The best companions don’t just fade away and never was that more true than for Charley Pollard. Having parted company with the Eighth Doctor at the end of The Girl Who Never Was she suddenly found herself travelling with the Sixth Doctor much to the surprise of both her and the fans. In a stroke of brilliance we wondered how this could work, why did The Doctor not recognise her in Storm Warning?
Not only was this a brilliant conceit, Big Finish also restrained it to a fistful of stories, eight in all. This also gave us much fun with the Daleks, the Inconstant Companion DI Patricia Menzies and the imposing Viyrans!
How did it all work out? Read on…
The Condemned (2008): Eddie Robson starts this sequence of stories off with a belter. Not only does he cover the central Charley with an early Doctor sufficiently to allow the story to move on but also gives us a story that without the Charley dimensions would be notable.
We get the introduction of DI Patricia Menzies played by Anna Hope and a great mystery story featuring ‘ghosts’ and a haunted building. It is very atmospheric and I liked the suspicion with which Menzies dealt with the concepts of the Doctor and aliens
The Doomwood Curse (2008): Jacqueline Rayner took up the reigns with a fantasy set in the legend of Dick Turpin which is then unpicked to show us the real man not the romantic figure of myth. All very interesting and some good performances on the way
This is done well but I was less struck with the set-up for this story than I might have been (the library book trick was done many, many moons before) and feel that Jac Rayner has produced stronger work
Brotherhood of the Daleks (2008): Alan Barnes gave us a splendid complex tale of perceptions, Thals and Daleks whilst playing with Charley increasingly difficult cover story. It is worth reading the Doc Oho review of this to get the full complexity of the plot. Suffice it to say that Colin is in splendid form as he navigates this intricate tale and it is by no means obvious where the narrative is taking you
Given it also gives us singing communist Daleks on narcotics you know this is a story that will linger in the memory
Return of the Krotons (Subscriber bonus 2008/ General Release December 2009): Nick Briggs wrote the Christmas freebie and I found this rather formulaic in its treatment of a classic returning monster. For a different opinion try this review here. My view is still that it has a very standard dilemma and set of characters with nothing to let it stand out from the crowd
For me this is one that I won’t rush to listen to again. My loss no doubt!
The Raincloud Man (2008): Eddie Robson returns to the world of DI Menzies who has now gone a bit Torchwood in that she works with aliens keeping things tidy. Following the trial of a coin from the future Menzies and the Doctor end up in the middle of war on a floating casino / spaceship with the eponymous Raincloud Man identified as having a unique control of luck.
I am convinced that without the Charley element in play we would have had Menzies join the TARDIS crew, something she has still to do at the time of writing
Patient Zero (2009): Nick Briggs starts the final trilogy for this pairing with layer upon layer of mystery. This introduces the Viyrans and also has Daleks without them mentioned in the title (sadly for them they accidentally save the Doctor’s life in this). They are time-locked and up to something dreadful involving super-diseases. The whole ‘who is Charley’ is now becoming a source of intense difficulty. Meanwhile we meet Mila who has been (so it seems) hiding in the TARDIS since the First Doctor (!!) and who takes over Charley’s identity.
All gripping stuff and well done all round!
Paper Cuts (2009): Marc Platt gives us a perfectly decent story including the return of the Draconians and some mysterious funereal arrangements. We have a good panoply of mysterious monsters, royal family and satellite intrigue.
For me, though, it is a story that adds nothing to the arc in progress beyond letting us know that Charley / Mila has a lot of unrecorded adventures with Sixie before the end…
Blue Forgotten Planet (2009): Nick Briggs is a masterpiece that almost from the first moments plays out in your mind like a large screen blockbuster. Nick closes off the Viyrans, Charley, the Doctor’s memory and Mila. He also (for a change) saves the Earth while he’s there.
If you want detail try the Doctor Who Reviews write-up.
Overall a good run of tales that found some new twists and turns, an almost companion and a resolution to an innovative story arc.
Sometimes when I look across Big Finish I feel that Charley had a good run and maybe there is no need to rush to bring her back. Then I think of Blue Forgotten Planet which was released over three years ago and think if it’s this good let’s have more.
That wraps up my take on Charley and Sixie – what do you think? Have I got it about right or have I missed something? Let me know!
Tony – January 2013