Department C4, otherwise known as the Forge, at an earlier point in its history.

At first, O’Neill seems a bit uncomfortable with the part-narrated format of The Companion Chronicles, and her delivery is a little stilted to begin with. However, by the end of the tale her voice-over makes for compelling listening.

Actually, much of the story feels more like performed drama than an audio book. O’Neill is ably supported by Amy Pemberton, who shares a number of dialogue scenes with her as Aristedes’s subordinate Private Sally Morgan, and carries out some of the narration duties herself. In common with the latest Seventh Doctor trilogy in the main range, the Time Lord is mostly absent, though he is heard in a couple of pivotal bookend scenes, played by Sylvester McCoy himself (only the second actor to voice his incarnation of the Doctor in a Companion Chronicle, after Colin Baker). There is also an uncredited male actor as various soldiers.

There are no interviews at the end of the CD to explain who the latter performer is, or any other aspects of the making of this story, though there is a four-minute suite of incidental music by Richard Fox and Lauren Yason.

This is one of the shorter Companion Chronicles, weighing in at just 55 minutes, including the music suite. It occurs to me that the four-minute “recruitment” flashback from Black and White could have been grafted into the second track to bulk out this release and make it a little more self-explanatory to any uninitiated listeners.

In any case, it’s good to spend more time with Lysandra and Sally, and I certainly hope that this isn’t the last we’ll hear from the Doctor’s “black ops” crew.


Richard McGinlay

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