blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 6.04 - The Many Deaths of Jo Grant

Blurb: When Jo Grant was very young, her grandmother told her that there was a time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry. A time to live and a time to die.

Since meeting the Doctor, Jo has laughed till she thought she might burst. She has also shed a few tears along the way, but has lived more than she ever thought possible.

But now, as a strange spaceship materialises over UNIT HQ and a heavily injured Doctor returns to Earth, it is Jo's time to die. Again, and again, and again…

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Jo Grant. Published by Big Finish Productions and released December of 2011.

Setting: A spaceship of the Xoanthrax Empire just after the end of the Doctor's exile, which I would place around 1974.

Continuity: This story takes place between Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space. The fast return switch is mentioned (see The Edge of Destruction). The Brigadier mentions that the Doctor is no longer exiled to Earth (see The Three Doctors). Susan, Jamie, Zoe, and Liz Shaw are mentioned.

Canonicity Quotient: This story really feels like it could seamlessly fit into the Pertwee era. My only issue is with the assertion that it takes place between Carnival of Monsters and Frontier in Space, which are thematically linked by the quest to find Metebelis 3. That could be solved by changing the placement to between The Three Doctors or Carnival of Monsters and there's no reason in the story why it should be set in the later gap. However, if it's set where the CD case says then I'm giving this a score of 0.99.

Discussion: Someone would be forgiven for thinking that The Many Deaths of Jo Grant is the title for a macabre torture piece of fanfiction. However, I can assure anyone reading this that that isn't the case. It's a Companion Chronicle that tells several different vignettes from the point of view of Jo Grant. She just happens to die at the ending of most of them. The reason for all of this becomes clear at the end of the story, but it does allow us a little window into the character and after all that is what the Companion Chronicles are supposed to be about anyway.

The story is really good. Each vignette plays homage to the Dicks/Letts sensibilities that ran throughout the Pertwee era and you can easily imagine each story unfolding on television. We have the Doctor getting involved in the diplomatic relationship between two worlds (see The Curse of Peladon and Frontier in Space) only wrapped up in a UNIT style adventure romp. We get the Doctor journeying to a colony world that seems to be in ruin only to find that giant worms are sucking all the nutrition out of the soil and eating the colonists (see Colony in Space and Carnival of Monsters) and we have the computer run amok aboard a spaceship (see the Green Death and shakes of The Mutants and Frontier in Space). The whole thing manages to be in the right style without ever becoming a ripoff. There's even an homage to this era's fascination with mind probes (see Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space).

The other really good thing about this story is that the plot develops naturally. Unlike many Companion Chronicles there isn't a single surprise reveal that is usually telegraphed to strongly and is easily guessed. Instead this plot twists naturally and while the listener very quickly realizes that something is up, I doubt that they guess the full scope of the reveal until the end. The recurring elements also help to provide a touchstone between the vignettes. Once you hear Rowe in every story you know that he's a key part of the plot. The spacesuited figure, so reminiscent of the figure from Babylon 5's episode Babylon Squared is a mystery that the listener needs to solve. It ramps up interest in the piece as you're listening to it. I also like how even when things seem wrapped up that they aren't necessarily and the story continues to offer surprises for the listener up until the end, which is a testament to the extreme skill that Scott and Wright place into their scripts. My only real problem with the story is that I find it hard to believe that any advanced alien race would find self sacrifice such an unbelievable concept. We've seen in Doctor Who that more intelligent races than not have the capacity for self sacrifice and frankly I don't see how a race could achieve that level of technical development without having a spirit of cooperation and cooperation by its very nature requires self sacrifice - the idea that benefiting the group is better than benefiting the individual. Yet even this naive mindset is an homage to the same story element in The Daemons so I can hardly fault Scott and Wright to much on using it for a story that's mainly an homage to the Pertwee era.

None of this plot stuff is really what the story is about, though. This is a story about Jo's relationship to the Doctor. Thematically it's very similar to Find and Replace and it surprises me that these two stories were released in successive seasons. Yet, this is a story that I think expresses the depth of feeling that Jo has towards the Doctor and in a way that's far less melodramatic and far more touching than Find and Replace, which really only has one scene that's really about that and surrounded by a lot of nonsense. This story is about nothing other than that and I find it really touching. Jo would always give her life in exchange for the Doctor's and would never think twice about it. There's something so beautiful in the simplicity and sincerity of that statement.

As usually Katy Manning shows just how wonderful of a voice actress that she is. She doesn't have to play to many roles this time but her Doctor and young Jo are excellent as always. Even her Brigadier is acceptable. I still think that she has Jo's voice quiver a bit to much. It's something that Jo did but not all the time but it may be something that she needs to do now to get her voice that high. Yet to me the standing ovation on this one ought to be given to Nicholas Asbury who was absolutely stellar. He plays at least four roles. They're all Rowe but they're all different. He navigates through the dichotomy of that statement with supreme skill and he was excellent to listen to. I also need to compliment Daniel Brett on some fantastic music. The music for the first story when the aliens arrive and even when Jo and the Doctor arrive on the Armageddon ship is some of the most exciting music that I've heard on a CC. It's very good work and the entire sound design on this one just seems to be a cut above the normal quality. You guys did some excellent work this time.

Final Rating: 8/10

Recommendation: Far more of the Pertwee era is packed into each minute of this story then you'd get in three discs of Companion Chronicles. This story is an homage to the entire Pertwee story while also being a touching personal story about how much Jo loves the Doctor. It manages to be accessible without being to simple and thought provoking without being to dense. The main flaw is that at the end of the day this one seems a little inconsequential. Still, it's a great listen and I heartily recommend it.
Tags: audio drama, carnival of monsters, cavan scott, colony in space, companion chronicles, curse of peladon, day of the daleks, doctor who, edge of destruction, find and replace, frontier in space, green death, jo grant, katy manning, many deaths of jo grant, mark wright, mutants, season 10, third doctor

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