Thursday 30 June 2016

The Companion Chronicles - The Second Doctor Volume 1

The Second Doctor really wouldn’t have been the Second Doctor without his stalwart companion James Robert McCrimmon. Lets look at him – he was companion in every single Troughton story apart from The Power of the Daleks – so thats nearly three full seasons – but Jamie and the Doctor had a very special sort of bond, not brotherly, not father/son or teacher/pupil – a real and true respect for one another, and as much as Jamie learned from his travels with The Doctor, the Doctor learned about humanity from Jamie, because Jamie embodied all that was good and brave in human beings, even The Daleks recognised this. What the new series has in spades that the old series sometimes shied away from or overlooked was character progression. This box set from Big Finish even though it is billed as a Second Doctor Box Set is really a Jamie McCrimmon box set – it gives us four very Jamie-centric stories from different points in his travels with The Doctor, from the early days with Ben and Polly to almost the end sometime between The Space Pirates and the War Games and they chart Jamie’s progression from bright yet uneducated fish out of water to very much his own man using all the things he has experienced to save the day. The four stories really emphasise the difference between intelligence and learning and go on to prove that travel really does broaden the mind and expand your horizons.
 The Set is split in to four stories:
 1. The Mouthless Dead by John Pritchard
 Its the early 1920’s and the TARDIS team of the Second Doctor (played magnificently by Frazer Hines, its uncanny) Jamie (again Frazer Hines) Polly (Anneke Wills) & Ben (Elliot Chapman) arrive at a deserted railway station in the dark and in the fog – but there are figures waiting in the darkness, figures of the dead, of memories of long past and recent wars and there is also a signalman manning his signal box, because very soon a very important train is going to pass through. This is a very frightening story, part Dickens’ The Signalman, part Sapphire and Steel and with just a hint of Silent Hill – its a lot more overt horror than the Troughton era ever was on TV, and is a very welcome addition to the canon for trying something a little different with the era. As this is at the very beginning of Jamie’s time on the TARDIS he is portrayed as ignorant. Seen through Ben & Polly’s eyes his lack of knowledge and incredulity at steam trains and a whole world at war are quite parochial, like he is a noble savage that needs to be educated. But Jamie is much much more than this. The story itself is incredibly atmospheric and an interesting take on the Troughton era.
 2 The Story of Extinction by Ian Atkins
 I do like a good framing device – and this story has an excellent one. I also like a story that isn’t really about what the story is about (if you know what I mean) So where this story is dressed up as a typical Season 5 “base under siege” story it is actually a story about Jamie, his bond with Victoria (Deborah Watling) and how she finally gets some closure in their friendship. So the framing device is rather lovely – Victoria, now older and living in contemporary Britain has a break in, all that is taken is a piece of very special paper, and the thief even leaves a box in return……
The piece of paper that is stolen is Victoria’s only memento from her time on the TARDIS, its the piece of paper on which she taught Jamie to read and write. This is a lovely story, genuinely moving and another building block in the story of Jamie McCrimmon.
 3 The Integral by David Bartlett
 Now travelling with Zoe (Wendy Padbury) Jamie is rather adamant that all alien races are evil and out to destroy them, whereas Zoe has a more modern progressive attitude. Jamie is drawing on his (mostly negative) experiences of alien races from his time with The Doctor whereas Zoe comes from a more progressive enlightened era. But can their visit to Aspen Base change Jamie’s mind? The base is indeed “under siege” from its own inhabitants – as Aspen base is a secure hospital for people who have had their minds warped by a computer game – the base is overseen by “The Integral” who have the power to pacify and change the mind. As Hartnell once said “as we learn about each other so we learn about ourselves” and this is exactly what this story is – a journey of discovery and of expanding boundaries for Jamie, and a chance for him to witness life from another perspective.
 4 The Edge by Rob Nisbet
 Or where Jamie emerges from his chrysalis and gets to be the hero. Because this is what happens. The box set has been a loose collection of stories each dealing with Jamie progressing, and here he puts everything he has learned not only in this set but in all his travels with The Doctor in to practice to foil the plans of a drug runner and rescue The Doctor & Zoe.
A fitting end to the box set and proof positive that you really do not need learning to have intelligence or be from an “enlightened” age to have the power of mind.
 Can I just say that Frazer Hines is fantastic – he has completely captured the vocal style of Patrick Troughton, all the throat clearings, pauses and quick jabber that Troughton did so well, he is also effortless as Jamie giving him a dignity in defiance and a pure determination and loyalty. I was expecting a set of stories about the Second Doctor – what I got was a set of stories from the Second Doctor era but about his most faithful friend Jamie and a very fine set of stories they are too. So please indulge me whilst I cry “CRAEG AN TUIRE” and award this set 8/10.

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