This is the sixth story in the fifth series of Companion Chronicles, stories told by companions of one or more incarnations of the Doctor, usually with one other supporting cast member.
In this story, Susan, the Doctor’s grand-daughter who travelled with the First Doctor (as played by William Hartnell) is telling the story of when she and her grandfather visited Quinnis, a mysterious planet in the Fourth Universe. She is now an older woman, a widow with a teenage son, and is trying to make some sense of where her life has led her. Reminiscing helps her find her way, and the story she tells us of Quinnis is a ‘coming of age’ story for her, where she finds herself placed in difficult moral and ethical circumstances, and where she fears she may disappoint her beloved grandfather.
I really enjoyed this story. I think the creation of the world of Quinnis was tremendously clever; the world is alien, unique, yet we are able, through the clever writing and heartfelt narrative of Carole Ann Ford as Susan, to ‘view’ this world of bridges, wide plains, a trading society built on traditions and superstitions, and the very alien birds who bring doom. The imagery of the world that we are hearing about was absolutely real to me; I could ‘see’ it all quite clearly.
The tale itself is quite unique as well. Firstly, it is set before the first tv serial An Unearthly Child, and the planet on which the story takes place is referenced in the tv series (in Edge of Destruction, where Susan mentions that they lost the Tardis on Quinnis “four or five journeys ago”). So Susan, in this story, is a young woman who has not yet experienced Earth, nor met Ian and Barbara, nor had all the experiences that go into making her the woman she becomes over the course of her journey in the tv series (and in the Big Finish audio stories after that). She is very protective of her grandfather, and is clearly very dear to him, and this story highlights that relationship strongly. Secondly, because of the timeline that this story takes place in, the Tardis’s chameleon circuit is functional, and it’s funny to hear the shape that it materialises in. Thirdly, the other supporting cast member in this story is Carol Ann Ford’s daughter, Tara-Louise Kaye, who does a fine job as Meedla, an inhabitant of Quinnis. And fourthly, the gift that Susan wants her grandfather to buy for her at the market on Quinnis becomes a problem for her later in the Big Finish audio story Relative Dimensions. All very clever, and I think a great story for any Doctor Who fan to cherish, for many and varied reasons.
on 18 October 2015
The planet Quinnis is suffering a severe draught and the local inhabitants believe the Doctor can end the draught. Susan makes friends with a girl called Meedla – who isn’t what she seems. The Tardis even has a working chameleon circuit and has disguised itself as a market stall. This uses the framing device of Susan writing a letter to David after the events of ‘An Earthly Child’, yet in that story David was dead. I haven’t heard the ‘Relative Dimensions’ story from the Eighth Doctor Adventures yet so maybe I am missing something? The story about Quinnis that Susan is recalling is set before the events of ‘An Unearthly Child’. ‘Quinnis’ was written by Marc Platt, and directed by Lisa Bowerman.
With only two actresses, Meedla is played by Tara-Louise Kaye, this relies heavily on narration; unsurprisingly that limits the range of voices, and Carol just can’t even come close to Hartnell’s voice. Susan mentions the planet Quinnis in ‘The Edge of Destruction’, which is a nice tie-in to the original series. There is some good narration and imagery. This just doesn’t have the impact of something like ‘The Last Post’. While the music makes very little impact on the atmosphere at all. The story is ok but merely ok.