Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/4/13 on another forum.
Blurb: Time Walkers have descended upon the Earth. This alien race, known as The Vist, has claimed an area of time for itself – any species entering into the immediate future will pay the most terrible forfeit.
The human race is in a state of panic, but one woman knows the truth. Her name is Polly Wright, and she visited that future many years ago, with the Doctor, Jamie and Ben.
She has stepped into the Forbidden Time – and this is her story…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Polly Wright. Published by Big Finish Productions and released March of 2011.
Setting: Earth: London, England, 1976. Polly narrates this story from 2011.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones. There is no indication of when this story is set with respect to other stories set within this same gap in the TV series. The Doctor mentions that his race were the first to discover time travel but later says that at least part of his story was false (see Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible and Falls the Shadow).
Canonicity Quotient: I didn't notice anything in this one that made inserting it into the canon difficult. 1.00
Discussion: This was another impressive story as I continue my foray into the season 4 Companion Chronicles. I really loved hearing Willis and Hines working together. Its a shame that they couldn't divide up the roles and have Hines play the Doctor and Willis play Ben but it makes sense based on the framing device. Yet, having them both in the story really helped to sell the era and it was nice to have a scene between the two of them. It really shows the power of these companion chronicles of what you can get once you get more of the principle characters from an era to play all of the parts.
The framing device was one of the more clever ones. Polly has a press conference to explain to presumably UNIT and/or any other organizations concerned with aliens why the telepathic message that they received is nothing to fear. She does so with some theatricality and in hindsight once she has told the whole tale it seems as if she could have done this much more quickly and saved everyone a lot of time. Still, for those of us who are listeners that doesn't matter. We got to hear Polly's thoughts on the Doctor, Jamie, and Ben and got at least some understanding of what she's been up to. I live for these moments in the CC's and its one of the reasons why I lament that we haven't really gotten a Steven CC yet that talks about his days since the Doctor. It does sadden me that Polly and Ben aren't married but at least they still have a relationship. It does highlight the sad fact that Michael Craze isn't around to do these CC's though which does lead one to be a tad melancholy.
The other interesting part of the framing is Jamie's inclusion by way of some audio recordings that he made during the adventure. It's nice because it allows us to get a perspective on the adventure that we couldn't have gotten from just Polly's narration alone and it also gives us an unreliable perspective. At one point for instance it seems that Jamie is neutralized during one portion of the recording when it stops abruptly during a tense scene but we just found out later that its because the machine only has a very limited recording limit.
The idea of creatures walling off a particular area of time and space as their feeding ground is an interesting one. The fact that they show no surprise when the Doctor rails at them of the injustice of imposing this penalty when most creatures can't control their motion through time shows that they're quite aware of the consequences of their action. Having the cosmic hobo Doctor rail against this seems to be the right choice and I really love the whole conceit here.
The Doctor once again shows the roots of the Dark Doctor that can be seen in several Troughton stories. He gives the creatures every chance to back down but in the end its their own selfishness and greed that proves their undoing as they travel back before the creation of the universe and ostensibly cease to exist. The whole scene is beautiful and Anneke has such a great way of relating the Doctor's mannerisms that it is like watching an old story on television.
The other thing that I thought was brilliant because it's just so human and such a great character point is that Ben picks up a car magazine whenever they arrive somewhere so he feels that he's an expert on every make and model of car to 2164. I still smile as I think about this scene. I can see the comic timing and even the framing that would have been used on TV and the Doctor, Jamie, and Polly all look at Ben when he names the make and model of the 1970's car, which he should know nothing about.
Before I end I definitely want to put some props out to the composer for this one. That piano score was beautiful and brilliant. It so wonderfully echoed the physical description of the shadow world, a drab, melancholy, empty place with such morose music to make it come alive. That was a beautiful job. Well done.
To me the only downsides were as I already stated the press conference seems a bit lame in hindsight since Polly could have wrapped the whole thing up in 5 minutes and explained to everyone that the crisis was averted. The other one is that Ben is taken out of the action so quickly. While I realize that this story starred Polly and Jamie so its important that they had the main points of the action, this kind of highlights to me that having both of them really was surplus to requirements which is why in the end they got rid of Polly and Ben as there usually isn't enough action to keep for 3 male leads busy. That being said, its not a huge gripe and I really did love this story.
Final Rating: 10/10
Recommendation: Few stories do such a good job at evoking their era while presenting you with a story that never would have been done in that era. The Forbidden Time gives you creepy, surreal imagery and the framing device keeps you on your toes throughout the whole thing. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and Anneke brings Ben and the Doctor to life with her narration. Other than a copout of a cliffhanger (like that never happened in the show) there's really nothing bad to say about this one. I definitely recommend it.