Plot: The year is 1989. In London, safe cracker Raine Creevy breaks into a house – and finds more than the family jewels. In the Middle East, the kingdom of Sayf Udeen is being terrorised by Soviet invaders and alien monsters. And on the Scottish border, a highly guarded facility contains an advanced alien weapon. These are all part of the Doctor’s masterplan. But masterplans can go awry…
“I haven’t changed at all. That’s why he doesn’t recognise me.”
This is the second in the Lost Stories range from Big Finish featuring adventures initially dreamed up by Andrew Cartmel and his writers for what would have been the 1990 series of Doctor Who featuring Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. Sophie Aldred as his companion Ace was due to leave during this year and her role was, it was thought, to be taken by a safecracker, given the name ‘Raine’ on audio.
As this season would have seen Ace’s exit and Sophie Aldred does not feature on the CD cover, listeners are invited to draw their own conclusions, though Cartmel and Co.’s approach to regenerating for audio their TV ideas from 20 years ago has come in for considerable flack on the Gallifrey and Big Finish forums. This story follows on more or less directly from last month’s introductory story by Marc Platt, Thin Ice which introduced Raine’s dodgy wide boy father (Ricky Groves). It opens with the scene that fans know best from the putative storylines – Raine, now a young woman and taking after her father in giving herself over to a life of crime, infiltrates a swanky party and then cracks open a safe – only to find the Doctor inside, waiting of her. It’s a classic image and works very well, setting up the light banter necessary to pull off this caper. It turns out that Raine has been stealing various items to order and only after dumping the Doctor during her getaway does she discover that he was in fact her client. This being the Seventh Doctor he is setting up a ‘cunning plan’ in an attempt to outwit a race new to the series though once again one that had been promised for this season had it ever come to fruition.
“They laugh at armies. Actually, it’s more of a high-pitched giggle, but their humorous disregard for the opposition is still very much in evidence”
Aldred’s non-appearance on the cover may be a big tease however as this release (no spoilers here), like its predecessor, proves to be a fundamentally light and playful adventure as it moves from London to Kaffiristan, a place not too dissimilar from Afghanistan in the 1980s when it was invaded by the Soviets. While there we are re-introduced to another character from Thin Ice, Colonel Felnikov (John Albasiny).
Last seen in 1960s Moscow, he is now fighting some mysterious insect creatures in the mountains as well as local ‘insurgents’ – but also making deals with a local Prince, a handsome youth with seven wives who is also said to be the finest swordsman of the region – this leads to several double entendres from Raine about how he uses his ‘weapon’. This would all appear to be part of the Doctor’s complex web of plot and counterplot and leads to a classic third episode cliffhanger as all his hard work seems to fall apart at the worst possible moment.
“You don’t seem too bothered that our entire plan has turned to custard”
This story does in fact go to quite a lot of trouble to include those elements that had long been rumoured, and to maintain the basic style of the show circa 1989, which is also the setting for the narrative. Thus references to various touchstones of late Thatcherite yuppidom and consumerism – the Black Monday crash, outsize mobile phones – are all duly checked while, as with the previous installment, the style is essentially quite languid and dialogue-heavy. Personally I think works very well, and there are lots of funny lines to keep things ticking over as Raine comes to know the Doctor, about whom she heard so much from her parents while growing up – in a nice moment, he asks her if the stories kept her up at night.
Some of the humour is perhaps a bit too broad, like the translation device which at one point switches to pure Californian dude-speak, making the baddies of course seem a lot less menacing in the process. This is fun but not entirely a good thing as it turns out as this story is a little lacking in a sense of jeopardy as a result … and the second cliffhanger is also a bit of a damp squib. But these are minor quibbles as all in all this mini-season of interconnected stories is so far turning into an agreeably light and amusing romp with more than enough plot and amusing dialogue to go round and with all performers in fine form – it is a pleasure to report that this is highly entertaining, a TV idea that works very well on audio, but which also hints nicely at darker undercurrents that serve the entire arc of this quartet. Roll on part 3!