At the end of the big anniversary Doctor Who audio, Zagreus, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) sacrificially allows himself to be exiled to a completely alien universe, doomed to die alone. At the last minute, his companion Charley (India Fisher) refuses to be left behind, going with the Doctor because of her love for him. Scherzo, by Robert Shearman (of Jubilee and Dalek fame), is the continuation of that story, and the beginning of a new “season” of Eighth Doctor audios.
Scherzo is one of the most unusual Big Finish audios I have ever heard—it is a “full cast” drama, but only features the two lead actors. They find themselves forced to leave the TARDIS, where they discover that they are utterly unable to cope with the new universe they have entered. They are engulfed in an overwhelming light, and blindly trudge forward with all their senses save their hearing rapidly failing them.
Tension between the two seems artificially high, but it’s also revealed that their emotions are being artificially heightened. This takes the characters to some deep places—Charley is deeply in love with the Doctor, but he is unimaginably cruel back to her, bitterly regretting her presence for making his sacrifice meaningless. It’s unusual ground for Doctor Who to cover, but it works in the context of the story.
As their interminable journey continues, the Doctor and Charley encounter a new life form—one that has just come into existence, and is made up entirely of sound. Using the noises that the Doctor and Charley have made to express itself, we get to see (or rather, hear) the entire evolutionary existence of a being that considers itself their child—a relationship it eventually attempts to exploit maliciously to its own advantage. The Doctor is actually easily manipulated in this situation, and it’s only because Charley steps in that this new enemy is defeated.
The bond between Time Lord and companion is at the heart of this story. Charley is portrayed as being deeply in love with the Doctor, and the fairly romantic figure of the Eighth Doctor is depicted as someone who in some way returns these affections, but doesn’t quite know how to come to terms with that. The story ends up with the two stepping out of confinement and into the new universe they have found themselves in, and so there is presumably more material to cover with their relationship, and I’m interested to see where it goes. I have always thought that playing up the emotional angst between Doctor and companion was primarily a modern series invention (ie, the Tenth Doctor and Rose, the Twelfth Doctor and Clara), but it’s clear that a lot of precedence for that can be found right here in Big Finish audio.