Back in 2003, Big Finish released Living Legend, which similar to a few other stories was originally a free gift for readers of Doctor Who Magazine. Since then, the short adventure has been made into a free download on their website, which I became aware of as I was scanning for the free stuff they have on offer. There’s quite a bit of to be found there if one is interested. A lot of them are samples of longer stories, but Living Legend is a complete, albeit short (a bit more than half an hour), adventure featuring the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann and his original audio-only companion Charley Pollard, played by India Fisher.
(Daily Doctor Who #69)
Living Legend by Scott Gray sees the time travelers visiting Italy in 1982 when it’s in a state of jubilation, just after a significant victory in the World Cup. However, they soon become aware of an imminent invasion of the earth–two advanced scouts from the Threllip Empire. These turn out to be the glory hungry commander, Captain Vengorr, and his long-suffering assistant, Sub-Technician Thon. Fortunately, while Threllips are vicious and war-mongering, they are are also fairly stupid, which allows the Doctor and Charley to outwit them.
This brings us to the bulk of the story, in which the two heroes pretend to be Time Lords from the future, come to observe a moment of great historical significance. Charley, who has adopted the “senior Time Lady” guise, spends her time with Thon, planting seeds of discontent due to the way that Vengorr’s future diaries supposedly minimize his contribution. Meanwhile, the Doctor takes Vengorr into town to witness a plague that has supposedly set in, causing people to flail about and yell and dance. When Vengorr supposedly “contracts” the plague by touching a local person, the Doctor encourages him to drink copious amounts of the cure…in reality alcohol from the local shop. All this leads to the amusing conclusion where Vengorr and Thon wind up in a drunken brawl.
Paul McGann and India Fisher are comfortable and confident in their roles here, and are fun as always to listen to. Guest stars Stephen Perring and Conrad Westmaas are able to bring sufficient characterization to Vengorr and Thon, which is a decent accomplishment given the aliens’ limited personalities and the unavoidable “alien-effects” that their voices are subjected to. The whole story is slight and forgettable, but a lot of fun and good for a diversion for its running time (only about 25 minutes).
The free download also comes with “the Making of Zagreus”–an audio documentary featuring the cast and crew of Big Finish’s 40th Anniversary story (and 50th monthly release).
I’ve never listened to Zagreus–my impression is that it is very long and not very good–but it’s fun to listen to the different familiar actors chatting about the production and how interested they were to be part of it. When one remembers that this is all from before the series came back on the air in 2005, it’s clear how much it was not a guarantee that being part of new Doctor Who material was possible.