Paper Cuts is the audio story that basically derailed the entire project. I was that enthralled by the end of The Girl That Never Was that I decided to press on and finish Charley’s saga with the Doctor, not realising that the second to last one featured the Draconians from a Third Doctor story I’d not got round to. Abandoning my plans with Leela and Baker, I went back to Pertwee and made my way through Jo’s final season.
This story is practically the reason I abandoned the old release schedule, falling behind on watching with a bit too much Pertwee. However, it might have been worth it. The Draconian angle didn’t really require the Pertwee detour, only adding minor layers to the story as this is based way before in their history. A return in fact to the time of the Red Emperor, which was when he went before even Pertwee. Which Doctor it was is no clearer, though I got the impression it was probably the First.
It also further strengthens the Japanese quality to them, but goes some way of giving them more of their own identity, with them suspending Emperor’s in immortal undeath so they can ‘advise’ their successors. Which is where this story revolves around, with the passing of one Emperor and the machinations and manipulations going on around his death and replacement. It’s a very Doctor Who take on regal succession.
Of course, the other major factor here is that Charley isn’t Charley. India Fisher does a fantastic job of playing the imposter, hitting a lot of Charley’s notes but with far more eagerness and hero worship on them. Rather interestingly, her and the Doctor get along far better than original Charley ever did with Six. Maybe it’s the fact that the Doctor finally knows her history and believes there are no more secrets, or at least she's doing a good job of hiding there is. Maybe it’s the fact she worships him and has watched him through all five of his previous incarnations and knows how to be the perfect companion. The stalker knows how to manipulate him.
I like that we don’t address the fact she’s not Charley. The listener is put in a position of knowing what’s happening but the Doctor isn’t. Mila gives a decent explanation to Charley’s previous behaviour, and there’s a moment right at the end where we’re crushingly reminded how crazy Mila really is.
While the Draconian stuff isn’t the best Big Finish have done, Paper Cuts is not bad, and the Charley saga is dealt with brilliantly, with Mila’s whole deception seemingly working perfectly, and nearly winning the audience over till the last minute.