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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who City of Spires


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 457 3
Available 30 April 2010

Arriving in a hail of musket fire, the Doctor unexpectedly finds himself in the Highlands of Scotland, where the ruthless Black Donald and his band of rebels are fighting the Redcoats. But the Highland warriors no longer fight for the Jacobite cause, and the English officers answer only to the mysterious Overlord. What has happened to Scotland and why are its moors littered with advanced oil-pumping technology? Reunited with his faithful companion Jamie McCrimmon, the Doctor must venture into the sinister City of Spires to find the answers. But standing in his way is the deadly Red Cap...

The latest in a line of peculiar Doctor / companion combinations from Big Finish sees Colin Baker’s Doctor bumping into James Robert McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), who travelled with the Time Lord during most of his second incarnation. Jamie has previously appeared alongside the Sixth Doctor in The Two Doctors and the comic strip The World Shapers, though he doesn’t recall those events, because the Time Lords erased his memories of his travels in the TARDIS, and because The World Shapers takes place much later in his life. However, the Doctor is surprised to discover that Jamie doesn’t even remember meeting his second incarnation in The Highlanders. Someone or something has been interfering with history, and it appears that its repercussions will play out over the entirety of this latest trilogy...

This story has a few things in common with The Highlanders, most obviously (re)introducing Jamie and featuring a conflict between Highlanders and Redcoats. Jamie himself is a more militant character than we’ve become used to, much as he was when the Doctor first met him, though there is still some fun to be had as the Highlander struggles to comprehend the advanced technology and complicated concepts he encounters. Meanwhile, the Doctor is mistaken for a Frenchman, and adopts a comedy accent to aid his plan of tackling a villain who is motivated by financial gain.

Hines steps straight back into his role, despite the passage of time and the ways in which his character’s circumstances have changed. Georgia Moffett (The Doctor’s Daughter) provides spirited support as the “bonny wee lassie” Alice.

I’m a little disappointed that Jamie doesn’t get his memories back in this story, as I had been expecting him to, though the fact that Wendy Padbury’s Zoe will be returning in a couple of releases’ time offers some hope of restoration. I also find it odd that the Doctor never seems to consider the possibility that the Overlord (John Banks) might not be from another time. He could be supplying petroleum to alien civilisations that have arisen earlier than those of Earth. However, I suppose the fact that the timeline has been altered informs the Doctor that temporal intervention is involved.

Disc One also includes eight minutes of Andy Hardwick’s incidental music, while Disc Two ends with twelve minutes of interviews with the cast and crew.

Numerous plot strands set up in City of Spires are left dangling, to be sewn up in subsequent stories in the trilogy. However, this is still in-Spire-ing stuff.


Richard McGinlay

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