February 2013’s Companion Chronicle was House of Cards by Steve Lyons, a Second Doctor tale featuring Polly (played by Anneke Wills) with Frazer Hines playing Jamie as a secondary character. How will it stand out in a busy month that also gives us Frazer Hines in the latest Destiny of the Doctor title Shadow of Death? Will there be spoilers? Will this whole review collapse like a house of cards as I try to be too clever?!
Read on, and find out…
The Big Finish synopsis is as follows:
The TARDIS has landed in a futuristic space casino, where the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie find fun, games… and monsters everywhere. There are vicious robot dogs, snake-headed gangsters from the Sidewinder Syndicate and a mysterious masked woman called Hope.
In this place, time travellers are to be tracked down and arrested. Yet, as events spiral out of control, time may be Polly’s only ally…
We have a Polly focussed story in a casino with the tremendously fun cobra-headed Sidewinder Syndicate (think the Ant Hill Mob from Wacky Races with snake accents), assorted robot dogs, a cowboy, the mysterious Hope and a woman in a china mask. There is also plenty of pushing the art of the possible with time travel.
Steve Lyons weaves all these ingredients into a tale that never quite goes where you expect and dances around cheating the casino by use of time travel, the mysterious Hope who has taken over the casino and the Game of Life!
Polly ends up threading her way round as Jamie gets friendly with a fellow gambler, a lonely cowboy just needs a bit of money to help as his luck returns and Ben ends up having to face the Game of Life – a simple two player game in which one person lives and one dies!
Polly makes use of a time bracelet and we then get a melee of encounters from different time lines and perspectives, a china mask hides several identities and it is to The Doctor to save the day in the ultimate game of cards!
Initially I was thrown having just listened to Frazer as both Jamie and the Second Doctor in Shadow of Death. Here Anneke does Troughton and it took some getting used to. She also does many other characters and clearly had a lot of fun in doing so. It all comes together in that seamless way that Lisa Bowerman has as director.
[pullquote]I like smaller stores[/pullquote]
I like smaller stores where galaxies, civilisations and time lines don’t get saved every week and Steve Lyons put this together well. The idea of a casino protecting itself from time travellers was fun but surely CCTV isn’t the answer as this tale illustrates? I did like the cowboy who couldn’t learn from experience and whose luck ‘had turned’; I once worked in a bookmakers and this brought back some memories of real people.
All that said this was an enjoyable story but maybe one I wouldn’t listen to again immediately -this no least because so much is coming out this year!
That’s me wrapped up – what did you think? Did Steve Lyons play his card right [groan] or should he have taken more of a gamble? Let me know!