Meanwhile, the Main Range has continued the Sixth Doctor’s adventures with new companion Mrs Constance Clark, while the Season 4 crew encounter a family connection for Ben Jackson.
Main Range #205 ‘Planet of the Rani’
Following up on the character’s revival in ‘The Rani Elite’, Siobhan Redmond’s incarnation of the Time Lady has been incarcerated for countless years, fermenting her escape plan.
The trap she lays is a meticulous one, requiring both the presence of the Doctor and the misuse of her fellow inmates as a disposable resource in typically amoral fashion.
Returning home to Miasma Gloria, the planet she once ruled, she accidently brings Constance with her and the pair discover that much has changed in her absence; the power vacuum has been filled by Raj Kahn, one of her forgotten and sleep deprived experiments, who has proclaimed himself Prince.
Redmond continues to shine the part of the Rani as she attempts to reassert control over her old world and writer Marc Platt creates a whole world of backstory for this benighted planet.
For her part, separated from the Doctor, Constance makes her own way and we get to find out little more of her past with references to an African childhood. Miranda Raison continues to sparkle in the role and there is a charming relationship developing between Constance and the Doctor, which benefits both of them.
Among a strong guest cast James Joyce is compelling as the driven Raj Kahn who, despite calling the Rani his mother, dares to dream of a future for his people. His unique army make for a compelling image too, especially when Constance joins their number. Olivia Pullet (The Thick of It) also impresses as Parma, the woman who as sworn to kill the Rani to avenge her people.
With her new lease of life, we look forward to further tussles with the Rani. How about an encounter with the Eighth Doctor next, or perhaps an unholy alliance involving her and Alex MacQueen’s Master during the Time War?
The Early Adventures 2.2 ‘The Forsaken’
With ‘The Forsaken’, writer Justin Richards creates a historical tale for the Second Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright and Jamie. Unlike September’s ‘The Yes Men’, Justin had the advantage of knowing Big Finish had recast Elliot Chapman as Ben Jackson. Not only was the story able to give Ben a sizable role, but also make some of the plot centre on him, or rather a certain Private James Jackson, Ben’s father.
The setting is an island off Singapore, 1942. The Japanese are coming and the few soldiers left are waiting to be evacuated when the TARDIS arrives. As if World War II weren’t a gripping enough situation, there is a menace abroad striking fear into the hearts of everyone on the island.
With a TARDIS crew this large there is plenty of opportunity to mix and match combinations of characters. Add in James Jackson and sundry other soldiers and the action can cover both a fading hotel (the bar doesn’t even do a decent G&T!) and various jungle locations.
Elliot gets a real chance to show what he can do in the role of Ben Jackson (along with voicing some other minor parts) and the story has great pace. It even keeps Jamie busy enough while freeing up Frazer Hines to voice the second Doctor and still allowing the rest of the cast to own sizable parts of the production.
If there is one quibble it is the choice to mix science-fiction into the setting. While it makes a good story, it would be nice to have a wholly historical story once in a while.
Apart from that, this was fantastic fun and this rarely used combination of companions needs further outings.
Short Trips 510 ‘The Way of the Empty Hand’
One of the joys of the Short Trips range of Doctor Who stories is the way they can throw up a real gem. A great example of this is this month’s ‘The Way of the Empty Hand’ by Julian Richards, read by Frazer Hines.
Set on the war-world of Combatia, warriors are taken from every world and fight in the arena for the pleasure of the overlord. Of course Jamie is taken and must fight, or must he? The title gives a clue that sometimes we fight best when we don’t use weapons!
In style this is tongue-in-cheek as the name of the mechanised dirigible planet Combatia might suggest. The ‘warriors in arena’ brings original Star Trek story ‘The Gamesters of Triskelion’ to mind and it has to be said the overlord is more than a little Jabba the Hutt (Zoe even takes an almost Princess Leia part).
The result is pure Doctor Who and Frazer does his usual job of narrating and voicing Jamie and the Doctor. For an encore he also gives most of the other characters voices as well. This is a great advert for a series that has far more hits than misses.
What was your favourite Doctor Who release from Big Finish this month? Let us know below…