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Audio Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Catalyst


Author: Nigel Fairs
Read by: Louise Jameson
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 293 7
Available 09 January 2008

The pride of the alien Z’nai matches that of Leela of the Sevateem, whom the Doctor is attempting to educate in the finer points of table manners during a visit to Edwardian England. But why would the Time Lord imprison a creature like this in such an unlikely place? What exactly did the Doctor and a former travelling companion do to the Z’nai? And what terrors will be brought about if it is let loose...?

Though as usual the primary reader, in this instance Louise Jameson as Leela, is joined by a supporting voice artist, Timothy Watson as the cloned species known as the Z’nai, this audio book feels almost like a full-cast drama. This is because of Jameson’s remarkable work as the other female characters in the story: the upper-crust Lady Douglas and, in particular, her spoilt brat of a daughter, Jessica. The actress is almost unrecognisable as the squeaky-voiced young woman, and it’s easy to forget that Jessica and Leela, who share several scenes, are being played by the same performer.

Jameson is far less successful when it comes to portraying the Fourth Doctor. During the interviews at the end of the CD, she confesses to the difficulties she experienced trying to capture the unique tones of Tom Baker. Her version of the Time Lord sounds more like William Hartnell than Baker, and decidedly menacing.

However, this aspect of the character is in keeping with Nigel Fairs’s story and the television era he is seeking to evoke. Think of the bad-tempered Doctor of The Robots of Death, his foul mood in Horror of Fang Rock (this tale takes place between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror) and his deceitful actions in The Invasion of Time. Writer / director / musician / sound designer Fairs toys with the notion that the Doctor may be up to something sinister and might have some skeletons hidden away in his dimensionally transcendental closet.

Fairs also introduces a previously unheard-of former travelling companion, and drops a big hint that Leela, a resident of the Time Lords’ planet in Big Finish’s Gallifrey series, may have survived the Time War. While looking back at her time aboard the TARDIS to narrate this tale, the older Leela mentions that Gallifrey is gone. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors have stated that no other Time Lords survived the war, but Leela isn’t a Time Lord...

Though it is the least consistent of this series of Companion Chronicles in terms of narration, in terms of story The Catalyst is probably the most intriguing of the lot.


Richard McGinlay

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