Blurb: “Tell me another story, Leela. Not the one about the walking doll or the creepy mechanical men. A new one. I want to hear a new one…”
Leela is dead but her soul lives on. She has been reborn as a young girl, Emily, whose ‘imaginary friend’ tells her amazing tales about a great Wizard and the warrior who accompanies him on his adventures through time and space.
Emily prepares to tell her parents the story of a cold, grey world whose people are ruled over by a Glass Angel. The Wizard is her prisoner and only the warrior girl and her three peculiar friends can save him…
Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Leela. Published by Big Finish Productions and released December of 2012.
Setting: The Map of Life on an unknown world at an unknown time. The story is narrated by Emily somewhere in England on the planet Earth sometime in the Edwardian era (1901-1914).
Continuity: This story takes place between The Robots of Death and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Leela's lack of knowledge would seem to indicate a very early point in her travels with the Doctor, so this likely takes place soon after The Robots of Death. Leela mentions the Tesh as well as the face of Xoanon that was carved into Mount Kremnon (see The Face of Evil). The Doctor mentions the helmic regulator (see The Ark in Space). Emily asks not to hear Leela's stories about the walking doll (see The Talons of Weng-Chiang) or the creepy mechanical men (see The Robots of Death).
Canonicity Quotient: The story is deliberately told as a fairy tale from the point of view of a young child. Everything in here can be taken with a grain of salt, although most of what is mentioned seems like it would fit in a Doctor Who tale, only different terms would be used to describe it. Certain embellishments clearly made by Emily such as the fact that the robots each had fourteen smaller men inside of them to run each of the joints and stoke the fires inside to keep them moving can definitely be thrown out.0.75
Discussion: Although Nigel Fairs wrapped up his Leela trilogy with The Time Vampire he decided to plot out a new trilogy for the character. This time he planned out the entire arc from the ground up and The Child is the first installment in this new trilogy. Fairs said that he wanted to do a trilogy where each installment tells a Doctor Who tale in a completely different way than has ever been done before. This coincides with the life of Emily, the reincarnation of Leela and the various points in her life. This first story is told by Emily as a young girl, so it is told as a fairy tale.
After the confusing mess that was The Time Vampire, this is a welcome step in the right direction. There are a few issues though. There was a lot of speculation in the fan community about what the end of the Time Vampire meant. One person suggested that Leela became the Time Vampire and took herself as a host so that she lives across all moments of her life at once. If that's the case then why is Leela now reincarnated as Emily? It's clear that Emily is a reincarnation, since she talks about needing to "remember" the various events in the story and the Leela voice in her head is just there to remind her. This calls back to the statement in the Time Vampire that a baby is born remembering everything from its previous life and only forgets about that as it gets older. The problem is how does this connect to how the Time Vampire ends? Emily clearly isn't a time vampire. The other issue is that once again Fairs gets wrapped so much in the stylization of writing a Doctor Who story as a fairy tale that he forgets that this needs to be an interesting story in its own right. I was more interested in "Leela" interacting with Emily than I was with the fairy tale and while parts of it were amusing there was really nothing to it. Leela simply needs to get to where the Doctor and the glass woman are and then they chat with her and suddenly she changes and everything is wonderful. *yawn* There's a reason why I didn't like stories for children even when I was a child.
That isn't to say that there aren't some great moments. I really do like the Doctor and Leela's relationship in this. His ways of mentoring her while being mysterious are brought out by the scene in the beginning where he tells her that the secret of creation is in the snow. I also love the bit where she's so happy that he praised her art and he tells her to shush because he'd been making a point rather than being sincere. I think that Fairs missed a beat by not working the number 42 in somewhere as the ultimate answer, but I did like the idea of what the Doctor was trying to show Leela. I also thought that the various projections that the Doctor made of his previous incarnations were fun and I liked the references to The Three Doctors. While the performances aren't spot on they didn't really have to be. The Doctor was just making the projections, so they didn't have to emulate the previous Doctors exactly. I also really liked the stuff where Leela talks with Emily. It makes one wonder how an Edwardian girl would perceive Leela and the life that she leads versus their own life.
Louise Jameson as always is wonderful as Leela. This time she gets to play not only her own Doctor but a projection of the first. Neither one is really perfect but they're both fairly good this time around. Special praise ought to be reserved for Anna Hawkes who plays Emily, the glass woman, and even an incarnation of the third Doctor. She showed a really versatile vocal range in this and I thought that all of her performances were distinct and very well realized. Fairs himself rounds out the cast by playing an incarnation of the second Doctor. It's actually really good and I think that if Fraser Hines ever can't do a Patrick Troughton story that he'd be a fair stand-in. The music and soundscape as always in a Fairs production was amazingly good. There's a riff on the Doctor's theme, there's majestic grand sweeps of music, and there's the childish and light music of a fairy tale. There's a little bit of the baby rattle, which is one of those sounds that I really don't care for but for the most part the music and soundscape are impressively done and it's a real pleasure to listen to.
Final Rating: 6/10
Recommendation: In another exercise of style over substance, Fairs gives you a fairy tale that seems to be part of a greater story, but it forgets that it should also be able to stand on its own. The Child feels very inconsequential and only holds interest because it's clearly trying to set up something bigger. This time at least the story makes sense. If you've listened to The Time Vampire your head may hurt trying to make this fit as the story of Leela does an about-face. Still, you can listen to this without ever hearing a previous Doctor Who adventure and you may be better off for it. I do recommend listening to it.