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5.0 out of 5 stars Doctor Who and the Vardans, 18 Dec 2011
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Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Wave (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles) (Audio CD)
Latest Doctor Who companion chronicle. These are talking books which see an actor who played a companion to the Doctor on tv return to their role to read an all new story for their character.

They do all the voices save one which is performed by a guest actor.

And they usually run for two episodes, complete on one disc, of thirty minutes each [approx].

Here, Peter Purves returns once again to the role of Steven Taylor. Who he played on tv opposite William Hartnell's Doctor back in the 1960's. This is the third of a trilogy for Steven and the First Doctor which sees them with another companion. 1960's London city trader Oliver Harper. The first two stories in the trilogy were The Perpetual Bond (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles) and The Cold Equations (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles).

The second ended with the Doctor having found photos of him and his companions in the criminal records of another planet. A place they'd not yet been to. So at the start of this story, they are heading there. To make sure history happens as it should.

Whilst there's enough exposition in this one to bring those who didn't hear the previous two parts of the trilogy up to speed quite quickly, I would still recommend you hear them first. As the development of Oliver as a character over the course of the trilogy does make this one stronger if you've heard all of it.

On reaching the planet, a mining facility out in the Kuiper belt on the very edge of the solar system, they find the crew of place dead. And aliens. The Vardans. Who are composed of pure energy and can travel at the speed of thought. But with the Doctor seemingly killed, Steven and Oliver have a fight on their hands to survive.

Is it, as Steven thinks, possibly their time? Or should they, as Oliver thinks, fight to the last?

The Vardans were first seen in the tv story Doctor Who - The Invasion Of Time [DVD]. And are not the most highly regarded of the Doctor's foes, possibly down to their realisation as men in suits. But an enemy who is pure energy and who can travel at the speed of thought is a threatening notion. The script here does work with that and makes them a very convincing creation. It also addresses the fact of why beings of energy would need spaceships.

Just like the Cold Equations this has a setting that draws on the writer's knowledge of astronomy and makes some of the description of it quite fascinating. Oliver as a character shows a great sense of wonder which Steven has long since moved past. And is also very brave and determined to keep on fighting when Steven gets fatalistic. This makes him a likeable character and the two of them a good pairing.

Peter Purves does a superb take on William Hartnell's voice and that makes these a delight to listen to. It also gives him stronger material than he often got back in the day on the tv show. It remembers that his character, being a spaceship pilot, would have to be very smart.

There is a non linear structure to some of this, as it begins with Steven and Oliver escaping the Vardans and then flashes back to before their arrival on the planet. But it's very easy to follow.

The end of part two is the end of this trilogy, and thus it's the end of Oliver's story. It does feel a little disappointing that his story has to end and some of what happens does feel a bit familiar. But it's still pretty memorable.

So whist that does take the overall mark down ever so slightly this is still a superb release, and the whole trilogy is well worth a listen and is highly recommended.

There's a trailer for the next release in this range after the end of part two.

And eight minutes or so of entertaining chat with cast and crew after that.
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The First Wave (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles)
The First Wave (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles) by Simon Guerrier (Audio CD - 30 Nov 2011)
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