Doctor Who
The Gathering

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 195 4
ISBN-10: 1 84435 195 5
Available 25 September 2006

On the morning of 22 September 2006, Tegan woke up. She was expecting to spend the day relaxing at home and, that evening, tolerate a party thrown to celebrate her 46th birthday. But things don't always go as expected. It's been more than twenty years since she chose to leave the Doctor. She's got a job, mates... a life. Meanwhile her friend, Katherine Chambers, has made a decision that could change all of their lives, and Tegan discovers that you can never really escape the past...

The Gathering follows on from Big Finish's previous release, The Reaping, by the same writer, Joseph Lidster, and also ties in with Dan Abnett's Seventh Doctor Cyber-story The Harvest to create a sort of out-of-sequence trilogy. Lidster makes better use of the series' time-travel aspect than most of the television episodes ever did, by making his story a sequel to The Reaping as far as Earth and Katherine Chambers (Jane Perry) are concerned but a prequel from the Doctor's (Peter Davison) point of view. For the Time Lord, the events of The Reaping have not yet occurred.

This drama is also of interest for the return of Janet Fielding as former travelling companion Tegan Jovanka. Fielding had repeatedly turned down the opportunity to reprise her role in Doctor Who, a series that she has not always spoken very highly of, but she finally agreed to appear in "just one" for Big Finish producer Gary Russell. She steps back into Tegan's shoes with ease, an older, wiser, but no less sardonic character than before.

As with The Reaping, the writer treats the companion in a manner that reflects the new television series. Tegan's reunion with the Doctor echoes that of Sarah Jane Smith in the episode School Reunion, with much discussion of how her time on board the TARDIS affected her for the rest of her life - "After I left you, what was I meant to do?" - though the conclusion is that she coped better than that wuss Sarah did.

The character's fate is somewhat at odds with Peter Anghelides' depiction, in his short story "Good Companions" (in the anthology More Short Trips), of an older Tegan who suffered a nervous breakdown and now regards her time with the Doctor as a delusion. Maybe her mental condition is brought about, at least in part, by her physical condition in this tale (though I won't get any more specific than that, otherwise I might spoil it for you).

Other dialogue indicates that Lidster is something of a comedy fan. He throws in several catchphrases from TV and film comedies, including "Get in the back of the van" from Withnail and I. Most of them are subtle and unobtrusive, but having the Australian Tegan utter the words "Kath, look at me" is a bit much! At least she doesn't have to say it to somebody called Kim...

Unfortunately, despite a shorter running time than The Reaping (115 minutes as opposed to a whopping 140), The Gathering isn't as exciting or as moving as its predecessor. Nevertheless, as you may have gathered, it's good to hear from the "mouth on legs" once again after all these years.

Richard McGinlay

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