The first story in this new boxset of Companion Chronicles is set very early in the Troughton era, with Jamie very much the new boy on board the TARDIS. He’s still a bit wary of both the machine and his fellow travellers, and, as producer Ian Atkins explains in the extras, this story helps to create the bond between them, particularly Jamie and Ben Jackson, as they face an unusual menace.
John Pritchard’s script starts off feeling like an Early Adventure with the quartet in the TARDIS in the era’s frequent “Where are we, Doctor?” start, but as the characters separate, the Chronicles format comes through, with narration from both Frazer Hines (in character as Jamie) and Anneke Wills as Polly. The story has echoes of the classic Dickens tale The Signalman as well as The Fog (John Carpenter’s original movie, not the remake – and certainly not the James Herbert story!), and Pritchard doesn’t overload us with too much of his research into the period, while ensuring that all pertinent information is provided.
Frazer Hines does treble duty this time around – narrating, and playing both Jamie and Troughton’s Doctor – while Anneke Wills gets to show the caring and the sometimes not so adventurous sides of Polly. Elliot Chapman continues to hone his interpretation of Ben: it’s the character played by Michael Craze, but more than just an impersonation of how Craze did it, particularly given the emotional territory which the script visits. There’s a description of a scene during the Second World War that is chilling both in its writing and playing.
Director Lisa Bowerman, sound designer James Callaghan and composer Benji Clifford ensure that there’s a suitably spooky, sepulchral, and where appropriate respectful atmosphere throughout.
Verdict: A strong start that will be worth relistening to on Remembrance Day. 9/10