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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable debut of a new audio companion, 11 April 2006
This review is from: The Marian Conspiracy (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
"Tracking a nexus point in time, the Doctor meets Dr Evelyn Smythe, a history lecturer whose own history seems to be rapidly vanishing.
"The Doctor must travel back to Tudor times to stabilise the nexus and save Evelyn's life. But there he meets the Queen of England - and must use all his skills of diplomacy to avoid ending up on the headman's block."
Big Finish's second Sixth Doctor audio adventure distances itself somewhat from the TV series, with a brand new companion in Evelyn Smythe and a less cantankerous version of Colin Baker's character. The Marian Conspiracy, written by Jacqueline Rayner, is the Big Finish series' first true Hartnell-style historical, with a bare minimum of sci-fi being used as the premise for the Doctor and Evelyn to get into trouble in Tudor England, here under the rein of the fanatical Catholic Queen Mary (in a sound reading by Anah Ruddin).
Maggie Stables' Evelyn Smythe is completely different from any of the Doctor's previous companions: at fifty-five, Evelyn is a middle-aged busybody whose ability to witter on and willpower is a match for even the Doctor himself. Evelyn is able to cope with anything events throw at her, apart of course from her near encounters with oblivion as her history begins to unravel. She is an entertaining character that could equally become tiresome; I will be interested to see what path Big Finish take with her in future stories.
The story of The Marian Conspiracy is simple but entertaining. An able cast play the supporting characters with no particular standouts but good performances all round. As mentioned, Colin Baker's Doctor has mellowed, but he still has many of the mannerisms familiar from the TV series. The Doctor spends rather a lot of the story attending the Queen, but the interplay between them is well-written as the Doctor attempts to convince her highness to reconsider her hard-line stance on Protestants. Evelyn, meanwhile, a great supporter of Elizabeth I, does a good job of nearly getting her head cut off and then falling in with the Protestant rebels. The rebels themselves are very human characters, and neither side of the theological divide is presented as having bad motives. That honour is reserved for the self-serving Frenchman François de Noailles, played by Barnaby Edwards (who also appeared, with a different accent, in Storm Warning).
Overall, The Marian Conspiracy is a successful attempt at a historical story from Big Finish.
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