Saturday, May 16, 2015

The End of the Road? - The Girl That Never Was

With C'rizz and Absolution we did a big lookback at the companion and how it was under-developed or as if no one could make up their mind what to do with him. With Charley we don't need that. She's been pretty well defined for a long time, and The Girl That Never Was, her departure story, picks the one story thread that really suits her. Being out of time.

We have a ship destined for disaster, a girl pretending to be a boy as a stowaway, and the Cybermen. It's Charley's first two adventures as the end. It forms a fantastic full circle, and a great ending to this pair.

The Girl That Never Was pulls off a nice little trick with the Eighth Doctor too. When this was released Big Finish were clearly wrapping things up, and the BBC had already shown the entirety of Ecclestone's season, and Tennant's first season was out of the way. It's not hard to imagine that this could be marketed as the end of the Eighth Doctor. So when Eight gets fried in the closing half hour and Charley steps up, it would pull a hell of a double bluff on the audience who might think they're witnessing Eight's regeneration scene. Sure it doesn't work now, not only do we know Big Finish kept going with Sheridan Smith, but we've seen that actual regeneration in 2013 as part of the 50th Anniversary. But it's still clever enough to warrant a smile as you realise just what Big Finish were trying.

And Charley saves the day, and seemingly goes down just like Adric. The TARDIS gets out of there due to the HADS (I am glad I managed to fit in The Krotons before this. There it was a passing cliffhanger, here it's a vital story component) and the Doctor wakes up with no memory of the adventure, and upon finding the note Charley wrote at the start he delivers the rather frosty “Everyone leaves” line. The ending music plays. That's it. It falls a little short. The Eighth Doctor thinking Charley went off in a huff after his reaction to C'rizz's death ruins their relationship somewhat, no matter how endearing her goodbye note was.

Then we get the epilogue. Somehow Charley survived. She's praying for help. The wheezing and groaning is heard and she runs to the TARDIS. Bursts through the doors in utter joy, and utters that she was expecting someone else. The Colin Baker-era theme tune kicks in. Absolutely epic!

Here we reach the end of Paul McGann's run in Big Finish's main range. He was given his own standalone series after this, as Big Finish realised what a draw they had being the main output for one of the Doctors. Yet, along with Charley, we're leaving him too. At least for a bit anyway.

Why are we following Charley now that she's teamed up with the Doctor generally considered to be the worst in the entire run of the show? Because many figure Big Finish is where Colin Baker redeemed himself. I'm one of them. Many moons ago when we started this I listened to The Sirens of Time while halfway through watching Colin Baker's run as the Doctor on TV. As a result I appreciated Six a lot more. The brief foray into his time with Evelyn before I decided to concentrate on Eight and Charley only furthered to reinforce that belief. So next, we continue with the Redemption of Six. Besides, it should be interesting to see how his best friend gets along with the prickliest of his predecessors.

But with this finale, Big Finish have finally managed to do it. I class the Eighth's main range serials as three seasons. The first is Charley's, from Storm Warning to Zagreus. Then the Divergent Universe, and finally the return. Zagreus and The Next Life both ended their seasons rather damply. But The Girl Who Never Was is almost perfect. It's a fantastic season ender. Serials like this one are exactly why Big Finish are so highly regarded by Who fandom.

There were times when I wondered just how Charley had earned her own series. During the Divergent Universe her writing was terrible. But if we can keep this up with Six, then I'm actually looking forward to see how she gets on.
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