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Doctor Who: City Of Spires by Simon Bovey

01/06/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: City Of Spires in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: City Of Spires in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minutes. Price: CD: 12.99 (UK), download: 12.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-457-3)cast: Colin Baker, Frazer Hines, Georgia Moffett, Richard Earl, James Albrecht, Russell Floyd, Sam Graham, Charlie Ross and John Banks.

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This is it. The big return of Jamie McCrimmon to 'Doctor Who'. Except he doesn't remember anything about his travels with the Doctor, not even meeting him. This is strange because the Time Lords only took his memories about his travels, he should remember at least their meeting during the Jacobite Rebellion. There's one mystery to start with.

It's perhaps appropriate to begin with a plot that has chronological issues. Jamie's last series was 'The War Games' where sections of battlefields had been set up on an alien planet. On this occasion, there is a problem with time itself being sectioned off.

The Doctor arrives in the Scottish Highlands. He thinks that he is in the period of the Highland clearance but it's much later and the Jacobite leaders are old men. One of them is known as Black Donald. When the Doctor is taken before him he is astonished to see that the expected big hairy Highlander is actually an aging Jamie McCrimmon. There can be only one. Of course, he doesn't remember the Doctor but quickly feels able to trust him and before long they have joined forces against the mysterious Overlord and his servant, the Red Cap.

Captured by the British, they meet up with Alice Cyprian who was captured and imprisoned over a year ago. She wants to return to her husband, Victor, who she fears has been 'persuaded' to work for the Overlord.

As the three of them escape and the Doctor once again acquires a couple of companions, we discover just how messed up the Highlands are. There are oil pumps in the hills and skyscrapers blot out the sky. Just what is going on here and what is the black water the Overlord seeks to drain from the Scottish hills?

There is a lot of too-ing and fro-ing in this. There's not too much running, though, that will be Jamie's age I guess. There is a lot of talking and a really creepy big bad. It doesn't feel like a cohesive story all the time, perhaps because it has so many elements vying for our attention. On a second listen, it does offer up a little bit more such as a tantalising ending.

Don't expect all the answers here. Add a few more questions, a Companion Chronicle ('Night's Black Agents') and a wrap up in 'Wreck Of The Titan' and you've got a complex production that is a big set-up for two more Doctor and Jamie adventures. There's also the required kilt joke in there along with other references that will hopefully make you fondly remember the original partnership.

Other than the new Doctor on TV, I think Colin Baker is the spirit of all things Doctorish. From being one of the most acerbic on-screen Doctors, he has matured into the one I'd most like to travel with, apart from Matt Smith's regeneration, obviously. The cast is interesting here as Georgia Moffett ('The Doctor's Daughter') plays Alice and, of course, Frazer Hines reprises his lovable Scotsman. With Fraser, it feels like he's never been away and fits comfortably into this story. They have aged him somewhat so Jamie is closer to Fraser's actual age. This is actually quite a clever move to give him some perspective on his life and pick up almost at the point of his original 'Companion Chronicle, 'The Glorious Revolution.'

Sometimes, despite the story, you just want it to be right. It's great to hear Jamie return to the Doctor and I look forward to hearing their friendship be re-established. As with many of the companions, they are often wrenched away, never to return. Perhaps we will, as with Sara Jane Smith in the TV series, get some closure and a more satisfying ending.

Sue Davies

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