Dental Danger in Doctor Who,
This review is from: The Blue Tooth (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles) (Audio CD)
One of Big Finish's popular Doctor Who audio ranges is The Companion Chronicles, which focuses primarily on the adventures of the first three Doctors, as these Doctors are no longer with us. Rather than full-cast audio dramas, these adventures take the form of a two-person performance, with one of the Doctor's companions narrating an "unseen" adventure with a second supporting character taking part. They tend to be shorter than the Big Finish's full cast audios, with two half hour episodes on one CD.
This release, The Blue Tooth, is narrated by Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw, a UNIT scientist. Unlike other companions of that era, Liz never travelled in the Third Doctor's TARDIS and was almost his equal when it came to science. As such, the two never really ended up with the same close relationship that he eventually came to have with both Jo Grant and Sarah-Jane Smith. This audio drama addresses the decision by Liz to leave both UNIT and the Doctor behind, something that occurred off-screen between the transition of Season 7 and 8.
Faced with the rare opportunity of a few days off, Liz contacts her old university friend, Jean Basemore, for a catch up in Cambridge. However, when Jean doesn't show up for their meeting, it prompts an investigation into her disappearance that brings Liz herself into danger, and reintroduces an old enemy from the Doctor's past: The Cybermen.
Jon Pertwee's Doctor never faced the Cybermen on screen, possibly due to their over-exposure during the Patrick Troughton era. However that misdeed has been rectified in this story, which draws a lot of its plot from the aftermath of the Second Doctor story, The Invasion and finally puts the character of the 3rd Doctor against a Cyberman threat.
This story had a nice slow build-up with Caroline John taking most of the narration duties until the Cybermen themselves appear in the latter half, voiced by Nicholas Briggs (who also voices them in the current series of Doctor Who). John manages to convey the story well, although I found her delivery was a bit quick in places and disorientating, especially when describing action scenes. As the Cyberman are hardly the most vocal of enemies, Nicholas Briggs doesn't feature too much in this audio adventure, making it seem more like a solo story. While Caroline John does attempt to use different voices for the Brigadier and the Doctor, they aren't the most effective; however, it isn't too jarring.
I particularly liked the script which really captured some of the subtleties of both Liz's character and the 3rd Doctor. For example, the description of the Doctor rubbing the back of his neck whilst speaking to Liz was very accurate as it was a common trait of Jon Pertwee's on-screen and it helped me visualise the scene perfectly. Within her narration, Liz comes across as an older and somewhat wiser version of the character she played in the 1970's, aware of her shortcomings as an `academic' with little time for frivolous things.
I loved the fact that the Cybermats are referenced, especially as they've made resurgence in the current series too. The evolution of both the Cybermen and the Cybermats is an interesting concept and even though the changes to their `methods' are contained to just within this audio - it is curious to note that some of the `upgrades' that featured here, such as the smaller insect-like Cybermats, eventually appear in the recent episode, Nightmare in Silver.
Overall, this was a fun story set within a period of the show which is ripe for exploration, as there is something of a blank space between Liz's departure and the introduction of Jo Grant. I liked the continuity references in this audio, remembering that the Brigadier had encountered the Cybermen before and introducing Mike Yates as a newly arrived Captain. It is these little touches that make it much easier to fit these audio adventures in with the canon of the televised serials.