The great benefit of playing catch-up with the Dr Who Main Range from Big Finish (apart from saving a lot of money in the sales) is that you have a ready supply of un-listened to material to hand. Whilst it inevitably varies you do sometimes get absolute gems. In my recent listening one of these gems is the tale Other Lives which as I listened grabbed my attention more and more as the tale unfolded.
What’s it about?
The Eighth Doctor, Charley and C’rizz are in London in 1851 to attend the Great Exhibition (though C’rizz needs to keep out of sight due to his alien appearance). Meanwhile the Duke of Wellington is escorting two French dignitaries (the wife bears more than a passing resemblance to Charley, the husband to C’rizz) who vanish in the TARDIS as our three heroes become separated and need to rejoin and regain the TARDIS. We then get the chance to explore Victorian London at a range of levels.
What does everyone do?
Charley of course gets to be-friend the Duke and reveal her time-traveller nature, that via a risque opening sequence with the Doctor culminating (almost) in the line ‘I’ve never seen such a magnificent erection!’.
She later gets to impersonate the missing French lady with a dreadful accent but hams it up marvellously. All the more fun as India Fisher also plays the lady in question!
The Doctor meanwhile drifts off via gaol and is bailed by a lady who claims to be his wife (played by India Fisher’s sister). There then follows several scenes of the life the Doctor could have (reminded me of the Tenth Doctor story Family of Blood in which the Doctor gets glimpses of the life he could have had staying human and marrying Joan Redfern. When the true husband later appears (Edward Marlow) he is also played by Paul McGann hence the confusing resemblance.
C’rizz meanwhile resembles nothing more than a freak and is captured by the evil Jacob Crackles who could have stepped from the pages of any Dickens tale. A lot of scenes between these two bring home harsh reality before Charley arranges for the Duke to spring C’rizz from his captivity. Sometime later C’rizz gets his revenge on Crackles.
C’rizz then has to alter his appearance to deputise for the missing Frenchman and so he and Charley get to play husband and wife. Luckily both parts are played by Conrad Westmaas so all is fine!
Why is it so good?
We get a good mix of humour and Victorian England (a great staple for the Doctor) and also some very dark elements courtesy of C’rizz as a freak-show act. This all makes for an uncomfortable diet as the listener is suitably appalled by the morality (or lack thereof) of Jacob Crackles. Although it all ends happily ever after, there are no alien villains and the Doctor does little (and the TARDIS just wanders mysteriously as needed to make the plot work) a great performance (including the Duke played by Ron Moody and his servant) make this a delight.
I may be reacting to how little I enjoyed both Scaredy Cat and the dire Terror Firma but for me this is one of the best!