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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 22 August 2015
This is the seventh story in the fourth series of the Companion Chronicles. These are stories that tell of an adventure of a past Doctor, usually told by the Doctor’s companion at the time. Unusually, this story is told by two of the First Doctor’s companions, Steven Taylor and Vicki. Also unusually, this story is about 150 minutes long, whereas most of the Companion Chronicles are about 60 minutes (although the back of the cd case that I have of this story does say the story is 60 minutes, this is incorrect).

The story is told first by Steven, and then picked up on the second cd largely by Vicki. As they are separated for part of the story, this is a good way for the listener to be able to piece together the entire story, as they each tell the other the whole story from their own perspective.

The Tardis materialises in a rocky landscape, one which Steven thinks feels and looks like England, Earth. But the Doctor is convinced that the fossil they find is not of Earth, but an alien artefact. When Vicki takes ill, they take her in search of help, and Steven is quite delighted to find that they are, in fact, in England – the Doctor must have been wrong. The year is 1912, and the Suffragette movement is causing social discord, while in the scientific arena the Piltdown Man discovery is causing great discussion.

This is a great story. The historical aspects of the Piltdown discoveries, and the Suffragettes are seamlessly woven into the tale of the Tardis travellers. Both Peter Purves as Steven, and Maureen O’Brien as Vicki perform their roles, the other roles in the story, and the narration wonderfully. Maureen O’Brien doesn’t sound any older than she did when she played Vicki all those years ago, and both actors do perform the idiosyncracies of the First Doctor wonderfully. There are some wonderfully comic moments as well, which any listener will find hugely easy to imagine playing out before them, and rather delightfully entertaining. This is a wonderful Companion Chronicle, and a really great story by Jacqueline Rayner.
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on 12 December 2011
I really want to give this story 5 stars, I know it is an important theme. But I think it is dragged out a little and could have been more concise. Where I have previously considered Peter Purves the best narrator of the range, I would retract that view for this one story because his rise-and-fall tones become part of every sentence, and just too predictable, although I prefer his disc overall.

The crucial story is very good. Neither narrator fully captivated me on this occasion forcing a relisten to most episodes. This is probably because the pace is just too slow as capable minds need more to keep them attentive. There are some nice scenes, and it is quite amusing at times. Purves does Hartnell beautifully so he should have done them on the second disc rather than have Maureen O'Brien impersonate a difficult-to-impersonate man.

Big Finish are certainly moving into more adult themes with series 4 and 5 of the Companion Chronicles. It does not bother me, but might affect some audiences.

A very good audio overall that perhaps should have been two long episodes, rather than 4 shorter ones. I don't like narrators needlessly padding my day out. When you listen to some other readings, the narrators are double speed at times trying to fit it in. The equivalent series five 4-episode story Peri and the Piscon Paradox (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles), also very adult at times, is an example of how a traditional four-parter is should be done, although I am would not want to encourage more than one a year.
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Latest Doctor who companion chronicle. These are an ongoing series of talking books that usually feature an actor who played a companion to the doctor on tv returning to the role to read an all new story. They will do all the voices of the characters as well save for one which will be done by another actor. These usually run for two episodes of thirty minutes on one disc.

But like a few of them lately this one breaks the format because it has not one but two former companions reading the story and it's a four parter spread over two discs.

Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien played Steven and Vicki opposite William Hartnell's doctor back in the 1960's. They return to their roles here for a tale featuring both their characters. This runs for four episodes spread over two discs, Peter Purves reading the bulk of the former and Maureen O'Brien reading the bulk of the latter. The episodes vary in length from thirty to thirty eight minutes.

The story involves the TARDIS arriving in Britain in 1912. A time of social unrest with the suffragettes campaigning for votes for women. And also that year the legendary Piltdown Man was discovered. Claimed to be the missing link in evolution, it was later exposed as a fraud.

Here, Vicki finds the Piltdown man skull and apparently falls under an alien influence. A creature from another world, a woman from a society where females were slaves to men, the creature hates men with a passion and wants them all dead. And on a planet where a battle of the sexes is raging and turning violent, the entire Earth could be in deadly danger as a result.

The narrative device of the story is that the two companions are recording a record of events after things took place. This leads to some initial banter between the two characters on how to tell the tale, which is fun but just manages to avoid outstaying it's welcome.

Once the story gets going though there are many delights along the way. Perfect period detail, some very interesting and occasionally quite horrible history, and the two actors both do excellent impressions of the first doctor. Peter Purves' take on him in particular is quite delightful to listen to and great fun with it.

The two companions are both people well out of their own time and the characterisation of both fully remembers that, with some clever dialogue and culture clash as a result. The last two episodes can feel rather long thanks to lots of exposition, but there are moral points raised as a result that are interesting food for thought.

All in all an excellent release in the range with a lot to please in it and one that more than justifies the extra length.

Theres an interview with Peter Purves on the end of disc one - worth a listen for his tales of the uncertainty and change of the show's third year - and one with Maureen O'Brien at the end of disc two. And there's a trailer for the next release in the range at the start of disc one.
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on 22 February 2011
This CD arrived in perfect order, unbelievably quickly and was an amazingly good price.

And now to the story on it itself: oh, that more women had written for "Doctor Who" over the years! The characterisations and the thought that went into this story were truly wonderful and made for something which - for me - is much more thought-provoking and enjoyable than endless special sound effects and explosions.

It was so great for me on a number of levels: the Piltdown element I greatly enjoyed. One of my friends reconstructed the skull of an Australopithecus Africanus and told me that it had taken him just ten seconds to tell that "Piltdown Man" was a fake!

My great-grandmother was a suffragist - someone we're immensely proud of in the family. It was really nice having a story which dealt with that period of British history and of the feelings that must have been there for millions of unenfranchised women all over the country.

And to have Maureen O' Brien, my all-time favourite female companion, reconstructing her character Vicki alongside the wonderful Peter Purves whose imitation of William Hartnell is a joy to listen to.

And the backroom chats with the actors about what life was like working on "Doctor Who" in the 1960s, right down to which restaurant William Hartnell used to take Peter Purves to lunch to (as Peter was one of Mr. Hartnell's "likes" rather than being on his long list of "dislikes" lol!) were all priceless.
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on 18 April 2010
It is nearly 45 years since Maureen O'Brien and Peter Purves first played these roles, yet they sound no older than when they appeared in black & white! That is the main delight of this story, and they fitted together as though they had never left the show. Having two narrators necessitates splitting the story into two - Vicki's & Steven's - with them being rendered asunder early on and only reuniting towards the end.

Unfortunately the plot, starting very much like an old Quatermass story, does not hold together as stongly as the cast, with the idea of joining an alien entity with the suffragete movement feeling very forced. There are some lovely points, such as Steven and a skeleton on a London omnibus, and Vicki becoming involved in a suffragete riot in London. And both manage to convey the First Doctor's endearing mixture of gruffness and curiousity.

If you enjoy William Hartnell's version of the Doctor, then this is an enjoyable 90-odd minutes, which nicely filled a midweek drive back down the M1. Otherwise, a decent idea that doesn't quite fulfill its potential.
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on 16 April 2010
My hopes were high for this double disc Special Edition which for the first time brings two companions (in this instance Steven and Vicki) together to relate this expanded adventure from differing perspectives. It all begins promisingly enough with Steven opting to take the lead and it is another marvellous performance from Peter Purves whose vocalising of Hartnell's Doctor and Thomas Arden are particularly pleasing. As a former space pilot familiar with a variety of craft Steven says that he hadn't seen a vehicle that he hadn't wanted to climb straight in and race to the moon until this story. The young man eyes the vintage car of Thomas Arden with an eye of suspicion. I mention this because riding alongside the goggles and cap wearing Doctor is a very dangerous but highly amusing well realised and most memorable aspect of this first disc. I thought the latter stages with the Doctor and Steven (the latter indignant by the hairy moustache he is given) adopting period costumes likens it to the lost TV story "The Massacre". After Steven's 63 min part of the story I was intrigued when, in the 9 min CD EXTRA chat Peter Purves suggested that a possible Steven Taylor story could explore what happened after he left and the end of the TV tale "The Savages"... what a great idea!
Sadly "The Suffering" is less appealing on the second disc where I feel it's all rather too esoteric for my tastes. It is here, especially during the epic ten minute 7thh track where the story delves into the motivations of the alien and relates it to the suffragette movement. However aside from this Maureen O'Brien is in fine form conveying the wide eyed innocence so typical of Vicki particularly when she is initially so easily led by Constance. I love the teenager from the futures perplexed manor regarding primitive medicine in the 20thh century when Doctor Forest attempts to examine her. The main set piece of note of course is the protest rally in Hyde Park which is well realised but this second disc for me rather lacks any true sparkle. Out of the 77min total there is a mere approx 4 min chat where interestingly Maureen suggests a possible English Civil War future story.
Although you've clearly got two narrating actors at the top of their game for this title it fails to save a story that in my opinion seems overtly padded out and for me is a relatively unengaging dramatic adventure.
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