If you haven’t heard a Companion Chronicle from Big Finish you’re missing out on some well told and unique stories. Not all stories translate to screen, or even to full blown audio drama, as well as an excellently written and wonderfully narrated story can. Accompany that with some nicely constructed music and a few well placed and expertly crafted sound effects and you’re transported to wherever the Big Finish team want you to be.
The First Doctor Early Adventures Volume 2 boast some of the best stories, performances and sound you’re bound to hear. Even if the First Doctor isn’t your first choice for The Doctor these stories are absolutely worth listening too and the passion from all involved is apparent.
It takes all of the elements being their best in order to achieve this level of craftsmanship and directors Lisa Bowerman and Helen Goldwyn have perfectly guided their team through 4 excellent stories but the music and sound design by Robert Harvey are what shine centre stage as they blanket and these stories with textures so fine you may find yourself wondering why you ever paid for a 3-D film when you could be this immersed just with sound. Also, if you had pre-ordered you were treated with Harvey’s Audio Suite which includes nearly 40 minutes of his gorgeous music arrangements for this volume of early adventures. If you didn’t pre-order, hopefully they will do this again and you will be ready!
The Fields of Terror
The opening story of this second volume of Early Adventures, ‘The Fields of Terror’, is a classic Doctor Who historical. This is a very well told story about a lesser known part of the French Revolution which takes on some elements of horror to help boost the fever of the time.
It’s written by John Pritchard and is narrated by Maureen O’Brien as Vicki but she takes on many roles including, but not limited to, the First Doctor. O’Brien does a terrific job of leading us through this creepy tale. It’s an old fashioned suspense and mystery with elements of reality and history.
This is the kind of tale that may not have succeeded on television at the time but it’s certainly the kind of story that would have been popular, especially with its elements of compassion despite hardships.
Blogtor Who Rating 9/10
Across The Darkened City
‘Across the Darkened City’ is written by David Bartlett and may very well be one of the most exciting adventures told in Doctor Who. It stars Peter Purves, as Steven Taylor, and can he ever narrate a story! Of course, the writing is engaging and with only Purves and Nicholas Briggs as the Dalek, 210 as cast members and playing as an unlikely duo, we’re taken through journey and partnership which fully captivates your attention.
Purves is so fully committed in his performance that he feels as youthful as ever. He gets so excited and wrapped up in all the highs, and even the lows, that you’re transported back in time and feel like you’re in the moment. To top it off Purves’ take on William Hartnell is amongst the best and though The Doctors role is limited, hearing Purves as both The Doctor and Steven is a real pleasure. Briggs deserves accolades as well, giving a Dalek performance so unique and textured that Dalek 210 becomes a Dalek worth remembering. A difficult job made to look easy.
Blogtor Who Rating 10/10
The Bonfires of The Vanities
Fan favourite Una McCormak writes “The Bonfires of The Vanities” which stars Anneke Wills as Polly and Elliot Chapman as Ben. It’s the quietest of the 4 stories though that doesn’t mean it’s not exciting or enjoyable. In fact it’s ever so slightly as if a mild Phillip K. Dick wrote Doctor Who.
It’s lovingly written for Ben and Polly. The First Doctor is towards the end of his run and is weaker and features both Wills and Chapman taking turns narrating the story and being the Doctor. Each does wonderful work. With the music and sounds being haunting and melancholic all the elements create a moody piece that is a great little story full of wonderful moments.
Blogtor Who Rating 8/10
The Plague of Dreams
Our closing entry is exceptional. Guy Adams managed to write a script so dangerously close to a parody but pulled off a play within a play perfectly. This is exactly how the Companion Chronicles shine. With a cast of two and a team as talented as we have here, we look at the moments seen off screen that help us reconcile the wider world of Doctor Who in little moments. A stylized story like this could come across a dozen different ways, most of them not good but there’s love for classic Who here and Adams lets us see that and appreciate it.
Anneke Wills returns as Polly, and the First Doctor and she is exquisite here. It’s evident that she is compelled and having fun. Elliot Chapman plays Ben and ‘The Player’. He’s great! It’s rare that you want an actor to sound like an actor but playing the part he does it works and he leads this story with charm and a little bit of danger.
Blogtor Who Rating 10/10
The Champion of the Companion Chronicles
Ian Atkins has produced 4 of the finest Doctor Who audio stories you’ve ever heard, where every element works perfectly! Great scripts, solid performances, incredible direction and absolutely perfect sound design and music meshed with the passion from all involved we’re rounding up the final average score to give this bundle of Doctor Who Early Adventure Companion Chronicles…
Overall Blogtor Who Rating 10/10
1. Fields of Terror by John Pritchard
The TARDIS has brought the Doctor back to Revolutionary France, a place that’s always fascinated him. But this time he, along with Steven and Vicki, are drawn into a devastated land, caught between the soldiers who are burning all before them and a monstrous shape that follows in their wake.
2. Across the Darkened City by David Bartlett
On the planet Shade, The Chaons, an invading race of strange, amorphous creatures that ravenously absorb energy, have reduced the city there to a desolate ruin. Separated from the Doctor and Vicki, Steven has to join forces with an unexpected ally to find his way back to the TARDIS. Ahead, lies a nightmare journey through the dark – a test of endurance and trust.
3. The Bonfires of the Vanities by Una McCormack
When the Doctor, Polly, and Ben arrive in Lewes in the late 1950s, they’re just in time to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night. But there’s no fun on the streets tonight – the town is in the grip of fear. There are imps on the loose in Lewes, the Bonfire Boys are on the march, and nobody is safe from the fire.
4. The Plague of Dreams by Guy Adams
“Pray welcome, one and all, to this, a fantasy in two acts, presented, most humbly, for your pleasure. We bring you drama and magic, angels and demons, a tale of mysterious plague… of nightmares made flesh… of a war fought both in this world and those immeasurably distant. A war, in fact, fought through the mists of time itself. It will make you gasp! It will make you weep! It may even make some of you wake-up…”
Written By: John Pritchard, David Bartlett, Una McCormack, Guy Adams
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman, Helen Goldwyn
Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Anneke Wills (Polly), Elliot Chapman (Ben Jackson / The Player), Robert Hands (Lagrange), Helen Goldwyn(The Chaons) and Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks
Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Jacqueline Rayner
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs