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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Beginning


Author: Marc Platt
Performed by: Carole Ann Ford
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 087 9
Release Date: 30 November 2013

When the First Doctor and his granddaughter Susan escape through the cloisters of Gallifrey to an old Type 40 Time Travel capsule in a repair shop, little do they realise the adventures that lie ahead for them... And little do they know, as the TARDIS dematerialises and they leave their home world behind, that there is someone else already aboard the ship. He is Quadrigger Stoyn, and he is very unhappy...

Marc Platt is well qualified to write an origin story for the First Doctor and Susan (Carole Ann Ford). He can remember watching An Unearthly Child when it was first transmitted – he was ten years old, as he recalls during the eight-minute interview at the end of this CD. He has previously penned early adventures for these characters in the novel Lungbarrow, a couple of Doctor Who Unbound audio dramas, and the Companion Chronicle Quinnis.

Though some of the events and concepts depicted in Lungbarrow have since been invalidated by the revived television series (how inconsiderate of the BBC to bring it back!), Platt had the foresight to present his First Doctor and Susan flashback as a dream sequence, which the Seventh Doctor took great delight in casting doubt upon. The writer uses the same technique here (Susan’s dreams and confused recollections) to hint at the events leading up the Doctor and Susan’s flight from Gallifrey and to fleetingly reference Lungbarrow via the inclusion of a playful chair.

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Nor can you satisfy every fan theory about the Doctor’s departure from his home planet. For example, Jon Preddle’s carefully worked out theory (in his book Timelink), that the Doctor had been operating his Type 40 TARDIS for centuries before he left Gallifrey, is blown clean out of the water.

However, Platt does a good job of tying together various, sometimes seemingly contradictory, references made within the television show. There’s a subtle nod to The Name of the Doctor (without actually naming to whom the First Doctor is speaking). In case you were wondering where the Hand of Omega (Remembrance of the Daleks) had got to in The Name of the Doctor, it emerges from concealing shadows. Susan invents the name TARDIS (An Unearthly Child), only to be told by her chuckling grandfather that the term is already in use. The Doctor theorises how the decommissioned Type 40 is able to slip through the Transduction Barrier. Though he hasn’t visited Earth before, he nevertheless becomes fascinated by certain periods in its history (The Reign of Terror). This does beg the question, though, of why the Doctor and Susan seem to be wearing Earth garments when they depart Gallifrey (in The Name of the Doctor and on the cover of this release).

Perhaps surprisingly, given its title, The Beginning does not go into detail about our heroes’ reasons for leaving their home world. The action starts as the ship takes off. Even Carole Ann Ford questions this decision in the CD extras. Platt points out that the reasons have already been documented, in The War Games for example, and it could be argued that any dramatisation of such events would not tell us anything new. The title may also refer to the nurturing of life on a certain familiar planet – a story element that has, unfortunately, been used before in Doctor Who.

It is also the beginning of a trilogy, with Terry Molloy playing… no, not Davros still trying to acquire the Hand of Omega, but Quadrigger Stoyn, a Gallifreyan engineer in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was expecting an out-and-out villain, but Stoyn is more subtle than that – almost sympathetic, though there’s relatively little time to get to know him amid some bizarre plot turns.

The characterisation of the pre-An Unearthly Child Doctor is convincing. His wanderlust inadvertently causes harm to others, just as it does in the first couple of televised stories, and he takes ruthless measures in order to escape.

The Beginning is certainly not without its flaws, but it has plenty of crowd-pleasing moments, especially at the beginning at the end.


Richard McGinlay

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