The Sixth Doctor (the redoubtable Colin Baker) seems officially to have become the Big Finish village bike – first Charley Pollard, hitherto companion to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, was paired off with him for an excellent run of stories that saw the self-styled Edwardian adventuress given an exciting and surprisingly hard SF exit; and now Thomas Brewster, the Victorian mudlark and artful dodger wannabe who previously created havoc for Peter Davison’s Fifth Time Lord in a brief run of audio releases in 2008 (The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, The Boy That Time Forgot and Time Reef) has now also joined Baker for a new trilogy.
This opening instalment is by Jonathan Morris, who also wrote the character’s original debut in the scary ghost story The Haunting of Thomas Brewster and then deposited him in modern-day London in a one episode epilogue to Marc Platt’s Time Reef entitled ‘A Perfect World’. In Platt’s story Brewster created all kinds of trouble by passing himself off as the Doctor and selling off bits of the TARDIS and this new adventure sees him doing roughly the same in modern-day London, while also apparently setting himself up as a gangster. This brings him to the attention of the cynical northern cop DI Patricia Menzies (Anna Hope), who was a major plus in The Condemned and The Raincloud Man, two of the Pollard/Sixth Doctor adventures by Eddie Robson and who here is an uncredited collaborator as revealed in the extras on the disc (Morris returned the favour in Robson’s forthcoming contribution to the trilogy, Industrial Evolution).
Brewster (played with genuine estuary twang by John Pickard) seems to have become a somewhat divisive figure in the Who fan community but here makes for an agreeably unpredictable character, more like Turlough than Adric shall we say, and remains reasonably likeable if admittedly perhaps not quite as charismatic or personable as a long-term partner in the action should be. We shall wait to see how he develops.
This story also sees the very welcome return of Evelyn Smythe, Baker’s earliest (and best) audio-original companion and played as ever by Maggie Stables, so the cast alone makes this a worthy purchase. On top of that there is a typically clever Morris plot which involves flying robot insects, gang warfare and an underground train that transports its passengers across the galaxy. The tone is generally light and frothy amongst the mayhem and there is plenty of time for in-jokes at the expense of the Doctor’s horribly garish coat, geeky science nerds who should get out more and the possibility that our hero might re-generate into a woman. That these comic asides don’t detract from the fast-paced narrative marks this as a highly engaging romp, directed swiftly and with great pace by Nicholas Briggs and featuring a full-blooded score by Howard Carter. Highly recommended.