THIS EPISODE TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
TELOS NOVELLA "THE
EYE OF THE TYGER" AND
THE BIG FINISH AUDIO
"THE FOUR DOCTORS."
BIG FINISH CD#123
RELEASED IN JULY 2009.
Deep in the mines
of Epsilon Minima,
Summerfield is up
to her neck in it - as
usual. The Countess
Venhella has hired
her to recover a lost
Time Lord artefact:
TARDIS key, IT TURNS
For almost ten years, Big Finish Productions have produced Doctor Who audio plays, and for most of this time they have steered clear of using companions and arcs from other publisher’s ranges. Here, however, The Company of Friends sees the eighth Doctor (enjoying his first release in the monthly series since 2007’s Girl Who Never Was) teams
up with four different companions from each of his main ranges for an episode each. We have one who started off in the Virgin New Adventures and who played a pivotal role in Big Finish’s humble beginnings; one from the Doctor Who Magazine comic-strips; some scruffy git from BBC Books’ eighth Doctor adventures; and an author who’s often been mentioned since Storm Warning. That’s right - I mean Bernice Summerfield, Izzy Sinclair, Fitz Kreiner, and Mary Shelley!
The Company of Friends kicks off with Benny’s Story, written by Lance Parkin. Set during Benny’s freelancing days, Parkin’s story sees our favourite Archaeologist being summoned to the mines of Epsilon Minima by a Countess who has hired her to recover a lost Time Lord artefact: a TARDIS key.....
As you might expect, Benny’s Story is full of continuity. The introduction alone mentions the seventh’s Doctor, the Hoothi (from Benny’s debut story, Love and War), and – of course! – the events of The Dying Days.
“...At the end of that, he dropped me off back in my native time zone
and we… erm…. shook hands and said goodbye!”
- Benny on "that scene" in The Dying Days
Paul McGann and Lisa Bowerman are absolutely fantastic together; the pair have a great rapport from start to finish. They are particularly impressive together as they go up against the Countess Venhella (portrayed by Su Douglas), who wants the TARDIS key for her own fiendish gain, and her villainous right-hand man Klarner (Richard Earl). Encore, I say!
All told, Benny’s Story is my favourite episode from The Company of Friends, ranking right up there with another Doctor / Benny audio favourite of mine, The Shadow of the Scourge.
I sincerely hope that we get to hear more eighth Doctor and Benny tales in the future.
Copyright © Kory Stephens 2009
Kory Stephens has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
because of, rather than in spite of, his dramatically curtailed tenure on TV, Paul McGann’s Doctor has enjoyed the longest and certainly the most eventful life of all the Time Lord’s incarnations. Until this release though, Big Finish had focused on carving out their own distinctive series of contained adventures for the eighth Doctor, allowing them to push the character in all manner of interesting directions without having to worry about tying into (or indeed contradicting) ongoing story arcs in the books or comics.
And in fact, save for an odd reference to a ‘Sam’ in Minuet in Hell and a flood of references
to various comic strips and novels in Zagreus (designed to set the audios apart from them, as opposed to tie into them), the eighth Doctor’s Big Finish adventures have been entirely divorced from the character’s larger story. But now, at long last, we have The Company of Friends; a monumental release that not only celebrates the diverse threads of the eighth Doctor’s “most extraordinary and confusing life,” but ties them all together marvellously.
The first episode of the release, quite naturally, features Big Finish’s own Professor Bernice Summerfield, formerly of the Virgin New Adventures’ fame. Noted Doctor Who scribe Lance Parkin (Just War, The Infinity Doctors, The Eyeless) is charged with the task of penning the second of what we learn have been “a few” meetings between the Doctor’s eighth self and the 27th century archaeologist and, though his script lacks the weight usually commensurate with his work, this energetic and lightweight romp entertains throughout.
The inglorious, continuity-laden monologue sets the tone for the illicit feel of the release; this really is fan service taken to a whole new level! Even the contentious ending to Parkin’s own novel The Dying Days is played with mischievously by the author.
“I couldn’t lose a key without it turning into an epic adventure.”
throughout. There is a real spark between them that flows effortlessly
from the pages of The Dying Days, thinned only slightly by the passage of time for both and the fact that Benny is now, by her own admission, “all
grown up”. As the tale progressed and this wonderful combination faced
up to lions, IMC mining robots, time bubbles and even villains with very
strange ideas about TARDISes’ rights, I really didn’t want their advent-ures together to end. And who knows, perhaps they won’t for a while?
Parkin’s ending does provide for a few short trips and side steps on the way back to Brax…
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.
It’s appropriate that the eighth Doctor’s first ‘expanded universe’ companion should open this anthology, as is the choice of Lance Parkin, the author of that original adventure The Dying Days, to write this tale. Benny has been a fixture of the Whoniverse
for many years now, but it’s still a treat to have a real, full-cast adventure with both her and the Doctor – a rare occurrence with any Doctor, and unprecedented with number eight.
Benny is both perfectly written by Parkin and perfectly performed by Lisa Bowerman. Both have many years’ experience in bringing these characters to life. It’s great to hear the older, more mature, more settled Benny thrust into an adventure with her old travelling buddy once more; there’s a genuine feeling here of friends reunited after years apart.
The story itself involves some clever manipulation of time, but remains straightforward and easy to follow. It love the concept of someone campaigning for equal rights for TARDISes, and interesting questions are raised regarding the nature of the relationship between the Time Lords and their craft. There are some lovely moments here; Benny embarrassedly skirting over the nature of her previous farewell with the Doctor, and the Doctor’s almost-defence of the Time Lords, as if he isn’t sure whether he should be backing them or not, stick out for me. This is a fine example of a short, one-episode story structured well, with
just enough incident and amusement to create a fine adventure without overburdening the running time. Great stuff.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2009
Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This episode must take place after the novel The Dying Days as Bernice makes a veiled reference to her controversial farewell scene in that story.
As the Doctor appears to be travelling alone, the Time Lords are still in existence, and the Doctor seems to believe that Time Lords would never enslave their TARDISes, then we take the view that this episode must take place prior the eighth Doctor’s adventures in print, and certainly prior to The Shadows of Avalon.
We have therefore placed it towards the end of the three-year gap referred to in Vampire Science, just prior
to The Four Doctors, which was released later.
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