Blurb: Many years ago, when she was traveling with the Doctor, Jo Grant visited Zayin Eight. Now, suddenly and inexplicably, she is back on that ravaged planet, and reunited with a human named Newton Calder.
What happened to the missing members of Calder's team? What is the secret of the ruined city? The answers lie in the dark and distant past of the Time Lords themselves.
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jo Grant. Published by Big Finish Productions and released as part of the The Specials box set.
Setting: The planet Zayin Eight, time unknown. Lance Parkin's AHistory gives it a date of 2309. There doesn't seem to be much of reason for this particular date although this is probably the earliest likely time for it. Jo is "hundreds" rather than thousands of years in the future so any year from about that point to the end of the third millenium is possible.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters. Jo says that she and the Doctor did eventually get back to Earth after other adventures meaning that this is after The Three Doctors. Before that time the Time Lords set the TARDIS to always return to Earth after any time when the Doctor left. Jo refers to it as a "trial run", which makes sense if this is the first trip after the Doctor has installed the new dematerialization circuit. The Doctor also doesn't mention Metebelis 3, which is a recurring theme from Carnival of Monsters onwards, so it makes sense to put this story in that gap. Jo relates that this story happens some time after the incident with Mrs Killibrew (see The Doll of Death). Jo references the guerrillas from the 22nd century who tried to change history (see Day of the Daleks).
Canonicity Quotient: Although it's possible to reconcile the two Jo's reference to Mrs Killibrew does seem strange because that adventure happened long before The Three Doctors. The real reason that she references it is because this story was recorded directly after that one. Either way, we have to chalk it up to a faulty memory on the part of the older Jo. Otherwise this story fits with established continuity just fine. 0.99
Discussion: The Mists of Time is one of the stories that doesn't get comments a lot online. It was first offered as a free "extra" to people who had subscriptions to Doctor Who Magazine. Later, Big Finish did make it part of a Companion Chronicles Specials boxed set. I was intrigued by this story because it was written by Jonathan Morris. Morris had already impressed me with his novel, Festival of Death, and I really looked forward to listening to a Companion Chronicle penned by him.
Morris does such an excellent job of capturing the Pertwee era. It feels like the future that Barry Letts and Terrence Dicks were trying to create. We get the ruined planet that could be realized in the rock quarry. We get the futuristic archaeological organization with a handy acronym. We get the alien super science. We get references to yet another secret of the Time Lords. I love the Pertwee era so throwing in all of these things that I can so easily imagine as being part of the era just really endears this story to me.
The concept behind this one is great as well. Morris is always great on stories that really involve the mechanics of temporal manipulation. While time travel is no involved here per se there is a form of temporal manipulation that is utilized to great effect. It's a solution that I wouldn't have guessed until Calder told Jo to hold back the revelation from her story. I also like the idea of what the device on the planet is for and what the effect is since it isn't working properly. Morris utilizes the length to good effect as well and unlike many companion chronicles it doesn't feel like the story has a great setup and is then let down by resolving it to quickly. He builds the mystery but also gives us a limited cast of suspects so there's plenty of time to develop the situation in the time allotted. I won't go so far as to say that this one is perfect. There are some things that I think make no sense or don't work well. For instance, we're told that none of the apparitions on this world keep their memories when they're summoned again Anjette remembers Jo every time that she sees her. While I know that the Time Lords keep time travel away from other species this sort of wholesale destruction seems crazy and wasteful. Surely a more surgical strike on the researchers who came up with time travel would make more sense perhaps even killing them before they were born. Why bother waging a war? Even if they felt the need to the destroy the planet why not destroy the species in a pretechnological age? The whole thing seems a bit forced just so that we could get the imagery of all these soldiers marching off to death. Also it seems strange that Jo doesn't remark on Benton and the Brigadier looking older when she summons their apparitions. They should look as they did when they died. While it's not a contradiction per se one would assume that it would be a striking enough detail that she'd mention it.
The sound design on this is great. The effects are wonderfully reminiscent of the Pertwee era. The music is hauntingly beautiful. The whole peace is just superbly done. Katy Manning as always is brilliant and shows such remarkable vocal talent. She does have a bit of a problem in these early ones with making Jo sound 10 instead of 20 because she pitches just a little to high and talks just a little to "cutesy" but I know from the later ones that she eventually gets it right. Andrew Whipp is also good as Calder. He gives the part a sort of fatalistic edge. It's to bad that he's so underused in this, since Jo says most of his lines when he could have easily piped up for his part but he's certainly a fine part of the ensemble.
Final Rating: 9/10
Recommendation: A clear knock out of the park hit, The Mists of Time will send you back in time and make you feel like your listening to a Pertwee TV story that you never saw. While being wonderfully reminiscent of the era it never feels stale and Jonathan Morris is able to give a fresh take on a standard "murder mystery" story while infusing it with interesting layers about the Time Lords' past and some hard sci-fi concepts. I definitely recommend this one.