It’s the turn of the Second Doctor to have a boxset in the re-launched Companion Chronicles range. The Doctor may be the titular focus of the stories, but this set is really about his evolving relationship with Jamie. There’s no big arc, just a sense of coherence about these four stories in they all give an insight into Jamie and the Doctor as the driving force behind this period of the show’s history. Story engineering aside, these are four authentic stories by a range of writers and with a full set of companions.
Time to look closer…
The opener is John Pritchard’s story The Mouthless Dead. Cue Ben, Polly and Jamie in 1920s England, a deserted station, a dead man’s train and a host of mysterious watchers. Not only do we have this large TARDIS crew, but there are also a few important other parts in a spooky story with some hints of the Dickens classic The Signal-Man. The plot draws on a moment in history and builds a story with great emotional depth and enough surprises to keep the listener entertained until the final scenes. Although Jamie is the centre of this set of stories, all the companions have meaningful parts, and we are treated to a full-cast of Fraser Hines, Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman (who also plays a second part).
Writer John Pritchard previously wrote the Subscriber Short Trips Sound the Siren and I’ll come to you Comrade and Sphinx Lightning; with The Mouthless Dead he reinforces his credentials as a writer with much more to give.
Second is producer Ian Atkins and The Story of Extinction. The timeline has moved along and now Jamie is the more established companion while Victoria has more recently arrived. Here the action switches forward in time to the far off world of Amyrndaa where, despite all the ingredients for life, more than one civilisation has come and gone. Where this story works is in the development of the relationship between Jamie and Victoria and its left-field menace. This story very much captures the feel of the era and it’s wonderful to hear Victoria with Jamie again.
Next up is David Bartlett (Subscriber Short Trips A Room with No View) and the Jamie + Zoe story The Integral. Aspen Base is under siege (of course); how will the two world-views of Jamie and Zoe reconcile as they meet the Integral and what is the mysterious scientific experiment being conducted. In this tale of aliens, scientists and corporations David Bartlett has blended elements from the 1960s in terms of style with some nice modern touches without jarring the listener. Of all the stories in this set, this is the one most demanding of Jamie’s character and navigates around various tropes before arriving somewhere altogether satisfying.
The final story is Rob Nisbet’s The Edge. Again we have Jamie and Zoe, and this time the destination is the Edge laboratories. Immediately Jamie is separated from the others; not by circumstance but by predisposition. As the Doctor and Zoe become enthralled with the Edge, Jamie feels instinctively something is wrong. The story then mixes some 1960s style hard sci-fi concepts with plenty of action and some more modern motives. The resolution plays to all Jamie’s strengths as a character but takes him further and shines a brilliant spotlight on his evolved relationship with the Doctor. Rob previously wrote two Subscriber Short Trips: Intuition and Crystal Ball. More must surely follow.
Each story is followed by some behind the scenes; more than most these are well-worth a listen as the blend reminiscence with insight into how Ian Atkins approached assembling this collection, and each writer discusses their story’s evolution. Everyone is spot-on, there are some great Lisa Bowerman cameo’s (she also directed), Robert Whitelock is excellent in his part and Elliot Chapman now feels like a familiar figure amongst the TARDIS team and the set feels well organised yet unconstrained.
Roll on volume 2!