THIS STORY TAKE PLACE
BETWEEN THE TV
JAMIE RECOUNTS THIS
(FOR THE SECOND TIME.)
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES' CD 2.2
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
It's been a long time
since Jamie McCrimmon
about his travels
with the Doctor, but
his visit to Helicon
Prime just won't stay
hidden... but why
The era of the second Doctor will always be just as much the era of Jamie McCrimmon, and so it’s apt that Frazer Hines returns to the role as narrator for this tale. Hines slips back into the role with ease, as Jamie, now living again in eighteenth century Scotland, finds some of his memories returning. In particular, he feels a need to talk about
an adventure on Helicon Prime. With references to piloting the TARDIS and Victoria’s graphology studies, it’s clear that this story is set in the infamous ‘Season 6B’. It’s a place-ment that only recently seems to have become fair game to use, and it works well; however, a decent knowledge of arcane continuity lore is entirely unnecessary to enjoy the story.
As I said, Hines takes on the role of Jamie like he never left, but where he really impresses
is in his impersonation of the second Doctor. His voice, mannerisms and intonations are so perfectly produced; I would genuinely believe it if someone told me that this was a lost play recorded back in the sixties. It’s truly like having Patrick Troughton back! Hopefully, Big Finish will book Hines for many more Companion Chronicles.
Having narrated many of the original series soundtracks, Hines has already displayed his ability for clearly telling a story; however, in character as Jamie, he gets to put a great deal more into the task. The story itself is enjoyable but unremarkable. With its cast of floridly described peculiar aliens, its doesn’t recall much of the Troughton era, but rather gives us a more modern sort of Doctor Who jaunt. The use of an alien setting for a murder mystery is
an interesting way of sparking more interest, but it’s in the characterisation that Jake Elliott’s writing impresses. There are some lovely moments, with the Jamie-Doctor double act nailed perfectly, and we see a sweet side for the Doctor, as he’s star-struck upon meeting singer Mindy Voir.
Suzanne Procter, this release’s guest voice, plays Mindy. Procter makes Mindy into a likeable character, which is no bad thing, as she becomes a major protagonist before long. The concept of a futuristic singer who can manipulate her voice to such a degree that she can sculpt or sign autographs with it is intriguing, and is a clever concept to use on audio. It also sets up some unexpected situations as the plot thickens. It’s not the only good use of sound design, which is strong throughout the story - and we’re even treated to the Doctor on the recorder!
Split into two thirty-minute episodes, the tale feels rather brisk for a Troughton serial, but this isn’t a bad thing as we rapidly reach the tale’s conclusion. Seeming, at first, to have fizzled out rather suddenly, the plot actually comes together satisfyingly in the final moments, with the story continuing beyond the narration and into Jamie’s ‘present’ and immediate experiences. We’re left with a strong and affecting ending, one that leaves me wanting a good deal more from Jamie and his Doctor.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2008
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Approaching this second season of Companion Chronicles some 20 months after
the run ended, the adventure that I was most looking forward to tackling was Jake Elliott’s highly regarded Helicon Prime, which sees much-loved companion Jamie McCrimmon recount a previously untold adventure many years after his travels with the rogue Time Lord ended.
To begin with, I was intrigued as to how Jamie would remember one of his adventures well enough to give any sort of meaningful account of it – after all, didn’t the Time Lords wipe his memories at the end of The War Games? Of course, Zoe suffered the same fate and yet was able to recall some of her suppressed memories from a therapist’s couch (for Fear of the Daleks), but given that Jamie’s memories were apparently restored by Gallifrey’s Cele-stial Intervention Agency in Terrance Dicks’ novel World Game (setting up The Two Doctors etc), this story could have proven very difficult to frame.
However, Elliott has taken the commendable approach of leaving things appropriately woolly. Here the Doctor still avers that Victoria is “studying graphology” (though whether
this is actually the case or not is, of course, debatable), suggesting that the events of Jamie’s story take place shortly after The Two Doctors, during the Doctor’s days at the
CIA’s behest. On the other hand, the Doctor seems to have a relatively free hand here and, more to the point, the ‘future’ Jamie narrating the story is still unable to recall his time with
the Doctor. This suggests that either his memories were not later restored (as Dicks would have us believe), or that they were, only to be wiped again before the Doctor’s sentence
was carried out! This vagueness actually serves the story well – particularly at its climax – and also gives the writer the freedom to write for the Doctor and Jamie without having to worry about squeezing a superfluous companion into the mix.
And at the end of the day, this aspect of Helicon Prime proves to be by far and away its greatest strength as Elliott is able to give us two half-hour episodes of pure, untainted
Doctor and Jamie antics. The writer has done a truly tremendous job of capturing the
bouncy and cheerful energy of the pair, and in places has even been able to infuse his
story with a real sense of melancholy that feels very apt given that it is being told with hindsight (in just about every possible sense). This leaves the listener and - for just a little while - the fictional narrator wistfully longing for a time that will never come again.
Elliott should also be given special credit for his rendering of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. There is a widely-held myth amongst Doctor Who fans that the Doctor’s second incarnation is impossible to capture in print, and whilst it is true that there has been many a botched attempt to nail the character in prose, there have been just as many successful attempts… and this may well be the best of them. Fair dues though; Elliott’s writing does have the overriding advantage of being brought to life by Frazer Hines, who is able to give the
most eerie reproduction of his old friend’s performance. It really is utterly uncanny.
That much said, the murder mystery / treasure hunt plot does come as a little bit of a let
down given just how high the general standards of the production are. Helicon Prime is, nonetheless, an astoundingly colourful and vibrant tale for one which purports to belong the series’ monochrome era; chock-full as it is of men made from glass, fish-people, and even affable little waist-high piranhas wearing bow ties. Purists need not fear though – Helicon Prime does contain at least one ‘token’ character that truthfully evokes that distinct 1960s feel; indeed, from Jamie’s description of him, he sounds suspiciously like an extra with feathers cheaply glued to his head and hands.
This already lively backdrop is then furthered by Helicon Prime’s guest voice, Suzanne Procter, who plays duplicitous singer Mindy Voir – a baddie perfectly suited the audio medium thanks to her unique acoustic abilities.
Ultimately my only real grievance with this two-parter is that its ending was spoiled for me
by a wanton contrivance of the format. Once Jamie finishes telling his story, the last few moments of the production are effectively taking place in his ‘present’, as it were. However, rather than let this pivotal scene play out as two-hand audio drama, Jamie narrates what is happening as it happens to him. It’s disconcerting to say the least, and for me tarnished an otherwise quite stirring climax.
On a final note, I found listening to the CD Extras with the benefit of 22 months’ retrospect quite the serendipitous pleasure. In his interview, Hines speaks of how he really wanted to stay on as Jamie alongside Colin Baker’s Doctor following his appearance in The Two Doctors. And funnily enough, next year…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Terrance Dicks’ 2005 novel World Game crystallised the already-popular theory that following his trial at the end of The War Games, the second Doctor’s sentence was suspended whilst he carried out a number of top secret missions for Gallifrey’s Celestial Intervention Agency. Following World Game, the Doctor was reunited with Jamie – memories duly restored – who would aid him in his missions, including the one depicted in The Two Doctors.
As in this story the second Doctor is able to pilot the TARDIS, and references are made to Victoria being away “studying graphology”, then we take the view that Helicon Prime takes place shortly after The Two Doctors. Presumably this “downtime” is one of the “little privileges” about which the second Doctor spoke
in The Two Doctors.
At some point afterwards, the Time Lords’ sentence was carried out: the Doctor was forcibly regenerated and then exiled to 20th century Earth, and Jamie was returned to his native time and place, his memories of his TARDIS travels erased. It has never been stated whether or not the Doctor remembered his post-War Games employment beyond his enforced regeneration, though this seems unlikely given the sixth Doctor’s ignorance of events demonstrated in The Two Doctors and the agency’s need for the utmost discretion.
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