(ISBN 1-84435-484-9)





 Zoe Heriot has Total

 recall. But when it

 comes to the years

 she spent travelling

 in time and space, all

 she can remember is

 that she'S forgotten.


 Years after she was

 returned to the Wheel

 in Space by the Time

 Lords, Zoe meets Ali,

 a young woman who

 claims to have met

 Zoe before, when she

 was with the Doctor

 and Jamie. Suddenly,

 part of the hidden

 past is exposed, as

 memories return of a

 visit to the Whitaker

 Institute in Central

 Australia. Secrets

 are uncovered. And

 the mystery of the

 Achromatics is about

 to be unleashed…



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Echoes of Grey








John Dorney’s Solitaire had one of the warmest receptions of all the Companion Chronicles. Interestingly though, his second Big Finish release was actually his first script, Solitaire having appeared on the shelves early following a scheduling shake-up. In fact, it

had been on the strength of Dorneys Echoes of Grey script that his Solitaire commission came about, and so inevitably, like many listeners, I went into Echoes of Grey harbouring

the highest of hopes for it.


One of the first things to strike me about this production was the tautness of the script, and the elegance of its framing. Since the Companion Chronicles series began back in 2007, bookending devices seem to have become less and less pronounced, and in many cases they’ve been dispensed with altogether. When writing for Zoe Heriot though, one can’t just have her narrate an exciting escapade long after the event because her memories of her TARDIS travels were blocked by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games. In Zoe’s previous Companion Chronicle, the writer unconvincingly fudged his way around the issue, and in the recent audio drama Legend of the Cybermen, he really went to town and tackled the issue head-on. Dorney’s solution is subtler and gentler, a suitable shade of grey for a story best seen through a monochromatic mind’s eye.


The story opens with the ‘old’ Zoe encountering a woman named Ali, who recognises her from a time when she visited Australia with the Doctor and Jamie. As Ali just happens to be an expert in memory-retrieval and what have you, she offers to help Zoe uncover her buried recollections, and thus the stage is set: Wendy Padbury narrates the events of the story in the present tense as they appear before Zoe in her head, whilst Emily Pithon’s Ali interjects with past-tense parenthesis as and when she feels it appropriate.


It’s an appealing set-up, particularly as having Zoe describe events as if they’re happening now lends the production an immediacy that most Companion Chronicles lack. I’m a huge fan of present tense prose at any rate, but it has to be said that Dorney wields it particularly well here, drawing the listener right into the heart of the adventure. What’s more, as Zoe is much brighter than most companions, Dorney doesn’t have to neuter his lexical choices, as he would do were he writing for, say, Jamie McCrimmon. Accordingly the script is chock-full of sharp, almost autistic turns of phrase that say so very much about Zoe and her view of the world, my favourite being “his laugh was like a karate chop” (or words to that effect). So Zoe.


For her part, Wendy Padbury does a wonderful job of resurrecting Zoe once again, as well as the Doctor and companion with whom she served. Her Patrick Troughton impression is much more persuasive than I’d remembered from Fear of the Daleks, and she has a pretty impressive stab at Jamie’s cod Scotch too.


The story itself is gloriously redolent, Dorney’s nimble characterisation having been fused with a textbook Season 6-style plot. Even the name

of the story’s monsters, the Achro-

matics, is somehow evocative of

the time, subconsciously putting the

listener in mind of The Invasion’s

International Electromatics whilst also

pandering to the author’s greyscale theme. Indeed, the titular hue pervades all aspects of this release - even Tony Lamb’s salient cover illustration is a beautifully-scented synthesis

of greys and nearly-blues.


However, with the two episodes so long-lasting that they usurp the CD Extras’ disc space and even threaten to spill over onto two discs, at times I found the story a bit sluggish. Whilst Dorney does a tremendous job of nailing the Season 6 atmosphere, at times the piece feels a little too wordy; a little too measured. What’s more, the nature of the Achromatics, whilst fascinating, has been done at least once before, albeit not quite as well. Dorney’s basically just taken the creature from The X-Files episode The Gift, multiplied it, and then given it a suitably-stylised 1960s science fiction spin.


Yet, even when the listener thinks it’s all over, Echoes of Grey has a final trick up its sleeve; one last twist to really hammer home the author’s conceit that, even in the days of black and white television, villains weren’t always black and good guys didn’t always wear white.


In the end, Echoes of Grey is a thoughtful and reminiscent saunter in one of Doctor Who’s most popular eras. It’s not perfect by any means, and it’s certainly no Solitaire. In fact, as Companion Chronicles go, Echoes of Grey sits comfortably mid-table… in the grey.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 



This story’s blurb places its events between the television serials The Seeds of Death and The Space Pirates. Within this gap, we have placed them after those of the Big Finish audio book The Glorious Revolution, which was released earlier.


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