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Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: The Doll Of Death by Marc Platt

01/12/2008. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles in the UK

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CD. pub: Big Finish ISBN: 978-1-84435-352-1. 70 minute CD. Price: 8.99 (UK). download 7.99. Read by Katy Manning and Jane Goddard.

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'The Companion Chronicles' series has been a novel little sideline for the team at Big Finish. We get to hear some stories from the point of view of the hapless human companions involved and feel a frisson of nostalgia as they attempt to imitate their Doctor's voice.

There are some downsides to this, as it's never going to be the same as an original episode without the original actor. Having said that, I wonder how purists would react to new Doctor stories with sound-alike actors? There is also the narrative device of the companion reaching back for their memories, it's a little over-used used but do not despair there are twists coming up in future instalments.

This time it's the turn of Katy Manning to reprise her role as Jo Grant, companion to the Jon Pertwee action figure Doctor.

She is in London in modern day with her own action-man ecologist husband. Some displacement going on there, methinks. Having been confined to bed in the hotel, she decides to blog her thoughts, remembers the swinging 70s and how it always used to be Friday when they had to save the world. She recalls an adventure that almost ruined her weekend because time started going backwards. The Brigadier features here but Katy does her own version of him which isn't half-bad. We also get Sergeant Benton for good measure.

It's Friday and Jo is off to her training course but there is a temporal distortion going on and the Doctor needs her on the trail of the time leak. They go off in Bessie ending up at a museum where they see terrible events taking place and everything starts to go backwards.

Despite the retro story or perhaps because of it, this is a good yarn. The character of Jo Grant is integrated agreeably with a bizarre story of a toys' hospital, possessed dolls and inter-dimensional travel.

Katie Manning tells the story with great gusto and takes on several different voices with ease. She is an old hand at Big Finish, featuring in her own series as Time Lady Iris Wildthyme and is no doubt used to talking to herself on some of the lower budget items. Jane Goddard features as the spooky Mrs Killibrew who may not be what she seems.

The writer is Marc Platt ('Ghostlight' story for TV's 'Doctor Who' and 'Companion Chronicles' for Big Finish: 'Frostfire', 'Mother Russia', and audio 'Valhalla' for Sylvester McCoy's Doctor). His script for the audio 'Spare Parts' is acknowledged as the inspiration for TV's 'Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel' story. Those are not bad credentials to be going along.

There is a sense of immediacy in this narrative even though it is being told to us. It works very well and there is plenty going on which offers good repeat value. It manages to evoke a sense of time and place for me and the possessed dolls remind me of the Autons which used to make me hide behind the sofa, even more than the Daleks.

Sue Davies

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