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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Child


Author: Nigel Fairs
Performed by: Louise Jameson
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 951 6
Available 31 December 2012

Tell me another story, Leela. Not the one about the walking doll or the creepy mechanical men. A new one. I want to hear a new one...” Leela is dead, but her soul lives on. She has been reborn as a young girl, Emily, whose “imaginary friend” tells her amazing tales about a great wizard and the warrior woman who accompanies him on his adventures through time and space. Emily prepares to tell her parents the story of a cold, grey world whose people are ruled over by a terrifying Glass Angel. The wizard becomes her prisoner, and only the warrior woman and her three peculiar friends can hope to save him...

You might have thought that there was no pressing need for any more Companion Chronicles featuring the Fourth Doctor and Leela, because as of January 2012 both characters have been appearing in full-cast audio dramas, Big Finish’s “Fourth Doctor Adventures”, starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. However, writer / director / musician Nigel Fairs already had plans for Leela, despite having killed her off in The Time Vampire, and so here begins a whole new trilogy...

Another aspect of The Child that is decidedly pre-“Fourth Doctor Adventures” is the plot itself, which is reminiscent of AudioGO’s “Nest Cottage” series written by Paul Magrs. In common with several “Nest Cottage” releases, such as Demon Quest: A Shard of Ice, there is a decidedly fairy-tale flavour to the fantastical world that the Doctor and Leela encounter, which brings to mind Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen in particular. The scientific explanation for this bizarre realm is a long time coming. As with Serpent Crest: The Broken Crown, one of the narrators is a child, in this case Emily, a 19th-century girl voiced by Anna Hawkes - a prodigy of Fairs and Jameson, who makes a good impression here in her first acting job.

Leela’s spirit has been reincarnated, but has also somehow travelled back in time, and her voice has become Emily’s imaginary friend. She tells the child stories about the warrior woman’s travels in the TARDIS, though Hawkes and Jameson share the narration duties, with Emily sometimes butting in as a more boisterous storyteller (in a way, Emily is Leela too, so occasionally she remembers the events herself... it’s complicated). Though the framing narrative takes place after The Time Vampire for Leela, the tale she tells is set fairly early on in her adventures with the Doctor. As Emily observes, she keeps telling the stories in the wrong order. This Leela has never seen snow before - which for Doctor Who novel readers places the events before the wintry Drift.

It may be a little early for 50th-anniversary celebrations, but nevertheless Fairs works in cunning references to the Doctor’s previous three incarnations. A couple of aspects of the production also reminded me of subsequent eras of the show: the duplicated librarian bringing to mind Mr Popplewick in The Trial of a Time Lord (and also Mr Atoz in the Star Trek episode All Our Yesterdays), while the synthesiser blasts in Fairs’s musical score are more Keff McCulloch than Dudley Simpson.

On the whole, the sound design and performances in The Child are simply beautiful, and the end result is something really rather magical.


Richard McGinlay

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