Remember those points where the Doctor and companion go off and have adventures that we don’t need to see so the production skips them to give further writers the opportunity to use the pairing later? Those Moffat is so fond of scattering throughout his run? Big Finish dropped a major one for the Sixth Doctor and Charley with Blue Forgotten Planet.
On the one hand I was sort of amazed that Paper Cuts didn’t really address the Charley/Mila plot. Yes, Fisher made it obvious that she wasn’t Charley Proper, and that line at the end where she talks the fisherman out of joining them was very self obsessive Mila. But that was it. Which was fine because it gave Mila an adventure all of her own where everything was normal. Her and The Doctor needed a proper adventure without it being addressed. Here it shows that they’ve had many many more.
Usually when Big Finish have these status quo changes I argue that they have a tendency to drag them on longer than is necessary. Here it’s the exact opposite. Blue Forgotten Planet sets up that they’ve been together ages, but it’s anything but for us. Imagine how much impact it would have if we had three or four stories with Mila-Charley, her and the Doctor getting on better than ever and the swap just not being addressed, maybe the odd hint. Then out of nowhere we get here and we have the original Charley alongside the Viyrans. It would have way more impact, and sell the whole idea of them being separated for a very long time much better.
The interesting thing is that Big Finish themselves could be heading back there soon. With the upcoming Final Adventure for the Sixth Doctor spread across a number of his companions, we know that Charley is one of them, however, having now listened to her existing run with Baker, it makes more sense for ‘Charley’ to actually be Mila, because squeezing another adventure in before the swap just feels a little wrong. Mainly because that bit was a little overly long already.
Blue Forgotten Planet isn’t even about the two Charley’s, but about Earth getting one of those virus the Viyrans are tracking down. When it’s revealed the original has been working for the Viyrans and brings her present, it’d be easy to derail the story of the post-apocalyptic Earth. Instead we stick with the Viyrans being intergalactic dicks, everyone working to stop them, and the two Charley’s have to put it all aside and work together, bitching about it as they go. Then a decision is made where someone has to sacrifice themselves.
In the closing moments, we get an explanation of how the Doctor doesn’t remember Charley when he meets her two regenerations later. Unsurprisingly to anyone that listened to Five’s Mission of the Viyran’s it’s their mind altering techniques that seal the deal. But just how Charley does it is incredibly touching.
Only one of the two Charley’s survive the ordeal. Obviously it’s the original. Though the Doctor doesn’t know that, it’s clear to us as she finally tells the Doctor the full story of her time with his future incarnation to ensure the memory change takes. However, one final reveal shows that Charley and Mila’s adventures with Six aren’t removed from his memory. Charley knows him too well that if he ever came across a hint of those times he’d start digging, and the Viyrans would be after him again. Partly that’s why she tells him the truth, so he won’t fight the memory change too hard. The other side is he keeps their adventures, but with Mila and her Dalek back story become the whole truth. It’s a wonderful touch, and I’m looking forward to a bit more time with Charley in the future.