In addition to all their full cast audio dramas and partially narrated audio dramas, Big Finish also produce audio books–pieces of prose fiction which are available to listen to being read by various actors. Amongst these are many short pieces of Doctor Who fiction, marketed as “Short Trips”. Most of these are available on the Big Finish website for about $3.00 AUD, but there are a few available as a free download, including this one…
(Daily Doctor Who #161)
The Last Day at Work
Written by Harry Draper
Read by Nicholas Briggs
The Last Day at Work features the Second Doctor and Jamie, arriving at an English inn in the 1960’s where Constable Bernard Whittlam is celebrating his retirement party with his friends. The Doctor makes easy friends with the man, but discovers along the way that something highly unusual is going on, which leads to a very different destiny for the constable and his friends.
What I liked about The Last Day at Work is the sense of atmosphere and characterization. Both the story and Nicholas Briggs’ reading do a good job bringing out the personalities of the Second Doctor and Jamie, as well as Bernard and his lady friend Emma. It makes the story pleasant to listen to in the same way that it’s nice to spend an evening with old friends.
Less satisfying for me was the actual resolution of the story: Bernard is actually an extension of the TARDIS’ own Chameleon Circuit, created when the Doctor landed in 1963 and shaped itself as into a police box. When the Doctor departed, Bernard was left behind, without purpose or identity. So he somehow gave life to a whole bunch of family and friends and constructed an artificial life for himself. At the end, in what’s supposed to be a sad and poignant moment, Bernard and Emma walk off together as the Doctor shuts them off.
Short stories are a nifty place to tell stories that are high on concept and short on plot, but the central idea that this story is trying to sell are just a bridge too far for me to accept. The Chameleon Circuit can apparently create a living being who can then go on and create more living beings of his own. Making sense out of that, and thus making Emma and Bernard’s final moments meaningful, just requires more time than this story gives us.
So, though the writing in The Last Day at Work is really nice, the story itself was not something I really enjoyed in the end.