Big Finish release number 6 - The Marian Conspiracy, written by Jacqueline Rayner and directed by Gary Russell.
This is the introduction of Dr Evelyn Smythe as a companion for the Sixth Doctor. It is also the beginning of a long arc of adventures that I have bought from Big Finish which will lead to a story called A Death in the Family. As you will have gathered from my previous reviews I am a big fan of Evelyn. I like her independent and combative spirit, and her clashes with the equally abrasive Sixth Doctor. She is a good match for him. I am also charmed by her frequent interest in food and, in particular, chocolate cake and a nice cup of Cocoa.
However, I was a little disappointed by her introductory story. Dr Smythe is a historian and the Doctor crashes one of her lectures to report that there is a problem with one of her ancestors which would cause her to cease to exist if not fixed. Before we know it she is in the Tardis and back in the court of Queen Mary in 1555. What bothered me is that we didn't get enough time for the relationship to develop between the Doctor and his new companion before plunging straight into the action. I thought that a tough woman like Evelyn would have taken a little longer to trust this strange figure who literally appears in her life. However the story demands that we are quickly caught up in a plot to assassinate the Queen which only the Doctor and Evelyn can prevent, if they can only escape from the Tower of London first!
And that is another problem with this drama. It is a pure historical story, the only science fiction involved is the Tardis and the Doctor's gizmos. Now I know that originally the BBC conceived Doctor Who to be a history programme with the crew of the Tardis travelling backwards in time to meet famous figures. But, just like those early TV viewers, I am more interested when the Doctor goes forwards or sideways and comes up against all those great monsters. I don't like the historicals, never have done. They are my least favourite episodes of the new Who series.
So this story was always going to struggle with me. Actually it's a pretty good tale, quickly told with a few interesting moments. But I didn't feel that Evelyn came into her own until the last scene. And a note to any voice actors out here: no accents, no really, don't do them, they are just distractions.
I was tempted to give this the lowest score yet but it is not quite that bad. It just feels like Big Finish were finding their way a bit. I am going to give The Marian Conspiracy a middle of the pack 2.5 out of 5 cups of Cocoa.
Now let's jump past the Spectre of Lanyon Moor, skip a couple of titles and head straight on for Project : Twilight.