June is winding its way to a close and we’re left with the last Big Finish release of the month.
But this Short Trips story comes highly-anticipated not just because it was originally slated for Match. Not just because it’s the first of a two part story by the lovely Joseph Lidster and directed by Lisa Bowerman. Not only for our first peek into the parallel Earth that was vital to the Russell T Davies era of TV Who. But because it features the return of Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler, which is always a treat!
Joe Lidster has challenged himself with this release, serving as not only a Jackie Tyler story but also a reintroduction to “Pete’s World” and all its tiny differences. As a result, much of the first five minutes focuses on setting the scene for the silent friend Jackie is sharing the story (and a bottle of pinot) with. As a result, the script is somewhat front-heavy with a lot of new information to process at once. Specifically around what’s happened in Pete’s World and to the assembled Tylers in the last few years. But this is vital to understand how Jackie fits into this new world and Lidster pulls this off with surprising efficiency.
When UNIT’s Big Ben Base comes under attack, it’s up to Jackie and the Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor – an unknown quantity to Mrs. Tyler – to save the day. Except something seems a bit off about it all, and it’s not just the Doctor’s new personality. Now, it’s a race against time to discover the truth and stop the Siege of Big Ben. Lidster crafts a fairly straightforward plot once the setup is done, in what appears to be a classic base-under-siege story. But this is neatly subverted and the character beats become much more important overall.
As usual, this month’s Short Trips story is read by Coduri as the sole narrator. However, the framing device allows Jackie’s unique characterisation to be worked into the script. Camille wonderfully walks the line between an in-character natter over wine and a good storyteller. Though it’s hard to tell if using this to avoid asking Coduri to do a Tennant impression is a good or a bad sign. Under the watchful eye of director Lisa Bowerman, the world according to Jackie Tyler is given plenty of character. David Roocroft’s sound and music effects are nicely applied to establish that this world is slightly different from the one that Jackie and the Doctor knew.
So, after so much build-up and so many promises, does ‘The Siege of Big Ben’ deliver? For the most part, it does! giving a good story and a brilliant performance from Coduri. It does clock in a bit shorter that the average Short Trips release and the plot seems to end with a strange suddenness. But as a re-introduction to a whole universe, not to mention the first of a two-part adventure, there’s enough left over to hint that this is the opening act of a larger arc. And getting to listen to Camille Coduri is always a bonus. All that can be said is that anticipation for August’s sequel is still high, so here’s to the future!
Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.
Release #42 is a Meta-Crisis Doctor and Jackie Tyler story
Jackie Tyler has everything she’s ever wanted: a loving husband and, two children. But a terrible, far-reaching plan is underway, and only Jackie and a single friend stand in the way of it.
But the Doctor isn’t the man he was…
Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Joseph Lidster
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler)