blogger_who (blogger_who) wrote,

Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles 8.3 - Upstairs

Rewritten from material that I originally posted 10/5/13 on another forum.

Blurb: When the TARDIS lands in a dilapidated attic, the Doctor, Vicki and Steven discover they are on Earth, in London… in Number 10 Downing Street.

However alien forces are at play here, affecting the very fabric of the building… and adjusting the very essence of history itself.

Format: Limited-cast audio drama, a Companion Chronicle from the point-of-view of Vicki. Published by Big Finish Productions and released September of 2013.

Setting: Earth: London, England, 1900. No time-frame is given for when Vicki is narrating this story.

Continuity: This story takes place between The Time Meddler and Galaxy Four. The Doctor mentions that the TARDIS can't always arrive a fun fair (see Frostfire), which would seem to place this story sometime after the events of Frostfire and by extension The Suffering. There is no indication of when this story occurs with respect to other stories set within this gap.

Canonicity Quotient: It makes no sense that no one in this story references the Chase as the issue of fungal creatures with intelligence comes into play in this story. However, that's not necessarily a continuity issue as one could say that some sort of memory issue occurred. Still I feel that it should be docked some points as a consequence. 0.98

Discussion: Having thoroughly enjoyed The Suffering I was really looking forward to a continuation of the Vicki/Steven pairing in the Companion Chronicles. That story had not only been exceptionally good but had also recreated the dynamic between their two characters, which I completely enjoyed. I hope that Upstairs would be yet another story in that proud tradition. The story starts off very well. I like how the mystery is laid out throughout the first episode. It was a real call back to the days when Doctor Who was about exploration and discovery. I really liked the atmosphere that this story evoked. They're trapped yet they seem to be moving forever. They see a combination of old things and a strange, monstrous growth. The tension mounts as the exploring continues. It's a wonderful way of sucking the listener into the story and i felt that it was really well done.

As always, Peter Purves delighted as Steven. The man has been blessed with a voice that hasn't changed much in the past 50 years so it's so easy for him to recreate Steven. I laughed out loud when he started rattling off improbably remembered facts about 10 Downing Street only to reveal that he'd found a book on the history of the property and had been reading it. I can just imagine a scene like that being played out on TV. Maureen O'Brien recreates Vicki effortlessly yet again. I feel like this was another story where Vicki was somewhat underutilized until the end when she comes up with the mad plan to convince everyone that she and Steven are a Lord and Lady and that the Doctor is an Archbishop. Otherwise she's really just a narrator who reads all the parts. She does do a fantastic part reading for the maids though and even does a passable job on the male servant. It was a good enough performance to have me forget that she was doing the other roles for a while so that deserves some praise.

I really appreciated the sound design on this one. The fungus sounds like it was created with the 60's technology and the whole piece just allows you to imagine this in black and white being broadcast into your living room.

On the other hand, the whole story falls apart in Episode 2. To much time was spent on having an authentic Hartnellian Episode 1 that we have only one more episode for a resolution, which isn't enough. First of all, we have the Doctor insisting that there's no way for a fungus to have a motivating force. Yet this story is clearly Post-Chase where we just came from a world where the fungus had at least an animal's level of intelligence. While the first Doctor was often wrong in these days, it seems odd for him to have forgotten an adventure so recent in his history and even stranger that Stephen, Mr-Bring-up-Mechanus-Any-Chance-I-Get, wouldn't have mentioned the fungoids. This is just another one of those examples where I feel like someone familiar with the show should be reviewing these scripts ahead of time to make sure that there's some consistency on points like this.

To much is made of the idea that these clearly insane servants are just so ingrained with respect for the nobility that they could never kill one. Seriously? A butler never killed his master? Ever? How about one who was clearly deranged and killing them by proxy anyway? My suspension of disbelief was strained to the breaking point here.

Then our resolution made no sense. So the Doctor spreads his new super fungus in the building. Ok, and that vies for space with the time fungus and the time fungus doesn't extend into those points of the future where the other fungus holds sway. I'm with you there. Unfortunately this is a fungus that spreads through time AND space. We know it spreads through space because the servants direct it to certain rooms. It can also spread BACKWARDS in time. So the Doctor hasn't taken care of anything. It could spread to other buildings in the times where it does exist or could extend further and further back in time investing the site prior to the building being there in the first place. So while I realize that the first Doctor was the type to leave a dangerous situation if he could get back to the Ship, the resolution really doesn't work and I am left with a very unsatisfied feeling at the end of the story.

Despite Maureen O'Brien's excellent recreation of Vicki and her good performances as the other characters, her first Doctor was dreadful even worse then she'd done him on prior Companion Chronicles. I'm not sure why that was but I'll be happy that on the Early Adventures that she's in either William Russell or Peter Purves will be voicing the Doctor in the ones that she's doing.

Was I the only one that thought that another "haunted house" style story with Steven was a bit much? I mean the second episodes of this and Home Truths were nothing alike but it did seem like it was just a little to close to what we'd seen before.

Final Rating: 5/10

Recommendation:: It's an interesting feeling reeling from an authentically 60's atmospheric first episode and veering strongly into a second episode that's riddled with so many ridiculous plot holes that it'll make you turn off your CD player in disgust. I gave it a median rating just because the story is so uneven. I'd definitely suggest that anyone other than completists skip this one.
Tags: audio drama, chase, companion chronicles, doctor who, first doctor, frostfire, galaxy four, mat coward, maureen o'brien, peter purves, season 2b, steven taylor, suffering, time meddler, upstairs, vicki pallister

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