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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Auntie Matter


Starring: Tom Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 054 1
Available 31 January 2013

England in the 1920s. Whilst K9 is off in the TARDIS leading the Black Guardian on a wild goose chase, the Doctor and Romana are enjoying a leisurely lifestyle as the Lord and Lady of a London townhouse. However, trouble never stays away from them for long... and before they know it a chance discovery of alien technology leads them deep into the heart of the English countryside, where a malign presence lurks. As the Doctor dodges deadly butlers and ferocious gamekeepers, Romana is faced with a malevolent Aunt and an even deadlier peril - marriage...

Listening to this CD, the first in Tom Baker’s second season of adventures with Big Finish, was a bittersweet experience for me. On the one hand, it’s lovely to have Baker back as the Doctor alongside Mary Tamm as the original Romana - but this series proved to be the actress’s last work, as she sadly passed away in July 2012. The final track of this CD takes time for touching tributes paid by Baker and producer David Richardson, intercut with interviews with Tamm herself at the time of the play’s recording.

However, what about the story itself? Well, I dare say that I would have enjoyed it all the more if I had been a real PG Wodehouse aficionado - for that is whose style writer Jonathan Morris has sought to emulate with this pastiche. As it is, even I managed to pick up on his references to dim-witted toffs (think Bertie Wooster) and ultra-efficient manservants (think Jeeves). The toff in question is Reggie (endearingly portrayed by Robert Portal) and the manservant is Grenville (Alan Cox) - honestly, it’s as if he’s in two places at once sometimes! Matching them both in the performance stakes is Julia McKenzie as Reggie’s formidable Aunt Florence.

The latter character is also perfectly in keeping with the era of Doctor Who that the writer evokes. I was reminded in particular of Queen Xanxia in The Pirate Planet, using parasitic means in her attempt to keep the second law of thermodynamics at bay. Morris successfully channels the influence of Douglas Adams (who, as it happens, was another Wodehouse enthusiast), in his dialogue. For example, Earth is described as harmless, though in Romana’s view its inhabitants have barely developed beyond banging rocks together. The Doctor is also said to be harmless... well, mostly.

Despite having brought Baker and Tamm back together in character for the first time since 1979, Morris almost immediately splits them up again. The two travellers find themselves embroiled in separate scrapes, each unaware of the other’s activities, rather like in the William Hartnell serial The Romans (The Romana, anyone?). As with a couple of Leela stories last season, the Doctor acquires a temporary stand-in for his usual companion, in this case the housemaid Mabel (played by Robin Hood’s Lucy Griffiths), who could have done with a bit longer to develop.

This story is basically good, uncomplicated fun. Feelings of sadness over the passing of Mary Tamm and my own lack of familiarity with PG Wodehouse’s body of work may have coloured my experience a little, but I’m not anti The Auntie Matter, so it doesn’t really matter.


Richard McGinlay

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