Starborn by Jac Rayner reviewed

Starborn coverMarch 2014 and the Companion Chronicles range gives us Starborn which is a welcome return for writer Jacqueline Rayner. This is a First Doctor story starring Maureen o’Brien as Vicki and Jacqueline King (Donna Noble’s mum) as Violet. Unlike other stories (eg Marian Conspiracy, The Suffering, Transit of Venus or even The Doomwood Curse) this is a not a historically based tale but an almost pure science fiction story.

The story

The summary on the product page tells us:

On a visit to early 20th Century Earth, Vicki receives a warning – if she leaves in the TARDIS, then she will die.

Unable to join her friends, Vicki is given an audience by a psychic called Violet, who contacts voices beyond this mortal plain.

And one of those voices is Vicki herself, who reveals what will happen at the ship’s next landing place – and what terrible fate awaits…

This is a nice story inserted carefully into a moment at the end of another. The set-up is simple – a psychic has a message and Vicki is sceptical. This scepticism lasts right up until her own voice comes to her telling her that she has died in the near future and come to tell herself how to change events.

[pullquote]… you can’t change time[/pullquote]

The story then tackles a classic early Doctor Who premise – you can’t change time (something that could be ignored to some extent now [poor Adric]). In doing so we learn all about a world surrounded by stars which are the transcended forms of the locals. Vicki befriends a local and the story is all about protecting the local civilisation from attacking aliens who want their energy. The voice of dead Vicki from the future wants time to be changed and there is plenty of tension as this is argued about.

The storytelling

Maureen o’Brien has plenty to do in making two versions of Vicki have lengthy conversations with distinct voices. Jacqueline King fills in well and seems very comfortable on audio (she also appeared on the Unbound story Deadline and a Bernice Summerfield release).

What most struck me was how well painted the alien civilisation was and the whole idea of being born of the stars and a form of immortality gave an ethereal grace to the whole piece. The resolution is solidly told but for this story it is about enjoying the journey with its evocative script and performances.

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