THIS STORY TAKES
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
ADVENTURE" AND "THE
BIG FINISH CD#105
RELEASED IN FEBRUARY
Manchester, 2008. The
TARDIS lands inside a
block, beside a dead
body – which leads to
questions when the
Doctor is found there
by the police. Made
the prime suspect,
how can the Doctor
prove to the no-
nonsense DI Patricia
Menzies that this is
not the open-and-shut
case it seems, and
that she’s actually
death of an alien?
Higher up in Ackley
House, a girl named
Maxine watches the
Doctor being taken
away in a squad car.
Someone wants her to
find out what
happened in that
room, and isn’t going
to be happy if she
doesn’t come up with
the goods. But she’s
got hold of someone
who knows – someone
very important to the
With “The Condemned”, Big Finish neither went to any great lengths to keep Charley Pollard’s inclusion tightly under wraps, nor did they make any bold announcements proclaiming the return of their first ‘in-house’ companion. Indeed, “The Condemned” has been released in the wake of Big Finish’s biggest shake-up since Gary Russell left the fold in the late 2006 and, as a result, this milestone four-parter has been predominantly overshadowed by the arrival of Big Finish’s long-awaited download service and the fantastic new website.
Nevertheless, whilst its arrival may have only been heralded by a whisper, its impact is felt with a bang. There is something fundamentally appealing to fans about having a Doctor teamed-up with one of his past selves’ companions – just look at the popularity of the new series episode “School Reunion” or any of the classic series’ multi-Doctor stories. What really makes “The Condemned” stand out though, of course, is the fact the Doctor is teamed up with one of his future selves’ companions. Charley, having parted ways with the eighth Doctor, is stranded in the year 500,002 until she is rescued by the sixth Doctor, who as you would expect has not the slightest clue as to who she is as he has not met her yet. This allows writer Eddie Robson to have tremendous fun playing around with the characters. Desperate to conceal the details of the Doctor’s personal future from him, Charley acts highly suspiciously and aberrantly wooden – something that the pragmatic old sixth Doctor is quick to pick up on. It is intriguing to hear a story where the companion is the one with the knowledge and the Doctor is the one in the dark; it certainly puts a whole new spin on the Doctor / companion relationship. Better still, this unorthodox pairing truly breathes new life into both characters and I cannot wait to see where Big Finish go with this arc.
However, save for some enchanting scenes which bookend the story and the odd exception in between, the Doctor and Charley spend this story apart. Charley is off having adventures in the eponymous condemned tower block, whilst the appropriately blue-coated Doctor is paired up with the no-nonsense Mancunian Detective Inspector, Patricia Menzies.
It is hard to believe that in all her adventures with the eighth Doctor, Charley never got to see twenty-first century or even late twentieth century Earth. Robson more than makes up for this oversight here, really throwing Charley into the deep end as she has to get her head around mobile telephones and the near-instantaneous availability of Indian Cuisine in an impoverished area of Manchester. That said, I found it equally refreshing to see the sixth Doctor enjoy a rather traditional contemporary adventure in 2008 – next Friday, 29th
February, to be precise – rather than in the mid-1980s, which his incarnation seemed to have a tendency to gravitate towards (I wonder why...). For his part, Colin Baker seems perfectly at home in a ‘police procedural’ story, sharing some truly wonderful and often wryly amusing scenes with the metropolitan constabulary.
The cast assembled is also nothing short of outstanding. Anna Hope (“New Earth”, “Gridlock”) imbues Detective Inspector Menzies with such a sense of down-to-earth charm that the listener cannot help but like her. I was particularly impressed by her whole attitude towards aliens; they just do not seem to faze her. Obviously they change the way that she will look at the world forever, but she is still simply content to clock on in the morning and clock
off at night, and if in between she has to lock up some aliens than so be it. Brilliant! William Ash is also worthy of mention for his portrayal of the troubled murderer, Sam. I enjoyed his performance in “The Condemned” much more than I did his recent appearance as Riley Vashtee in last year’s new series episode “42”. Diana Morrison also impresses as Antonia, perhaps the most difficult character for the listener to get a handle on in the whole play. Morrison’s performance is such that it is nigh on impossible to work Antonia out, especially in the early going.
To look at the story itself, this is definitely one of Robson’s better scripts for Big Finish. In fact, in my book it is second only to the magnificent “Human Resources”. The premise of undercover aliens on earth may hardly be new or innovative, but undercover aliens trying to transform themselves into architecture certainly is! Aliens becoming one with the very fabric of buildings and then driving the occupants mad has to be one of the wackiest ways to take over the Earth that I have ever heard, but it also has the virtue of being one of the most memorable.
On the whole, “The Condemned” is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The story is compelling and fun, the cast is stellar and the Doctor nearly dies from taking an aspirin.
What more could a listener want? The only grievance that I could possibly have is that I had to wait for the postman to deliver my CDs before I could listen to it – the sooner the free download option is available to existing subscribers the better!
In all seriousness though, it is worth saying that the future is looking very bright indeed for
Big Finish. The website seems to have improved on each new occasion that I visit it; the quality of their free podcast is on a par with the CD Extras that accompany their releases; and hopefully, the combination of the new download service together with the new Stargate series (which I am really excited about) should mean that Big Finish will now conquer America once and for all. I am with Colin Baker – here’s hoping Big Finish reach 200 monthly releases and beyond.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988
to be identified as the author of this work.
This story’s production code places it some time after the sixth Doctor’s travels with Evelyn, but prior to his travels with the fictional Jamie and then later Mel. The ensuing sixth Doctor and Charlotte Pollard releases follow on from this release, and form quite a tight arc.
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