The Secret History is the 200th entry in the “main range” of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio dramas. It stars Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, and companions Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and Vici (Maureen O’Brien).
Now, eagle-eyed Doctor Who fans may notice that Vicki and Steven never met the Fifth Doctor on TV–they were companions of the First Doctor from the 1960’s. The Secret History is all about this discrepancy, and features the Fifth Doctor finding himself mysteriously transposed into his earlier self’s footsteps, just before an adventure that he, Vicki and Steven took in the days of the Roman Empire.
It’s actually the conclusion of a trilogy of such stories, which each feature a different “later” Doctor interacting with “earlier” companions. In this one, the explanation for it all comes to light–it’s the part of the nefarious actions of none other than the Meddling Monk!
Who? Well, the so-called Monk was a character from a First Doctor story commonly called The Time Meddler, which featured the very first antagonist that the Doctor ever faced from his own people. The Monk is a Time Lord who freely interacts with established events in an attempt to basically improve the universe. Here, it turns out that he has a scheme to ultimately take the Doctor out of history and replace him in his own timeline. It’s just the sort of daft wackiness that makes Doctor Who great, and it’s unique enough to keep the Monk from just being a carbon coby of other villains like the Master.
It’s a cool plot, but ultimately the appeal of The Secret History is listening to the Fifth Doctor hanging out with his older companions. Vicki and Steven are both good characters, though often overlooked by fans of the show. It takes a bit of suspension of disbelief to believe that Vicki is still supposed to be a teenage girl–Maureen OBrien definitely sounds older now–but Peter Purves’ Steven is easy to accept. The story starts off having a neat “First Doctor”-vibe to it, especially with its historical setting, though it later changes tone with the introduction of giant floating Medusa heads, which the series definitely would not have been able to pull of in 1964.
Overall it’s good story with fun performances by the stars, as well as Graeme Garden (from The Goodies) as the Monk, Giles Watling (brother of Deborah Watling, who played Victoria on TV) as a Roman general, and Lysette Anthony (a reasonably famous actress who I remember from Without A Clue and Krull) as Sophia, a girl from a time-sensitive race who unwittingly helps the Monk until she learns of his true nature.