November 24th, 2013

Holy Crap

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 6.11 - The Jigsaw War

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 6/30/13 on another forum.

Blurb: A cell. Four walls, one door. Jamie McCrimmon can escape, but it means unraveling a puzzle of extraordinary complexity.

And there are more than just two players in this game. The Doctor is there. So is his opponent Side.

As a hero turns killer, and a rebellion becomes anarchy, the lines between good and evil are blurred. And so does the distinction between cause and effect…

Format: Full-cast audio drama. Published by Big Finish Productions and released May 2012.

Setting: The Unheld System, time unknown. Humans have been in this system for 89 years but the start date is never indicated.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Krotons and Seeds of Death. Although the exact placement is not certain, this is a companion Chronicle where Jamie is having to use his own wit an ingenuity to solve problems more complex then he had to face on TV. Since the Glorious Revolution's timing is certain, I decided to place this in the next gap previous to show Jamie's maturation through the second half of season 6. Side mentions that Jamie was fighting in the Battle of Culloden when the Doctor first met him (see The Highlanders).

Canonicity Quotient: This is another rare case of a story that has no issues with established continuity, so it achieves a score of unity. 1.00

Discussion: I just finished listening to the Jigsaw War and I have to say that it is an excellent story. For once I don't have a very long statement to make about the story. It was very minimalist and took advantage of the fact that Companion Chronicles tend to be very short stories with only two actors. Instead of masquerading as a full-length, full-cast audio this story said "let's make it just about the companion." The Time Museum would later do the same thing and I'm very impressed with both works. This story is all about Jamie's psychology. Why does he do what he does? Could he be dissuaded from believing in the Doctor? At the end of the day we learn about Jamie and how he's grown up with the Doctor. Other commentators have stated that the story isn't very interesting if you take the gimmick part out of it. I'd agree that if we'd just had a standard "The Doctor comes in and helps out the oppressed natives" tale that it probably would be pretty boring but that's the point. This story gives us the little snippet that is interesting and that is really what the companion chronicles are for - teaching us about the companions.

Beyond the writing I could gush over the performances of course. As always Fraser does a remarkable Troughton and the excuse for bringing him into a 2-hander is very well done. Dominic Mafham also does a good job as both Moran and Side. He has to play a lot of different emotions for the different states of Moran from arrogant soldier, to scared soldier, to haggard prisoner. Then he also has to play Side and play them all differently. He pulls this off well and even with the jumping around in the story and keeps the performances where they should be.

Sure I have some nits, I always do. Even though the story was just about Jamie in the cell I would have liked a little more resolution in the story at the end. To me this is the one thing that dropped it from 10/10 to 9/10. My other little nit is that I wanted this to be far more complex. When I read David Richardson's writeup in the CD case I had assumed that this was going to be a very complex story that we'd have to listen to multiple times. Yet, it was always very obvious where each of the timezones fit into the sequence and if we weren't following it then Jamie was always there to tell us where it fit in by actually numbering the sequences each time he time jumped. I have a hard time docking the story points though for an assumption that I had but I just wish that the puzzle had been more difficult and some of the order was misleading so that potentially Jamie or we might have put them together in the wrong order. This just took any kind of challenge implied and completely threw it out the window. It was nice though to see that the sequence wasn't the real test so at least the story addressed why it was all way to simple.

Final Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: A companion chronicle that's really just a play between the companion and another character. Two-handers sometimes work and work well and a claustrophobic little tale like this one is just perfect for that. This is a story that really gets us into Jamie's head and shows us that he isn't the idiot that the series sometimes takes him for and gives us an interesting villain in Side. With some fantastic performances this story really stands out against the rest of the pack. This one is highly recommended.
Jamie Grr

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 4.02 - The Glorious Revolution

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 8/9/13 on another forum.

Blurb: After years as a companion to the Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon was returned to his own world and his own time, and his memories of his travels were erased. Until now.

A visitor from beyond the stars needs to explore Jamie’s past, and discover what went wrong. What happened in the year 1688, when the TARDIS landed in London, and the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe were welcomed into the court of King James II.

It was the year of the Glorious Revolution. And the birth of a whole new history…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jamie McCrimmon. Published by Big Finish Productions and released August of 2009.

Setting: Earth: London, England, December 10 - December 11, 1688. Jamie narrates this story from somewhere in Scotland in 1786.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Seeds of Death and the Space Pirates. Jamie and Zoe think that the Doctor hasn't taken them anywhere because it's "still raining" meaning that his story happens immediately after Seeds of Death and before any other stories set in this gap. Jamie's visitor refers to the Cybermen and Jamie's trip to the moon (see The Moonbase, Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel in Space, and Invasion). He also refers to his encounters with the Daleks (see Evil of the Daleks and Fear of the Daleks), the macra (see The Macra Terror), and the Krotons (see The Krotons). When Jamie's memories are restored he remembers the Ice Warriors (see The Ice Warriors and The Seeds of Death), Quarks (see The Dominators), and the war games (see The War Games). While arguing with the Doctor about the morality of changing history, Jamie brings up Professor Zaroff, Ramon Salamander, and Tobias Vaughn (see The Underwater Menace, The Enemy of the World, and Invasion respectively). Jamie eventually married Kirsty McLaren (see The Highlanders). Jamie's memories are missing because the Time Lords erased everything except his first adventure with the Doctor (see The War Games).

Canonicity Quotient: The Doctor states that he has never taken Jamie into his own past, but the audio Emperor of Eternity has Jamie in the third century BC. 0.99

Discussion: The next-to-last Troughton story that I listened to was the Glorious Revolution. The praise for this story on the internet was high so I was in high anticipation for my chance to settle down and listen to this story that many had praised as the greatest Jamie story.

I was not disappointed. The Glorious Revolution is Jamie's Aztecs. I feel that the Aztecs is one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. The question of the morality in changing time is so rarely used in classic Who and while it has become more in vogue since the series ended it is really nice to have that theme explored, especially by Jamie. Jamie so often defers to the Doctor and this story gives him a chance to really show Jamie's passion and give him an issue where he may have more specific knowledge than the Doctor did. Showing always that there are two sides to any conflict, Jamie tells the Doctor that just because this time in history was good for the English, doesn't mean that it was for the Irish and Scottish. While Jamie eventually realizes that changing history can in itself have unforseen consequences it's nice for him to be able to break away and show the moral ambiguity of this time. I also like that at the end the Doctor makes sure that Jamie is the one that sets things back on course, taking the paternalistic role with Jamie and having Jamie learn from his mistakes and have Jamie temper his passion by channeling it into a path that will save history and comfort the king.

The sound on this one is excellent. Andrew Fettes does a great job of sounding like two distinct charcters - the CIA agent and King James. As the King he's loud and arrogant and the CIA agent is suitably slimey and deliberate. Hines as always does an excellent job of playing the entire TARDIS cast with his Troughton being a standout performance. Yet I'm also happy that he can recreate young Jamie so easily. It seems effortless. Also, even though I don't normally notice the music and feel that the music is doing its job if I don't notice it, the music in this one was fantastic. I really loved the distorted Doctor Who theme being used to show that time was out of kilter. It just seemed right.

There's also a fair bit of comedy in this story. Hines' reading lends itself to a comedic take with him pausing before delivering the punchline. I also like the reference to it "still raining" placing this story immediately after Seeds of Death. It harkens back to the Season 5 joke where Victoria and Jamie kept accusing the Doctor of taking them up or down the same mountain. There's also the humor of the Doctor and Jamie going in drag although here it makes sense as if carrying the King was heavy for them it would have probably been impossible for Zoe. I also really like the joke that Jamie is always being mistaken for his cousin Hamish, referencing his substitute that appeared in the Mind Robber.

I do have a few small nits. Mainly I strongly dislike the ending. I feel like it was forced and I don't even see the need for this kind of framing sequence. We know at some point the Doctor picked Jamie up again so at the very least he should remember travelling with the old 2nd Doctor. I had always assumed that as part of that his memories were returned to him. Then when this story provided an "out" I'm confused why BF had Jamie make the choice that he did. He's an older man now and wouldn't go gallivanting off across the universe even if he could so it seems that returning his memories would be "safe".

I also agree with others that this story really deserved at least 3 episodes. The resolution in episode 2 happens to quickly. I would have liked to have seen the problem develop more and its this development that drops the story from a 10 to a 9 for me.

On the minor nit side, it was a mistake for them to say that the Doctor has never taken Jamie into his own past. Even when this was made there were novels like The Roundheads that contradicted that but even BF must have realized that they might want to do another Jamie historical at some point and indeed The Emperor of Eternity is set with Victoria and happens before this story. The Doctor's point stands but he should have worded it differently.

Final Rating: 9/10

Recommendation: Fantastic! It's a story that handles the same themes as The Aztecs with the same quality of acting and story but doing it completely differently as the different cast and setting lend itself to a different exploration of these themes. Jamie has rarely been better than this and combined with The Jigsaw War it really creates a reevaluation of his character and how his time with the Doctor expanded his horizons. The scenes where the Doctor and Jamie argue are brilliant and its great that for once Jamie knows more about a situation than the Doctor does. This one is definitely recommended.