THESE THREE EPISODES
OF THIS STORY TAKE
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMA "THE GAME"
AND THE COMIC STRIP
PAUL CORNELL &
BIG FINISH CD#91
RELEASED IN JANUARY
Summer to winter, the
In the springtime of a
distant future, the
Doctor and Nyssa
become embroiled in
Time Lord politics on
an alien world.
During the stifling
heat of a summer
past they suffer the
vengeful wrath of
Isaac Newton. In the
recent past, Nyssa
spends a romantic
golden autumn in an
English village while
the Doctor plays
cricket. And finally,
many years after
together have ended,
the two friends meet
again in the
Four seasons. Four
Now close the door
behind you, you're
letting the cold in...
1. SPRING 2. SUMMER 3. AUTUMN
“Circular Time” – Big Finish’s ninety-first monthly release – is perhaps one of the most remarkable and diverse plays of the entire range. Co-written by Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox, this play is divided into four distinctive episodes. In his author’s note, Cornell says that each instalment represents a different sort of Doctor Who story: “alien planet, pure historical, social realism and shameless fan service.” And that is exactly what the listener is treated to – a crash course in Doctor Who. The best of Doctor Who, I dare say.
Long ago in an English autumn…
“Something is added to cricket by the angle of the sun as it stands at four o’clock in early September. The shadows are longer; there is a suggestion of colder days approaching,
of circular time, of aspects of our lives dying away, and returning…”
Even the order in which the episodes are presented interested me. Arguably each is better than the last, but I think that this is because as the play progresses it moves more away from traditional Doctor Who and delves deeper into the characters of both the Doctor and Nyssa. In fact, the second CD (the “Autumn” and “Winter” episodes) could have been lifted straight out of the Virgin era – a period of Doctor Who that Cornell makes no secret of being his most beloved. For example, the “Autumn” episode is devoid of any science-fiction trappings of any kind. It is simply a heart-warming tale about the Doctor helping a small village cricket team avoid relegation, and about Nyssa falling in love for the first time. It is delightfully written and quintessentially English; some of Peter Davison’s narration is sheer poetry! Absolutely beautiful stuff.
Long ago in an English spring…
“…the other sort of time in called linear time; modern time.
Life is hard, and then one dies. If that is something one is liable to do…”
Now although I have begun by raving about the “Autumn” and “Winter” episodes, I hope I have not given the impression that the first CD’s episodes should be ignored. On the contrary, they are both outstanding Doctor Who stories..
The first episode (the “alien planet” episode) is another fine example of a well-crafted, thought-provoking slice of Doctor Who. Like a good short story, it throws the listener straight into the thick of things, before sending them off in one direction and then getting them with a lovely twist at the end. It is also a very imaginative episode - whilst the idea of avian-descended species is not a new idea in the world of Big Finish, the writers have clearly put
a lot of thought into the mechanics of how such a species would function. I was fascinated by the whole ‘birdsong’ element and how it links in with the TARDIS translating things for its operators. How could the Doctor, Nyssa and Cardinal Zero make birdsong without the necessary parts of the avian anatomy? It is clever stuff. And on a personal note, as someone who by day works in the legal profession and wrote his undergraduate dissertation on jurisprudence, I also found the main ‘justice’ plot very compelling.
Long ago in an English summer…
“Summer” is another intelligent, pensive episode. It is also very amusing too, in a dark League of Gentlemen sort of way. I am no big historian (unlike Cornell’s good lady wife)
and so I have no idea whether or not Sir Isaac Newton was actually an Arianist extremist and a cruel torturer, but – especially with perennial baddie David Warner in the role – it comes across as damn believable in the context of the episode. Davison and Warner really spark
off each other marvellously in their scenes together, really making the most of some fantastic dialogue and meaty subject matter.
And so on the face of it, the four stand-alone episodes are not linked other than in the most tenuous, fannish ways. Thematically, however, all four episodes of “Circular Time” mark a very rich and a very vibrant exploration of the relationship between the Doctor and Nyssa; even, I dare say, an exploration of the fifth Doctor’s human nature.
“I’ll say to people that I know he’s still alive. Somewhere out there.
I’ll know he’s still travelling.
I’ll know that he’s still having adventures.
I’ll know he always will be.”
In short, “Circular Time” is a stunning success for Cornell and Maddox, as well as for Davison and Sutton. It celebrates all that was, all that is, and all that forever will be brilliant about the Doctor.
And a love, for all seasons.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
The first three episodes of this release (those entitled Spring, Summer and Autumn) take place between the audio drama The Game and the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips set in Stockbridge. The Winter episode takes place much later, during the final moments of the fifth Doctor’s life.
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