More and more often, as I listen to a recent Companion Chronicle, I become more and more convinced that these are the true gems in the Big Finish Crown. The December 2012 release The Child by Nigel Fairs is one such story. Wonderfully and subtly performed by Louise Jameson and Anna Hawkes this is a work of sublime beauty and I heartily recommend it to any fan. What makes this the case? Read on…
A new trilogy
This is to be the first in a new trilogy of Companion Chronicles for Leela to be written by Nigel Fairs. The concept behind these is that Leela has died and is now the invisible (or imaginary) friend of a young girl called Emily played by Anna Hawkes. Later titles will cover this idea at various points in time so we (presumably) can look forward to Emily’s relationship with Leela changing dramatically. The idea does remind my slightly of John Wyndham’s Chocky which is no bad thing.
The story in outline
Imaginary Leela tells Emily stories; this time she tells a story from when Leela had recently begun to travel with the Doctor. Without too many spoilers, this involves a quest to a tower to rescue the Fourth Doctor in which Leela is supported by three peculiar companions – an old woman, a raven-like (or crow-like!) figure and a wiser figure. Thus supported Leela makes her way to a confrontation with the Glass Angel.
Meanwhile, in gaps in narration, imaginary Leela is helping Emily start to question her assumptions about her role in society.
At every point the dialogue, acting, music and whole atmosphere enchant. I may be full of the joys of Christmas, but this is superb. Well done everybody involved.
As a final thought, how does Louise make all the versions of Leela so distinct? There is early Leela travelling with the Doctor, older Leela, imaginary Leela, Leela with Jago & Litefoot… you only need to listen to the various CD extra to get some sense of the acting ability that Louise has but I think this goes beyond one person’s input, key though it is. If I was feeling mystical I might suggest that maybe imaginary Leela is whispering in the ears of those involved to help them get it right. It might, though, be a testament to the craft and quality that is Big Finish at its very best.