Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
Mother Russia

Author: Marc Platt
Read by: Peter Purves
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 84435 183 1
Available 30 October 2007

The Russian summer is an idyllic time and place - or so Steven Taylor thought - somewhere that he, Dodo and the Doctor could take a well-earned holiday. But it’s 1812. Winter is coming. The French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, are marching upon Moscow. And that’s not the only invasion the travellers will have to deal with. An alien spaceship has crash-landed in the woods nearby. Suddenly Steven isn’t sure who he can trust - or even who he really is...

In my review of the previous First Doctor Companion Chronicles story, Frostfire, I expressed my hope that Peter Purves and Frazer Hines would be persuaded to narrate for the series, based on the strength of their voice-over work for BBC Audio’s Doctor Who soundtrack releases. Well, my wish has come true, because both actors have contributed to the second season of tales.

As expected, Purves does a good reading, although, contrary to the enthusiastic opinion of director Nigel Fairs, who interviews the narrator at the end of this CD, his impersonation of the First Doctor isn’t all that convincing. In fact, the supporting voice artist, Tony Millan, who plays the enigmatic Interrogator, sounds more like Hartnell to my ear, so perhaps he should have performed the Doctor’s dialogue.

As with Frostfire, the writer of this First Doctor adventure is Marc Platt, who taps into the nature of Steven Taylor as a loner. For once, its appears that Steven may have found somewhere he can fit in - though his relaxation proves to be short-lived. His readiness to settle down can be interpreted as a precursor to his departure in The Savages (this story takes place immediately after The Gunfighters).

The plot, which involves an evil doppelganger of the Doctor, covers some ground already trodden in another Steven story, The Massacre, and so I found certain revelations rather predictable. However, Platt keeps things lively and interesting by presenting the time-travellers with a double danger: an invasion by French forces in addition to an alien menace. A further plot strand is the mystery surrounding the Interrogator - who is he, and what kind of hold does he have on Steven?

In the interview at the end of the disc, Purves reveals that would like to return to acting if only someone would make him a decent offer. Hopefully Big Finish will find a part for him in an audio drama before too long... For now, though, Steven fans have good reason to go Russian to the shops to obtain this CD.

Richard McGinlay