Solitaire for two?

As part of the two day Toymaker sale (see here) I picked up the Eighth Doctor Companion Chronicle Solitaire by the mighty John Dorney. This is a much acclaimed and well received tale (e.g. The Timescales gives this a whopping 9/10 (on the day I checked)).

With all this to live up to, would I also rave about this or would I be alone in not really liking it? I have mixed feelings ahead of actually listening – I like the early Charley stories but do feel that her arc is over. Well the only way to determine is to power up the MP3 and have a listen, headphones on…here there be spoilers!

The Story

Charley Pollard (though she doesn’t know who she is at the start) enters a mysterious toy-shop the home of the Celestial Toymaker! Immediately she is embroiled in a game that she must survive else die as every ‘time period’ the shop shrinks by 10%! All this with no clear memory of the Doctor, the TARDIS or anything else!

Amongst the many oddities in the shop are dolls and dummies who almost seem to have lives of their own; one of them, a ventriloquist’s dummy called The Doctor, annoys Charley so much she throws it in the disintegration chamber! This is not the best idea as it means the destruction of the one person who can save her.

The game though continues, the shop keeps on shrinking, maybe it is the Toymaker who is playing the game not Charley? Where is the way out of the shop?

Eventually Charley figures out how to escape, offers the Toymaker a way out but he is too proud / angry to take it. Once more our heroes survive to fight another day!

The Production

A John Dorney title directed by Nick Briggs with India Fisher as Charley and David Bailie as the Toymaker, this is a wonderful piece on many levels. The performances are impassioned and the energy of the characters grows and grows. Being the Toymaker we make our own scenery in our minds as we listen and for this the little shop is inspired. There are puzzles and a resolution, for me the failing (if there is one) is any explanation for why the game is being played on the Toymaker and not Charley.

And Finally

So, it’s a good piece of work and ticks lots of boxes; for me I needed Charley to believe she was threatened rather than just getting cross a lot. I like the trick of the Doctor speaking with Charley’s voice as he is a dummy but can’t bring myself to call this an absolute classic. And it’s called Solitaire presumably to bring in mind the one player card-games or the peg-puzzle – is this really one handed, if so who is the player and who are the pieces?

Meanwhile what do you think? Are you one of the 9/10 or did you feel that this was not quite the work of genius it was meant to be? Let me know, please!

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