The Doctor and Evelyn arrive in Rome, 100 BC, or thereabouts.
When they meet a young man called Julius Caesar, Evelyn is
excited, but her excitement soon turns to confusion. What
if the famous Caesar had never been born? And surely you cant
heal a wound in time with just a bit of sticking plaster...?
the critical success of Circular
the folks at Big Finish have elected to reuse the anthology
format of four individual single-episode stories for this
release, the 100th title in the companys monthly series
of Doctor Who audio dramas. Unlike Circular Time,
each story is penned by a different writer, all of them major
players in the success of Big Finishs output to date.
instance, Jacqueline Rayner, the author of 100 BC,
was the creator of Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables), the companys
first original travelling companion for the Doctor (i.e. not
a character from the television series). As such, Rayner is
the perfect choice to write for Evelyn. She also knows her
stuff when it comes to ancient Rome, having a degree in ancient
history and having previously visited the period in The
virtue of their brevity, each of these stories is able to
pursue a quite weird and/or silly idea, one that might have
either stretched credulity too far or simply run out of steam
had it been allowed to run as a full-length serial. In the
case of 100 BC, we are faced with the prospect that
the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Evelyn might have accidentally
prevented Julius Caesar from being born. However, I found
it too much of a stretch to accept that Evelyn would allow
the course of human history to be threatened just to make
a point about sexual equality.
BC is OK, but its my least favourite episode on
this double CD.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: a wunderkind, who was composing
by the age of five. But its tempting to wonder whether
his longevity has overshadowed his genius. Would his music
be better respected if hed died as a young man, if hed
never lived to compose the score for the Italian Job
about weird ideas! Robert Shearmans My Own Private
Wolfgang features a Mozart who did not die young. The
composer is portrayed by John Sessions, who plays all the
other parts as well (with the exception of the Doctor and
Evelyn), including a butler and a mysterious masked man. There
is a good and clever reason for this casting, beyond mere
economics, but I wont disclose it here...
play asks the question of whether it is better for artists
and their work to come to a distinct end, to quit while theyre
ahead, and whether continuing something forever dilutes its
genius and results in a decrease in quality. Modern equivalents
of Mozart include Kurt Cobain, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe,
who lived fast, died young, and invite one to speculate what
writer mentions Dean when discussing the story in the CDs
extra features, during which he also assures us that his ideas
relevance to Doctor Who originated when he was writing
Dalek for the 2005 television series. He was worried
that, if the show had not been a success, the public might
have wished that the programme had stayed dead. He neednt
have worried, of course, but nevertheless the message of this
story can be interpreted as an assertion that Who and,
in particular, Big Finish and the Doctors whose incarnations
it has prolonged, might have been going on for too long.
so long as the stories are of this quality, long may they
Once upon a time... Jacob Williams was going to tell his
grandson the tale of Sleeping Beauty but he realises
he has told that one far too many times already, so instead
he speaks of how he once met this man called the Doctor. Its
a tale of love and death, and of a family with a terrifying
another big name in Joseph Lidsters Bedtime Story:
Frank Finlay. However, unlike John Sessionss omnipresent
role in My Own Private Wolfgang, Finlay has a comparative
bit part. He plays Old Jacob, the narrator of this tale, his
younger self being played by Will Thorp.
Thorp and his co-star Lucy Paterson appear in two of the episodes
on this double CD, this one and 100 BC, but I only
know this because Ive looked at the cast list and have
listening to the CD extras. Such is the versatility of these
actors and their vocal qualities that I would never have guessed
they were doubling up.
talking of vocal versatility, here we get to hear another
side of Maggie Stables...
Story has a good, ghostly flavour to it, not unlike that
of Sapphire & Steel, another Big Finish series
to which Lidster has been an influential contributor. This
is the least anarchic of the four plays, being dark and sinister
where the others are cheeky, playful and tend to concern time-hopping,
altering history and meeting past and future selves. As such,
it adds some much-needed variety to the collection.
Time, dates, numbers - these are all essential ingredients
of the Doctors seemingly infinite travels. But sometimes
a Time Lords life can be quite hectic, not to mention
dangerous. Someone has assassinated the Doctor, and he has
just 100 days to find out who did it. This involves spying
director/co-executive producer Nicholas Briggs admits during
the CD extras, many fans (myself included) might have expected
more than one Doctor to appear in this anniversary release.
He explains that pure chance played a large part in the fact
that the 100th release happens to be a Sixth Doctor tale.
He also argues that multi-Doctor stories tend to prove disappointing.
However, it neednt have been a single multi-Doctor story.
Four episodes... four Doctors... why not just have one in
Cornell does his best to compensate by managing to make 100
Days of the Doctor a kind of multi-Doctor story but without
actually involving any of the other lead actors. Indeed, the
only other cast member is Briggs, playing the assassin. We
only hear about those other Doctors and their companions as
the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn observe them from a distance as
they try to track down the assassin.
notion that, as well as being able to backtrack to previous
landing sites, the TARDIS can also trace where it will set
down in its own future is a rather unconvincing contrivance,
but it does allow the writer to tie in the Seventh and Eighth
Doctors as well as the Fifth, plus their companions. The story
celebrates these characters strengths, especially those
that were created by Big Finish, such as Erimem, Hex, Charley
and Lucie. However, when the Sixth Doctor refers to the Eutermesan
Crizz as his first non-humanoid companion, he is mistaken.
Evidently he and Cornell have forgotten about K-9 and Kamelion.
writer even manages to tie in the adventures of Bernice Summerfield
and the alternative Doctors of the Unbound universes,
as well as name-checking the spin-off series Sarah Jane
Smith and UNIT. Yes, its one big pat on the
back for Big Finish, but intelligently done and well deserved.
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