Monday, June 23, 2014

Sixth Doctor's New Old Companion - Who Audio 3

AKA Where I name them serials because that's how Big Finish try and package them, and it's more convenient than audio drama

The Marian Conspiracy

The Doctor solves the issue of the disappearance of Marty McFly. Okay that's a little bit of a stretch, but Evelyn's problem of being erased from history immediately brought to mind that awesome scene in Back to the Future of Marty fading from view on stage as it looks like George and Lorraine won't get together. Evelyn also happens to be the sole reason I listened to this serial, being that she's not only the first audio companion Big Finish introduced, but also plays a part in the Sixth's edition of the Dalek Empire series.

Evelyn's fascinating because she's something the TV series would never do. An old lady companion. Well 55. The closest we've got is a forty year old Catherine Tate, who after Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman was a bit of step upwards in the years. Also amusing is how strong of a lady she is, not willing to back down when giving a bit of a lecture. Same with Queen Mary in this serial. It makes the fact this is a Sixth Doctor story even better, as he's not one to usually be talked over.

Yes, Queen Mary. This is a Sixth Doctor historical, which is another reason this drama stands out so much. The TV show didn't really bother with historicals at this point, the closest we got was The Mark of the Rani, and while it was based at the time of the Industrial Revolution it was more about the machinations of the Rani and the Master than anything going on in Brunell's workshop. The Marian Conspiracy was much more a focus on the history at the time, and how a slight change risked Evelyn's entire family history rather than the usual aliens messing about stuff. It has much more in common the Hartnell episode The Aztecs (which I happened to watch the night before) in that it sticks with proper history.

Of course the entire thing is a paradox. Evelyn's history is only in danger because her and the Doctor go back in time and get involved in the situation in the first place. It is relatively early on in Big Finish's productions, so I forgive it, but only because it was quite a strong episode too. Also: Timey-wimey.

The Apocalypse Element – The Dalek Empire part 2
It's kind of odd listening to The Apocalypse Element today. The Daleks invade Gallifrey. Sounds a little bit like the Time War. Only here it's a bit more of a surprise attack, and the Daleks have a specific end game that isn't just wiping out the Timelords.

Yet for all the obvious connotations this has with Modern Who, they're clearly accidental, being that it pre-dated the return of the Doctor by five years. What's less accidental is how much The Apocalypse Element resembles the Sirens of Time as well. That was only ten serials before, and involved another audio invasion of Gallifrey. The fact that Vansell of the CIA also appears doesn't help matters.

Of course the Sirens and the Daleks are very different creatures, and this is the invasion while Sirens was just after it. But going back to those parallels to New Who, it does make it a little odd that they struggled to win the the Time War so much. That said, once you ignore that, this is a much better entry into the Dalek Empire series then The Genocide Machine. The previous one could have been any old Dalek adventure and didn't feel particularly special, this one is the Daleks kicking some serious arse, and though the Doctor and co save the day, technically the Daleks won. They're playing the long game. Gallifrey is just a side show to their real plan, and everyone is too distracted to notice. It's one of those stories that I think New Who is desperately in need of. Something that shows the Daleks as being as evil as the Doctor makes them out.

With Romana II now Lord President and alongside Colin Baker – who sheepishly admits he's the wrong one for her – this is everything you hope for with a big all out adventure. Writing this I realise that this also starts at big diplomatic meeting, just like the Sixth's Doctor intro in Sirens of Time. Seems like someone was reusing a lot of ideas. The fact I only just clicked with that second one proves how good The Apocalypse Element was.
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