The Auntie Matter is a Doctor Who audio drama from the creative minds at Big Finish. Other than their 50th anniversary story, The Light at the End (which was indeed my gateway into Big Finish’s wares), it’s the first one that I’ve listened to to feature Tom Baker, the popular but somewhat eccentric actor who played the 4th Doctor for so many years in the 1970’s. He is paired on this occasion with Mary Tamm, who played the first incarnation of the Time Lady Romana, who featured on the series for only one year. Mary Tamm apparently recorded this and several other stories in a series shortly prior to her death just recently in 2012.
The Auntie Matter is a clever title for a clever story. It’s not long (only two episodes) and not very “deep” in some respects, but it’s quite witty. The story takes place in England during the roaring 20’s, in an extreme caricature of the time period, in the manner of PG Wodehouse, et al (Jeeves & Wooster, and so on) and is full of odd characters who don’t seem to realize what a silly world they are living in. In its opening moments I was afraid the whole thing was going to be just a bit to ridiculous, but it soon found its feet with a tone that was both comedic and horrifying.
The plot involves an alien of some sort or another, the last of its kind blah blah blah, who is trapped on earth and is forced to take and kill human females from time to time in order to live in their bodies. It acquires these bodies by semi-mind controlling a young Lord to go out and find eligible young bachelorettes to marry. When the young man, Reggie, brings his bride-to-be to his family castle to meet his “aunt”, she is killed and taken over, Reggie’s memory erased and the whole thing starts all over again. Reggie’s aunt (or succession of aunts, as he interprets in his confusion) is also aided by a household staff who are all deadly androids.
Meanwhile the Doctor and Romana are in town on a bit of a break after their quest to find the Key to Time (the over-arching plot of Mary Tamm’s one season on the show) and both end up getting mixed up in the goings-on, proceeding through nearly the entire story without being aware of the other’s involvement. The Doctor simply detects the presence of alien technology on earth (continuity buffs should be screaming at this point that the series supports the idea of at least half a dozen alien races who should be operating alien technology on earth at this point, but nevermind that), whilst Romana for her part ends up meeting Reggie and becoming his next potential romantic conquest, in his mind at least. Listening to the dim-witted Reggie attempt to impress Romana with his knowledge of quantum theory is one of the highlights of the drama.
As I’ve said, it’s a slight story, but a fun one, and once I got adjusted to the tone of the whole thing it kept me entertained and engrossed the whole way through. Mary Tamm is terrific in the story and really sounds almost exactly like she did on TV. On the other hand you can tell at times that Tom Baker is getting older and he doesn’t seem to have the same energy that he used to, but you still get lots of his mad wit to make up for it. The rest of the cast is all good as well, although the only one I’m familiar with is Julia McKenzie, who was TV’s most recent Miss Marple.
There is a nice tribute to Mary Tamm included in this release as well that highlights how much this actress will be missed, and features some very down-to-earth comments from Tom Baker about her.
Overall, this is one of the more successful Big Finish’s that I’ve listened to.