Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dr. Stu on Dr. Who

No - not Waters of Mars. I'll maybe blog about that again at some point. For now move along if that's what you're interested in.

I've not been blogging a lot recently - I'm twittering a lot more these days. One of the results of my twittering was that recently the lovely people at the WhoCast reviewed the Company of Friends, a Doctor Who audio play starring my favourite Doctor, Paul McGann. I felt it was only fair I reciprocate and make my thoughts known (particularly as one of the podcasters sounded in physical pain due to his experiences).

I personally was not too fussed about this release - I'd rather Big Finish had created 4 short McGann plays in keeping with their own continuity. In my mind the McGann audios are the canon eighth doctor era and creating a series of 4 short audios that link with the novels and comic books was a cluster-frak in terms of continuity. There are events in these separate continuities that invalidate the other continuities and at times don't even link with the current television series.

For example in the comics Ace dies, the 7th Doctor and Sarah-Jane hang out and Rassilon is a good guy who the Doctor has met time and time again. In the novels Gallifrey is destroyed, but not by the Daleks, Romana regenerates again and becomes an enemy of the Doctor and so on.

As for the novels there are dozens of 8th doctor novels, but I'm not that much of a fan to read them - especially as they did not conclude before the 2005 series came back.

It's also worth considering that the last time Big Finish explicitly addressed the separate 8th doctor continuities it was in Zagreus - and was (in my opinion) a bit of a disaster. With this trepedation in mind I did however listen to the plays over the summer break, whilst in darkest Exmoor and have finally got round to blogging about them. Here is a breakdown of the 4 plays:-

Benny's Story - I'm not familiar with the Bernice Summerfield range. I have some Benny novels, but they were given to me for free as the result of a botched order from Big Finish and currently take up space in my wardrobe rather than my bookshelf (don't ask!). She was a companion of the 7th doctor for a large portion of the pre-1996 novels and teamed up with the McGann doctor in another novel, and (in a wafer thin example of author-surrogacy) may have slept with him. This story is unremarkable and seems to play off the novelty of having McGann and Bernice in a fairly ho-hum corridor chaser. Sadly, not being a fan, the novelty is lost on me. 4/10 - but as Lisa Bowerman (Benny) has graciously added me as a friend on Facebook I'll up it to 6/10 and promise to one day listen to the Bernice Summerfield range.

Fitz's Story - I -really- liked this one. Maybe I miss the fact that the Doctor never seems to get a 'normal' bloke as his companion. Case in point, Captain Jack, C'Rizz and Turlough all having their own peculiarities. It's a light, comedic episode which is hilarious partly due to the infomercials that McGann's doctor performs against his will (and is that him doing additional accents?) and due to Fitz's comedic nature. The only problem is the continuity of Fitz's tenure coincided with another companion, Anji, who (suspending disbelief) spends the whole episode badly hung-over and unable to take part in the episode. 7/10

Izzy's Story - I actually bought the 4 volumes of the McGann Doctor's comic books - this is where Izzy comes from. Izzy, a very loud shouty girl, leads the Doctor off in search of a rare 2000AD-esque comic book. Hilarity ensues - though I was not taken with the actress playing Izzy. This was a reasonabble showing however - and weird enough to be an example of the daftness of the 8th doctor's comics. 5/10

Mary's Story - This was the one I expected I would like the most as it did not have to frak around with the 8th doctor era. I did like it the most, though the writers felt the need to have McGann list companions from all the different types of spin-off novel, audio etc. at one point.

Storm Warning, the first McGann audio, had a throw away reference about Mary Shelley (as did Shada if I remember correctly, though that also implied Chronotis was there). This personally annoys me slightly as I liked to assume Storm Warning was set immediately after the TV Movie.

A later McGann play (Terror Firma) made it clear it was not as it retroactively added two companions called Samson and Gemma who had been adventuring with the 8th doctor prior to Storm Warning. Interestingly the reason for this addition was because an earlier McGann play had referred to "Sam", a companion out of the novels. This was meant to allow the audios to exist in their own continuity as the Sam was retroactively made to fit "Samson", a male companion. Of course these plays have references to the novel-Sam as well as the audio-Samson.


This episode shows Mary Shelley become a full blown companion and of course has some very clever Frankenstein allusions. As the WhoCast pointed out technically it's a multi-doctor story, and one that would be relatively easy to do in the TV show. It takes place both at the start and possibly near the end of the McGann era. It is very clever, aside from the unnecessary fanwank of having the Doctor feverishly name Gemma (retconned audio companion), Compassion (novel companion), Destrii (comic companion), Charlie (audio), Lucie (audio), Alex (unknown), Tod (unknown) and Retha (unknown). Tin of worms for table one!

It would be very easy for me to be harsh in my criticisms of this play but it is very clever, very well acted and despite its continuity headaches is the best of the bunch. I do hope we see more of Mary's saga however. 9/10