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Doctor Who Monthly Series 06: The Marian Conspiracy by Jacqueline Rayner

01/06/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who Monthly Series 06: The Marian Conspiracy in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who Monthly Series 06: The Marian Conspiracy in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minutes. Price: CD: 14.99 (UK), download: 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-903654-17-3)cast: Colin Baker, Maggie Stables, Sean Jackson, Gary Russell, Jez Fielder, Jo Castleton, Anah Ruddin, Nicholas Pegg, Barnaby Edwards and Alistair Lock.

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It's a time for change, new beginnings. On the TV, there's a new Doctor in the house as we are getting to know Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor, so what a good time to reflect on other new beginnings. I've used my special Big Finish time machine (usually covered in crumbs) and am off to explore another of their 'firsts'.

This time I've been listening to 'The Marian Conspiracy' in which the Sixth Doctor meets another Doctor, Evelyn Smythe. Her 'e' is a companion in her middle years, exists only on audio and has a reasonably high IQ.

Needless to say, there is no running in this adventure, though there might be a little fast walking away.

As it opens, Dr Evelyn Smythe is giving a history lecture about the Tudor period in England. She's suffering from lecture interuptus as she cannot speak over an annoying beep. Then she meets the annoying Doctor who blames her for the beep as she is the source of a time-space nexus. Worried that her history is being unwritten, she decides to accompany the Doctor to the time of the Elizabethan Era, hoping to experience raw history in the making whilst trying to stop it unmaking her own.

It's going well until they discover that instead of the protestant Elizabeth they have arrived in Bloody Mary's reign. When Evelyn toasts the wrong Queen, she becomes the centre of a plot which could lead to her own undoing let alone her ancestors.

Apart from the initial use of the TARDIS and a nexus stabiliser carried in Evelyn's handbag, this is a fairly traditional historical adventure in which the two seek to put right the wrongs and stop Evelyn fading from history. There is quite a lot of talking in this which seeks to illuminate the historical background. It's written by Jacqueline Rayner who has plenty of experience with this. She includes many jokes about Evelyn's great age and, apart from the laughs, it does highlight how our perception of being aged has changed. Mine changes with every passing year, too.

The cast includes a suitably fruity accented Frenchman, a self-righteous clergyman and, of course, Queen Mary herself. It manages to consider the role of religion and women in that society and even discusses what happens to the common man in that period. We get to know Evelyn a bit and discover how much she has in common with the Doctor. We are entering a period of a companion with comfortable shoes and I wonder where this is going. I know there won't be any running.

This is a good listen but it's not a super-doper all fireworks and thunderclaps audio. It's more of a quiet listen in the garden sort of play. Compared to the recent plays, I found it quite downbeat and restrained which makes me feel that it reflects humbler beginnings for Big Finish. They have definitely matured in the 10 years since they started. They are bolder in storytelling and produce an audio equivalent of high end TV for their monthly series. 'The Marian Conspiracy' is more reflective but still worth a listen. I hope to follow up Doctor Evelyn Smythe and perhaps get the recipe for her chocolate cake.

Sue Davies

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