The Doctor and company make an unplanned return to Victorian England as the TARDIS inexplicably breaks down, arriving at London’s newest gentleman’s club. But although the Doctor could certainly be described as a ‘gentleman’, it isn’t joining the club he has in mind…
One Crowded TARDIS
The early 1980’s saw the TARDIS crew at its largest since the show’s very beginning, and even though it’s been decades since then the cast is just as lively as ever. The mild-mannered Fifth Doctor goes into full headmaster mode as he shepherds his squabbling group of companions. Writer Phil Mulryne captures the dynamic between the four perfectly. Between Nyssa’s level-headedness, Adric’s inquisitive nature and Tegan’s razor-sharp cynicism, there’s a full show of personalities here that keeps the story brimming with life.
An Exclusive Club
But despite the higher number of companions ‘The Contingency Club’ actually works with a relatively low cast of characters, making it a relatively small-scale affair in comparison to some of the Doctor’s more grand adventures. That isn’t to its disadvantage, however, as it means every character plays an important role in the story with a few surprise twists along the way.
Seeing double, and triple…
Olly McCauley works overtime here as the multiple Edwards, whose appearance immediately gives the story its main science fiction element. The setting gives the proceedings a nice steampunk edge to them but unfortunately, the descriptive dialogue attributed to explaining Edward’s origins doesn’t quite do it justice. The wonder about audio is that usually, imagination is all you need to visualise it, but this is one part of the story that doesn’t quite capture the sheer horror of the goings on.
Just a Game
The highlight of this adventure is undoubtedly Lorelei King’s turn as the sinister Red Queen, a brilliant character who just goes to show that not every Doctor Who villain is in it for grand designs of conquest. The fact that the whole scenario is just a game to her somehow makes the plan even more chilling, and despite the character’s limited appearance in the story she still manages to completely steal the show. The conclusion also entertains the notion that there could be life in the Red Queen beyond simply being a “one and done” villain, leaving the possibility of her showing up again in the future. A game lover like her would be such perfect opposition to the Seventh Doctor’s chess master it would be a shame for it not to happen.
The Contingency Club is an interesting little story, capturing the feel and atmosphere of the Fifth Doctor’s original run perfectly while presenting itself as something that could have worked just as well as a television episode. Despite being a bit more difficult to picture in some places, it still remains a thoroughly enjoyable outing nonetheless.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
London, 1864 – where any gentleman befitting the title ‘gentleman’ belongs to a gentlemen’s club: The Reform, The Athenaeum, The Carlton, The Garrick… and, of course, The Contingency. Newly established in St James’, The Contingency has quickly become the most exclusive enclave in town. A refuge for men of politics, men of science, men of letters. A place to escape. A place to think. A place to be free.
The first rule of the Contingency is to behave like a gentleman. The second is to pay no heed to its oddly identical servants. Or to the horror in its cellars. Or to the existence of the secret gallery on its upper floor… Rules that the Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan are all about to break.
Written By: Phil Mulryne
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Clive Merrison (George Augustus), Philip Jackson (Mr Peabody), Lorelei King (The Red Queen), Tim Bentinck (Wakefield/ Cabby/ Stonegood), Alison Thea-Skot (Marjorie Stonegood/ Computer), Olly McCauley (Edward/ The Knave). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor: Alan Barnes
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs