The fourth instalment of Big Finish’s Doctor Who 60th anniversary series is Once and Future: Two’s Company.
It’s the wildest combination of characters yet, as the Sixth Doctor encounters Jackie Tyler, Lady Christina and an older Harry Sullivan… but is it a smorgasbord or just a trifle?
Once and Future’s fourth adventure begins with the degenerating Doctor in his third incarnation. Materialising on Streatham High Street, circa 2006, he receives a note directing him towards his former companion Harry Sullivan. The UNIT medic is working on a secret project for another incarnation of the Doctor, or so he thinks. However, Harry is being duped and actually assisting the villain of the piece – the second incarnation of a Time Lord destined to become one of the Doctor’s trickiest foes.
Meanwhile, Jackie Tyler is on the trail of a new job as a cleaner, which leads her to the door of Lady Christina de Souza. The pair get on like a house on fire and Christina’s interest is piqued by a necklace that Jackie has scrumped from Rose’s bedroom. With intriguing properties, it is highly sought after and thus valuable.
Three’s a crowd?
There’s a lot going on in ‘Two’s Company’, perhaps too much, as the Doctor meets Harry and promptly degenerates into his Sixth persona. Harry, despite being a medic, is experimenting with an extraterrestrial element called esoterium, which might also offer the key to the Doctor’s unstable condition.
While the character is well known to Big Finish listeners, this is the youngest we’ve met the Time Lord villain with regenerative dissonance who retains their previous incarnations remain as active personalities in his head, vying for control. Michael Maloney embodies The Two, fearful of what his future holds… we know it’s the kleptomaniac Nine, the unhinged Eleven, the domineering Twelve and more! His scheme, however, felt rather simplistic – although it did throw a pleasing link back to the show’s first episode as the Doctor visits I.M. Foreman’s scrapyard on Totters Lane in Shoreditch.
Colin Baker has fun with the material, although his Doctor is teamed with the unlikeliest of allies. Interestingly, there’s also a suggestion that the Doctor’s clothes are regenerating too. To be fair, there’s onscreen precedence for the former.
As Jackie and Christina, Camille Coduri and Michelle Ryan work surprisingly well and the two characters have an instant rapport. In Rose’s absence Jackie needs someone to nurture, while Christina thrives on some genuine human connection. The Doctor comes to appreciate them both, with a combination of Christina’s acrobatics and Jackie’s pub-learned skills unlocking the puzzle.
However, despite the best efforts of Christopher Naylor, the story gives Harry Sullivan short shrift. While Big Finish have done much to redeem him lately, the depiction here lands more towards the lovable buffoon.
Sandwiched between a Seventh Doctor and Davros rematch, and the Tenth Doctor and Missy, any story was going to have its work cut out. Writer Lisa McMullin provides a lighter comic romp, with entertaining interactions that celebrate the early days of the show’s revival. Interestingly, we’re led to believe that someone matching River Song’s description despatched Jackie in the direction of Lady C. The move feels more like Missy to us, who’s due to show up next.
Thanks to its setting, the story has to conclude with a continuity tidying memory wipe for all concerned. Christina hasn’t met the Doctor yet, so Jackie must lose her high-paying cleaning gig. Such things are necessary, but always leave a sour taste. Another grumble, aimed at the whole series, is that you could again skip this story and lose nothing in relation to the overall plot. Once and Future is over halfway, but the Doctor is no closer to understanding anything about his predicament.
‘Two’s Company’ is enjoyable, if lightweight, fare… and Lady Christina on her motorbike across Central London, with Jackie riding pillion and the Doctor squashed into a sidecar? Surely a missed opportunity for the cover image!
We listened to the Special Edition version of ‘Two’s Company’ with extras featuring contributions from the writer and the cast. Additionally, there’s a ten minute music suite from the story.
Next month: ‘The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50’
Part five of Doctor Who – Once and Future lands in September and promises to be a doozy. ‘The Martian Invasion of Planetoid 50’ pits the Tenth Doctor against Missy, with the Paternoster Gang in the mix too.