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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles


Author: Marc Platt
Read by: Carole Ann Ford
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 504 4
Available 31 December 2010

Before Totter’s Yard, before Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, before the Chameleon Circuit was broken, the Doctor and Susan travelled alone. The planet Quinnis in the Fourth Universe appears, at first glance, to be an agreeable, exotic refuge for the two travellers. However, the world is experiencing a terrible drought, and the Doctor becomes its unwilling rainmaker. Meanwhile, Susan makes an ally in a young girl called Meedla - but friends are not always what they appear, and the long-awaited rain isn’t necessarily good news...

Stories set before An Unearthly Child are few and far between (the novella Time and Relative being a notable example). Quinnis is the first audio foray into that period, featuring just the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford).

Writer Marc Platt takes a throwaway line from The Edge of Destruction (in which Susan recalls having visited “the planet Quinnis in the Fourth Universe, where we nearly lost the TARDIS four or five journeys ago”) and turns it into a fully-fledged adventure. He creates an intriguing and convincingly alien world, inhabited by killer weeds, nightmarish bird creatures, and humanoids who live upon enormous bridge-like structures.

The television production team of 1963 might have had difficulty bringing Platt’s vision to life, but in other respects Quinnis remains true to the period. Though the TARDIS’s passage into “the Fourth Universe” goes remarkably smoothly, via a gateway that sounds suspiciously like a Charged Vacuum Emboitment of a much later era, it is true that universes were occasionally referred to in the plural tense during the William Hartnell years, right from the very first episode. The return journey is said to be even easier, no doubt due to the Fast Return Switch seen in The Edge of Destruction. The writer shows how the Doctor and Susan nearly lost their ship, and explains why the Time Lord enrolled his granddaughter at a London school upon their next landing.

Carole Ann Ford defies the passage of time to recapture her portrayal of the teenage Susan, though her impersonation of Hartnell’s Doctor sometimes sounds more like Jon Pertwee. We also hear the older Susan, in a brief frame narrative set between An Earthly Child and Relative Dimensions.

The disc concludes with eight minutes of interviews with the cast and crew, including Ford and her daughter Tara-Louise Kaye, who plays the unnerving supporting character Meedla.

Though most of the plot’s surprises are used up during the first half of the story, Quinnis is a fascinating glimpse just beyond the era we know so well.


Richard McGinlay

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