The seventh season of Companion Chronicles came to and end with Council of War written by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris who are better known for their Bafflegab Scarifyers stories. This is a Third Doctor story for Sgt. Benton (John Levene) and Margery Phipps (Sinéad Keenan [Being Human]).
This is the first time Sgt Benton has appeared in a Big Finish production so nothing to set expectations against and Simon & Paul are also newcomers to the stable (though produce plenty of quality material for the Scarifyers). Some elements of the plot are given away so spoilers follow…
The synopsis from the Big Finish product page is:
At the Doctor’s request, Sergeant Benton is investigating ghosts and missing people in Kettering, while undercover as a local councillor
And that’s how he comes to meet Margery Phipps.
An alien incursion in the town hall leads them on a journey to a terrible future – where Margery discovers how she changed a world, and the life of a whole civilisation hangs in the balance…
Benton is working undercover in Kettering chasing down ghosts when he attends the council Christmas party which is where he meets Margery Phipps (the wonderful Sinéad Keenan) who is a feminist (with a small ‘F’ perhaps) councillor. The lights flicker and Benton uses a gizmo from the Doctor to look for evidence of alien incursion but is unable to stop space-suited aliens from capturing Margery – he is able though to follow her through to the alien planet also called Kettering!
Hitting the second part of this story we now find ourselves on the kind of alien planet Douglas Adams would be proud of – a whole world rebuilt in the image of historic Kettering as reproduced from the historical classic life story of Margery Phipps. Why then have the inhabitants trawled history just to put Margery on trial?
Meanwhile another alien race arrives intent on stripping the planet of its assets and it is up to Benton to put on a show of strength before the Doctor can arrive to save the day! All tremendous fun!
This is told from two narrative points of view which works well and it also brings out a blend of humour and quirkiness that shouldn’t really surprise anyone who has heard the Scarifyers. John Levene is great and although he does the Brig and the Doctor this is never as an impression – his own accent shines through rather too well for that.
My only gripe is that this doesn’t really feel like a Third Doctor story and that is minor.
Great fun and why has it taken so long for John Levene to appear in a Big Finish release? With only one more run of the Companion Chronicles to come we can only hope something else appears soon that will give us another chance to hear Benton in action.