Doctor Who: The Five Companions [Big Finish]

OK, back to The Five Companions.

As I noted previously, this is “special episode” of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio line, made available when one subscribes to 12 titles from one of their lines of stories. It’s a bit shorter than a regular Doctor Who audio – about half the length, but treated as one long episode, sans cliff hangers.

The story here is implied to take place between scenes in The Five Doctors, with the introduction of a pocket dimension where some of the players of “The Game of Rassilon” are sometimes kept between bouts. The Doctor played by Peter Davison gets accidentally shunted their as he is transmatting between the Capitol and the Death Zone on Gallifrey (this is not too important, but you can check out The Five Doctors to make sense of it all) and finds out that five of his companions also wound up there by mistake (made by the villain of The Five Doctors, who was kidnapping various past companions as part of the mechanism to allow that anniversarial tale to be told).

These characters were science teacher Ian Chesterton, played by William Russell, one of the original cast members on Doctor Who, who, as I’ve shared, is a big reason I went after this story in the first place; space pilot Steven Taylor, played by Peter Purves, who was basically Ian’s replacement back in the day; security officer Sara Kingdom, played by Jean Marsh, who appears here in spite of having died in her original TV appearance; waitress Polly (last name to be argued about), played by Anneke Wills, who witnessed the Doctor’s first regeneration; and orphaned really smart girl Nyssa, played by Sarah Sutton, who left the series only a few stories before The Five Doctors was aired.

So it’s a bit of a weird mix – four characters from the show’s first decade, most of whom had been largely forgotten even at the time of The Five Doctors, and the most recent one to have left before the special. As a result, there is a little bit of a feeling that the story could be called The Doctor, Nyssa and the Four Other Companions, not because Nyssa is actually in it more, but because her scientific smarts and closeness with “this” Doctor seem to elevate her status in the story.

But that’s more of an observation than a complaint. The script does a good job with all of the characters, and gives everyone moment of dignity. Some of it is a little forced, with the Doctor throwing out extremely affirming comments about his old friends a bit more often than normal, but the characters themselves fair well. Probably the highlight moment is when the normally fearful Polly gets to down a Sontaran by jamming his probic vent with one of her stiletto heels.

The Sontarans, one of the two major menaces of the story, are all played by Dan Starkey, who plays many of them in the revival series as well. His presence makes for a good link with the current series, which generally does not fall into Big Finish’s scope. The other major menace are the Daleks, who are all played by Nicholas Briggs, who has been long associated with Big Finish but also has done a lot of voice work on the current Doctor Who. Both actors do a good job playing multiple examples of their respective alien menaces. The story also gets to feature the first (that I know of) smackdown between the Sontarans and the Daleks. The Daleks come out victorious, as they must, but the Sontarans acquit themselves well.

Overall, I like the story quite a bit. It’s a good companion piece (pun unavoidable, I’m afraid) to The Five Doctors. Peter Davison delivers an expectedly strong performance, and Peter Purves and Sarah Sutton really don’t sound like they’ve really aged at all. I’m not too familiar with either Polly or Sara Kingdom, so sometimes I had a hard time telling which was speaking when they were both together. William Russell, who was one of the factors that drew me to this story, clearly has aged, but that’s fine. Ian alone is not quite the same as Ian with Barbara, but it was still good fun to have him play such a prominent role in the adventure. He also gets the final line of the story, shared with the other companions about the fact that the Doctor, in spite of his best efforts, will probably never make time to come and see them again.

“To be fair though, perhaps he’s got better things to do.”


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