805-the-beginning_cover_largeBlurb: When the First Doctor and his grand-daughter Susan escape through the cloisters of Gallifrey to an old Type 40 Time Travel capsule, little do they realize the adventures that lie ahead… And little do they know, as the TARDIS dematerializes and they leave their home world behind, there is someone else aboard the ship. He is Quadrigger Stoyn, and he is very unhappy…

Review: The Beginning is the 50th anniversary celebration story for the Doctor Who: Companion Chronicles range. Big Finish decided that this was an opportunity to go back and tell the Doctor’s very first adventure, which also gives reasons for his connection to the Earth and yet also strangely does not give any clues as to the reasons why he left Gallifrey. It immediately makes one wonder why anyone felt that this was necessary. It’s never seemed like the Doctor needed a defined reason to be interested in the Earth before. He’s found humans fascinating as a species and that’s really all the explanation that’s ever been needed. The story doesn’t really give an explanation for why the Doctor was forced to leave Gallifrey, which may have been one of the best reasons for creating this kind of story. It’s implied at one point that it was because he believed in interfering but that doesn’t seem right. The TV series presented Gallifrey as an ossified society where nothing ever changed and that level of action would have been unheard of. It feels very lame but we’re never given a better reason. The story also delves into the origins of life on Earth. Longrunning fans of Doctor Who will know that this is an area that’s been touched upon before. While author Marc Platt does go through some effort to ensure that The Beginning doesn’t contradict City of Death it’s basically a retread of that story and only adds the element that two events were required for the formation of life on Earth rather than one. It’s very disappointing that the story is so derivative and one wonders why Big Finish thought that this story would be a fitting one for the 50th anniversary special.

Fans of the Doctor Who novels will note that Platt also tries to have his cake and eat it too. He references his own previous Doctor Who origin novel, Lungbarrow, by mentioning that there are no grandfathers anymore but also contradicts the story with the opening and how the Doctor left Gallifrey. In fact, Platt seems to try and reference as many mutually exclusive plotlines as possible in this story. In some ways it is nice that an anniversary story nods to what has gone before. Yet in this case it just takes up story time on a script that takes a long time to actually get going into the adventure. It would have made for a stronger story if Platt hadn’t referenced previous stories at all or tried to tie into the new series. If this story had started with the Doctor and Susan already in flight and beginning the adventure,there may have been more time to develop the plotline and the characters into something more than what was included in the finished product.

The Archaeons are an interesting addition to the story. They’re described as intelligent liquid with flowing forms and making reflections of humanoid faces. Making them rigid and inflexible in their thinking belies that appearance and makes it a nice change of pace for all the alien races in Doctor Who whose form matches their overall cultural personality. It’s also an interesting concept that they shape the formation and development of whole worlds, seeing them as gardens to be tended. It is disappointing that they barely appear in the story, mainly appearing at the end of each episode. The Archaeons seem like a race with a lot of possibility, but that possibility isn’t given full expression in this story. It would be interesting if Big Finish were to bring them back in a future story.

The main antagonist for the story is Quadrigger Stoyn played by Terry Molloy. Many Doctor Who fans may remember Molloy as the actor who played Davros from Resurrection of the Daleks through the end of the classic series and then in all of Davros’ Big Finish appearances. Molloy impresses as Stoyn giving a completely different performance from his Davros and does a great job of giving the character the fussy mannerisms of a man who’s used to things always being the same way and is then taken out of his depth. Yet the issue is that it’s difficult to imagine a wetter and more uninteresting antagonist than Stoyn. He’s a petty technician that just wants to punch his time clock and get his job done and being taken out of his comfortable surroundings just makes him go a little hysterical. It would have been far more interesting if Stoyn had been another renegade Time Lord. A story surrounding two Time Lords both trying to steal the same TARDIS and having to play cat and mouse with each other would have been interesting and would have made for a far more interesting antagonist. Stoyn also isn’t in the story much as they talk to him for a few minutes in episode one and then leave him until the end of the episode and then he doesn’t appear again until the end of episode two. This seems like an odd choice to set up a major antagonist for an entire trilogy of stories and it doesn’t help to establish Stoyn’s character well for those later installments.

Carole Ann Ford puts in a solid performance as Susan. Some of her direction seems odd and she alternates between saying the Doctor’s lines and just describing what he says a little too much, sometimes within the same scene, which creates a bit of a jarring effect. Still, her Hartnell Doctor impression is competent although not fantastic and it’s nice to hear it when they give it. The sad thing is that this story gives so little for Susan to do other than to narrate the story. The whole purpose of the Companion Chronicles line is to tell stories from the Companions’ points of view and to give insights into their character that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We get almost nothing from Susan here although Platt tries to clumsily place an explanation for how she coined the phrase “TARDIS” when it seems to be common parlance on Gallifrey by having her come up with the term on her own, not realizing that others had done the same as the term isn’t in everyday use on Gallifrey.

The story also becomes a bit confusing in the second episode. Apparently some xenoarchaeologists stumbled upon the Doctor and Susan, but it is not explained how they were able to pull them from the stasis field. It’s also not explained why those archaeologists did nothing with Stoyn or the Archaeons. From the questions that they asked Susan it doesn’t even seem clear that they were aware of them. It also seems very convenient that the stasis field was large enough to encompass all of the characters in this story inside a large complex but not so large that it had any effect on the various visitors to the Moon over the hundreds of millions of years when the field was broken. This is another element that seems like it could have been expanded upon and clarified if more time had been used to develop the story instead of referencing other stories.

Recommendation: Every story that’s ever referenced the Doctor’s origin is mentioned whether or not they agree with each other. The Beginning is fanwank at its most fanwanky. Sadly, the plot suffers a bit as a result and we miss out on some important characterization for our new character for the trilogy starting in this story. This isn’t a classic but I’d say at least give it a try.

6/10

2014

Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Lisa Bowerman

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Marc Platt

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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