Ever since BBC7 pumped Big Finish full of cash so they’d produce a range of original eighth Doctor audio plays to break up the constant repeats of Lionel Nimrod’s Inexplicable World, Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller has been the companion du jour for Paul McGann – it was only a matter of time before India Fisher’s Charley Pollard was shown the TARDIS exit, although through the mysteries of temporal mechanics she’s now going to be a companion of the sixth Doctor, starting with Condemned (review coming soon, I promise).
Following Charley’s departure in The Girl Who Never Was, we now have the second season of Lucie stories. Whoopdy doo. It’s not that I dislike Sheridan Smith – I think she’s pretty good in Two Pints…, although you’d be hard pressed to fit a fag paper in between her performance in that and these audio plays – it’s just I really don’t like Lucie.
I’m trying to work out why. So far, my list of arbitrary reasons includes
- her being one-dimensional and despite the massive wodges of Rose-esque familial development, she doesn’t come across as a real person, just the sort of person who appears in Radio 4 plays
- she perpetuates the stereotype of Northerners being thick, workshy whingers who are full of themselves and only like to argue. This, I must emphasis because it’s the Internet, IS NOT TRUE
- she doesn’t really bring anything to the party in terms of skillset. What, as they probably asked her at the career fair, can you actually do?
Not especially great as a list, but hey ho.
Whether it’s because it was all slapped together in a hurry or it was for BBC7, the first season of Lucie stories was a touch uninspiring. As I remarked at the end of Human Resources:
As a whole, the season’s been okay. Sheridan Smith has been a memorable companion, if a little too Peri-esque in the level of bickering. Paul McGann’s performance has been variable, but good on the whole. The big names in the guest cast have been uniformly excellent, even if the minor players haven’t. The plots haven’t really yielded any memorable villains or monsters and there’s been a little too much silliness. Not bad over all, though, and certainly the best thing BBC7’s done for a while.
Dead London, however, is actually quite good. Not brilliant, a bit confusing, but well paced and moderately entertaining. Whether that’s because it doesn’t have any BBC7 involvement, I don’t know.
Someone’s playing with us. Manipulating time and space for their own ends.
The TARDIS lands in London. But which one? The Doctor and Lucie find themselves trapped in a maze of interlocking Londons from Roman times to the present day.
But they are not alone in this labyrinth: a killer is on their trail.
Is it any good?
It has its moments. The writer, Pat Mills, has clearly been looking stuff up in books, because as we flit from time zone to time zone, we all have the chance to learn a few historical nuggets about the period.
Did I say “have the chance to learn”? Sorry, I meant “have rammed down our throats with the subtlety of a sink plunger”
All the same, it gives the Doctor a chance to demonstrate that along with the TARDIS only translating 20th Century English, not 17th Century English, he knows a thing or two about history. It’s one of the few occasions when McGann really feels ‘Doctor-ish’ in his audio plays.
The plot itself is pretty coherent. Even though it’s jargon-laced, you do finish the play understanding the general gist of what’s been going on. Why it’s all been happening, how it could possibly happen, why the Doctor leaves things the way they were, et al? Pretty much your guess is as good as mine, since it doesn’t really make a whole load of sense.
Fortunately for the listener, Lucie gets shunted off to argue with someone else for most of the play: ‘Yellow Beryl’, who’s played by Katarina Olsson. She also played the Headhunter for the first season of Lucie stories – whether that’s significant or Big Finish being cliquey, I don’t know either. Paired up with the Doctor in Lucie’s place is surrogate companion, Clare Buckfield (who played the daughter on 2point4 Children), who’s more interesting than Lucie, although the character doesn’t really ring true in any way.
Still, it’s all relatively enjoyable and Who-ey. It doesn’t drag like some of the two-disc plays. But nothing too special.
See? They should have kept Charley. She’d have made it much more interesting.
How much should you have to pay for it?
Actual price: £10.99 (no download version available)
Actual worth: £4.99
Paul McGann (The Doctor)
Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller)
Rupert Vansittart (Sepulchre)
Clare Buckfield (Spring-Heeled Sophie)
Richard Laing (Clerks)
Katarina Olsson (Yellow Beryl)
Writer: Pat Mills
Director: Barnaby Edwards
Available from Amazon.co.uk and the slightly less unpleasant than before Big Finish web site