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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Last Post


Author: James Goss
Performed by: Caroline John
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 949 3
Available 31 October 2012

People are dying. Just a few, over a period of months... but the strange thing is that each person received a letter predicting the exact date and time of their death. Throughout her tenure as the Doctor’s assistant at UNIT, Dr Elizabeth Shaw has been documenting these passings. She has tried to get the Doctor to pay attention to the matter, but the Time Lord seems more concerned with repairing the TARDIS and escaping his exile on Earth. Liz’s investigation ultimately uncovers a threat that could lead to the end of the world itself, but this time Liz has someone to help her - Dame Emily Shaw, her mother...

The Last Post proves to be a poignantly appropriate title for this Companion Chronicle, which was the final one to be recorded by Caroline John (in January 2012) prior to her death in June 2012. Big Finish’s news page has reported that the company considered holding back the release until 2013, but the actress’s husband Geoffrey Beevers suggested that it should go ahead as planned. “It is what Carry would have wanted,” said producer David Richardson.

Writer James Goss opens out the backstory of John’s character, Liz Shaw, by introducing us to her mother, Dame Emily (a charming performance by Rowena Cooper), and mentioning other members of the family. It is clear where Liz got her brains from, though Dame Emily’s intellect is directed towards more artistic endeavours than the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Correspondence between the two women is employed as a storytelling device, with letters and telephone conversations standing in for this range’s usual reliance on narration. Cooper performs a sizeable chunk of the voice work, with both actresses getting a chance to deliver some of the Third Doctor’s lines.

The CD’s back cover claims that this adventure takes place between The Ambassadors of Death and Inferno, but the truth is more complicated than that. Goss takes a similar approach to David Bishop’s 1996 novel Who Killed Kennedy, by placing the Shaws’ communications in between and even during Liz’s first three television serials. In one scene, for example, we hear about the recent invasion by living plastic, while in another the antidote to the Silurian plague is still being distributed. The writer establishes intriguing connections between these events and some of the personnel involved, while also harking back to a couple of black and white serials, and foreshadowing events to come later in the Third Doctor’s era.

The only disappointing aspect of the disc’s content is that the extras make no reference to John’s passing. Obviously the interview with the cast, producer, writer and director (Lisa Bowerman) was recorded right after the play itself - it includes discussion of a possible follow-up featuring John and Cooper, which sadly can no longer take place - but this could have been followed by a short vocal tribute. The CD’s sleeve does include a delightful photograph of the happy and smiling actress with the caption “Caroline John: 1940-2012”, but purchasers of the download will not see this.

The last word, though, is that The Last Post is a fitting testament to Caroline John and the companion she brought to life. She will live on through the episodes she recorded, including this one.


Richard McGinlay

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