THIS STORY TAKES
BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMAS "THIN ICE"
BIG FINISH 'THE LOST
RELEASED IN MAY
The year is 1989. In
London, safe cracker
Raine Creevy breaks
into a house – and
finds more than the
In the Middle East,
the kingdom of Sayf
Udeen is terrorised
by Soviet invaders
and alien monsters.
And on the Scottish
border, a HIGH-TECH
facility contains an
These are all part of
the Doctor's master-
plan. But masterplans
can go awry…
Crime of the Century
Crime of Century is different to most of the Lost Stories that have preceded it. There was never a script to adapt, a title to tinker with or even a writer to get back on board – just a single, enduring image. A female cat burglar slinks into a swanky party, slips off her silk gloves and cracks the safe. As it creaks open, the smile is wiped from her face as she finds that her jewels have been replaced by a diminutive figure in a crumpled fedora and question-mark pullover. This burglar, provisionally dubbed Raine Cunningham, would have gone on to become the Doctor’s companion for the second half of Season 27, had it gone ahead, but for years her introductory story went unwritten – until now.
Andrew Cartmel was an inspired choice to flesh out Crime of the Century. Not only did he serve as Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s script editor during their time together, but he also dreamt up the new safecracking companion’s opening scene, and most of her traits too. This familiarity is evident in his script, which despite being created almost from scratch, flows very naturally from Thin Ice and feels like it could easily had been broadcast in 1990 had the unthinkable not been thought.
Above: Graphic designer Rob Hammond helps us to picture the season that never was on the Survival DVD
A new companion is always
a thrilling prospect, but Raine
Creevy is especially so. The classic series saw the Time
Lord teamed up with friends
that were sophisticated and
friends that were anarchic,
but together these traits feel
really rather elicit. Andrew
Cartmel describes Raine as
“a beautiful flower growing on a bombsite”, a beautiful turn of phrase that encapsulates Beth Chalmers’ feline performance. This girl fences and flirts; cracks safes and flies helicopters, and she does it all with great relish. I think I’m in love.
However, had this been the television serial that it was originally planned to be, Raine would have been paired with a seventh Doctor who’d recently parted company with Ace, which is not the case here. Nevertheless, Cartmel stays as true to the original design as possible by giving us almost three solid episodes of the Doctor and Raine working together, while Ace is packed off to the Soviet Union with a crate of vodka and a load of weaponry. This gives the Doctor and Raine chance to develop their own unique rapport, as they would have done on television, before Ace catches up with them in the final episode to inject the proceedings with her own inimitable breed of belligerence. Interestingly though, I found the story’s final episode to be the most enjoyable of the lot, as it gives rise to what I feel will be a far more interesting dynamic than just the Doctor and Raine’s. I particularly love the suggestion that, despite all verbal indications to the contrary, the “toffee-nosed slapper” and “oik” actually seem to get on rather well, having more in common than not.
Above: Another stunning Alex Mallinson CD centrefold
Cartmel’s plot is also a real belter, and is set against an exquisite aural backdrop that fuses Simon Robinson’s fragrant heist-genre score with some cutting-edge sound design. Much like Thin Ice, this production is perhaps best described as a caper, but again it’s one with a dark underbelly, littered as it is with startlingly arbitrary death and rampant destruction. The narrative concerns a civil war in a Soviet State, which one of the parties has brought in alien mercenaries to win. However, these mercenaries, the Metatraxi, are a race of warriors who value combat above all else, and so when the war starts to go well they turn to their paymas-ters for “bonus combat” – a development that is not well received.
These Metatraxi were originally created by Andrew Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch for their mooted Doctor Who stage play, and were subsequently slated to appear in Aaronovitch’s planned season opener, Earth Aid. They appear here much as I’ve heard them described
by their creators – a race of insectoid samurai who are regularly tripped up by their stifling code. If their enemies have guns, then they must fight them with guns; if they have swords, they must fight them with swords. You can imagine their predicament when they lock horns with an opponent who doesn’t carry weapons.
John Banks does a truly dazzling job of making the Metatraxi stand out in the “theatre of the mind”. Often, they are portrayed as fairly traditional-sounding, booming monsters; however, following the Doctor’s amusing reprogramming of their cheap universal translator, they keep slipping into a Bill and Ted surfer dialect that cries out 1990 with more force than Gazza’s tears or even the Wall being torn down.
The supporting characters are each well-drawn too. John Albasiny is marvellous once again as the returning Colonel Felnikov, perpetrator of the eponymous crime, and Chris Porter’s majestic turn as Sayf Udeen manages to be imposing and, ultimately, really rather moving. And I can’t commend Ricky Groves’ Markus Creevy enough; I really hope that this story isn’t the last that we hear from the old crook. If anything, he’s even more compelling twenty years down the line - piles, crossword puzzles and all.
It’s ironic, and perhaps even rather telling, that my favourite Lost Story to date isn’t a dusted-down script but a new one borne of an old idea. Besides teaching the listener how to crack a safe (the importance of which shouldn’t be scoffed at in the middle of a recession), Crime of the Century boasts all the enthralling elements that make the Big Finish flagship range the soaring success that it is, yet it is also faithful to the past – or at least, the tentative plans for it.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Whilst for Raine and Markus more than twenty years have passed since the events of Thin Ice, for the Doctor and Ace far less time has elapsed. When Felnikov remarks that Ace doesn’t look “a day older” then when he last saw her, the Doctor quips “perhaps a day”. Given the jovial delivery of the line, this does not preclude the possibility of any side-step adventures set between Thin Ice and Crime of the Century, nonetheless we have elected to place Crime of the Century straight after Thin Ice, preserving both the shape of the lost season and what we presume was the writer’s intention.
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