The latest “new-Who” release from Big Finish is Lady Christina, the continued adventures of Lady Christina da Souza as played by Michelle Ryan in the TV episode Planet Of The Dead alongside David Tennant’s tenth Doctor. Lady C has already appeared in a Big Finish release, the story Last Chance in the Tenth Doctor Chronicles; in this outing she is the star of four stories all her own. Equipped with her very own flying bus, the world is her oyster, served with the finest chilled champagne.
As a character, Lady C is part Raffles the gentleman thief, part Lara Croft and in these stories also a proxy for the Doctor. This is blended with a dose of John Steed’s Avengers by John Dorney for the opening story To Catch A Thief. The setting is the French Riviera, and a world populated by aristocrats in expensive hotels wining and dining while someone is stealing their jewels. Lady C is suspected of murder, so has to hunt those responsible while avoiding various security services. It’s a fun romp and gives us a sense of the set as a whole – immediate, fun and uncomplicated.
The second story is James Goss’ Skin Deep, adding the character of Sylvia Noble (Jacqueline King) aka Donna’s mother. The story dances around the fact both parties know the Doctor and for a while the meeting between Lady C and Sylvia seems contrived just to set the story up. Of all the stories in the set, this is the one where Lady C is almost ousted by another character in terms of story. There’s lots of observation on both Sylvia and none-so gentle digs at the super-rich and aristocracy. There’s also a chance to meet Lady C’s father, and the plot picks up as we learn why Lady C wanted to meet Sylvia and we get a flavour of how Lady C no longer fit into her own background.
The third story is Tim Dawson’s Portrait Of A Lady, a chance for UNIT to enter in the form of Sam Bishop (Warren Brown). There are many well-conceived characters in this tale of burglary and globe-trotting, none more so than Christopher Ryan’s Sontaran, and under Helen Goldwyn’s direction Ryan extracts more nuance from the Sontaran’s than we are used to – Dan Starkey needs to watch his crown as the Sontaran of choice. Overall it’s a great story though (perhaps) the flying bus is overused and technology (at times) threatens to overshadow character.
Fourth story Death On The Mile suffers most from over-reliance on technology to drive the plot, along with too many random segues and too many characters. Writer Donald McLeary carves a tale amongst the Edinburgh Tattoo, long hidden royal treasures and the Castle, but in places it doesn’t work. Sam Bishop is back, sparring (verbally) with Lady C, and we also have another character from the Big Finish UNIT stories – Jacqui McGee as played by Tracy Wiles. I like Tracy’s portrayal of Jacqui, but her use in this story seemed based entirely on her being from Scotland. She’s underused, and add the Slitheen to the mix (not everyone’s favourite alien) and the story struggles to stay on track.
Criticisms aside, the set entertains, and for those wanting a lighter listen than some of the more intense stories, this is a great set and a second would be more than welcome.