Review: The Companion Chronicles – Helicon Prime

Helicon Prime

I don’t remember the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who being particularly sh*t. There was a multitude of classics – Tomb of the Cybermen, Invasion, The Moonbase, Enemy of the World, The War Games, The Faceless Ones, and The Mind Robber to name but a few. Sh*t it was not.

So why then have Big Finish, when given two chances to finally put together a couple of Patrick Troughton stories through their Companion Chronicles range, decided that ‘sh*t’ was the defining characteristic of the era? In series one of the Companion Chronicles, we had the Zoe tale Fear of the Daleks, which was just painful to listen to. Now we have Frazer Hines reading another piece of rubbish. Oh dear.

Plot (remembered from the Big Finish web site after it was struck by lightning)

It’s been a long time since Jamie McCrimmon remembered anything about his travels with the Doctor, but his visit to Helicon Prime just won’t stay hidden… but why remember their murder investigation now?

Is it any good?

As nice as it is to hear Frazer Hines again, the story is arse. Now, it is nice to see someone trying to do ‘hard SF’, with creatures made of glass and other actual aliens. But the story doesn’t make a whole load of sense. The Doctor investigating a murder is reasonably in keeping with the TV show but it feels as though Big Finish wanted to do a Troughton story inspired by the annuals, rather than the on-screen version. The denouement is messy, unclear and completely random and I’m still not entirely sure what happened and why. Proper character motivation? You won’t find it heere.

The story’s not helped by Hines’ variable telling. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Jamie was Scottish, right? While Hines’ on-screen accent wasn’t the most authentic, it was at least an attempt at a Scottish accent – here, he’s barely bothering. His Patrick Troughton impression, while very good, tends towards the Basil Brush at times. And like Peter Purves before him, he lapses into storytelling mode at times as well, making it less than involving at times.

But, coming full circle again, he’s really not helped by the writing. As Hines points out in the interview at the end of the CD, Jamie wasn’t the most knowledgeable or learned of blokes, so he often had to rewrite his dialogue to make it more in keeping with his character. Here, though, Jamie’s coming up with stuff like “I noted”. Och aye, Jamie, did ya really ‘note’? Some Hines re-writing would have come in handy, I think.

We also have a complete lapse of metaphor again. Jamie is supposedly recounting to a nurse a memory of his time with the Doctor that was revived after he was struck by lightning. So far, so good.

However, Jamie is completely willing to talk about all manner of technology in an authoritative way and not only understand it himself but expect the nurse to understand it. There is also a point in the story where the nurse becomes involved in the narrative yet Jamie keeps telling the story. Who’s he telling it to now? The sudden switch is disconcerting to say the least.

Unfortunately, this is another lost opportunity for a companion to be the centre of attention and get some proper characterisation. One for those who like the sound of Frazer Hines’ voice only.

The Cardiff Philharmonic OrchestraHow much should you have to pay?

Actual price: £8.99

Actual worth: £1.99 or you could barter an evening out with the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra

Listen to the trailer (Windows Media Format)

Cast

Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)

Suzanne Proctor

Writer: Jake Elliott

Director: Nigel Fairs

Available from Amazon.co.uk or from the fugly Big Finish web site