THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"ZAGREUS" AND "THE
CREED OF THE KROMON."
BIG FINISH CD#52
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
every good story has
to COME TO AN END.
WITH NO TIMES OR
PLACES TO EXPLORE,
ALL THE DOCTOR AND
ARE EACH OTHER.
BUT MAYBE THAT'S ONE
VOYAGE TOO MANY.
THEY'D RATHER HAVE
HIDDEN AWAY IN THE
ONCE UPON A TIME.
FAR, FAR AWAY.
Inevitably, Scherzo is alien. Outwardly, the Doctor and Charley find themselves
in an alien universe, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is a story about love; a story about sacrifice. This is a story that, were it written by any other man, would not have worked. But it wasn’t, and so it does.
After the feature-length episodes that comprised Neverland and Zagreus, this adventure sees Big Finish return to their traditional four-part structure, with each episode adhering strictly to the twenty-five minute format established by the television series. This is where
the adherence to tradition begins and ends.
Rob Shearman’s script is not supported by great swathes of incidental music, the vocal diversity of guest stars, or even obligatory cliffhangers. It is reliant entirely upon words and their presentation; upon the peerless performances of Paul McGann and India Fisher.
Each of the four episodes are preceded by a stirring piece of narration from McGann, in which he relays an intriguing parable about a King who outlawed music, the significance of which becomes more apparent with each passing episode. There is something enchanting and otherworldly about this recital; I couldn’t think of a more appropriate opening to a series set in another universe entirely.
The substantive content of the episodes see Shearman bring the delicate Doctor / Charley love angle to a gratifying close without ever coming close to crossing the line. I’m sure that some will argue that the merging of their bodies in the final episode certainly crosses the line, but I’d rather appreciate the delicious irony of it.
“I don’t want your love Charley, I have no use for it.”
I love how Shearman portrays both characters here; particularly the Doctor, who has a real coldness to him. He has obviously had little or no experience of human relationships or love, and it clearly shows. As far as he is concerned, his love for Charley killed him, and now her love for him has killed her.
Right from the start of the play, the
Doctor berates Charley for stowing
away aboard the ship and under-
mining the sacrifices that he made
for her. He then nosedives into a
tirade of belittlement, dismissing
her as “memento mori” and even a
“fashion accessory”, before events
force his hand and have him admit
to what we all knew he felt; what his
But the Doctor’s alienation isn’t limited to the progression of his relationship with Charley. Cut off from positive time, he is vulnerable and frightened – more frightened then he’s ever been in his lives – and watching his TARDIS disintegrate leaves him in utter despair. He’d probably have gone down withhis ship were it not for Charley’s unexpected presence, but now he has to stay alive to look out for her, or else his sacrifice would have been in vein.
Scherzo also explores what Charley has sacrificed to remain at the Doctor’s side - a normal life, even motherhood. There’s something really quite poignant about not even realising that you want to have children until you are trapped in an alien universe, your existence being fed upon by your own begotten ‘sound monster’ offspring.
Shearman also portrays the alienness of the divergent universe incredibly well - for example, he has the Doctor remark how astronomical the odds are that they’re on a planet which has oxygen, before having the Doctor and Charley meander through the story almost completely blind, the rest of their senses gradually falling away from them as the narrative progresses. Indeed, despair and isolation are what maketh the play as both characters are cut off from everything that they have ever known forever. As depicted by Steve Johnson’s touching (but ironic) cover art, all the Doctor and Charley have now is each other. They are alone in a new universe, trapped on one planet, locked into events as they pass.
In summary then, Scherzo is a fascinating experiment - one that I feel has really paid off. The premise is excellent; the actors are sparkling; and I can only hope that Big Finish are able to maintain this remarkable new direction and keep it fresh without straying too far from what makes Who Who.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.