Jac Rayner’s gorgeous story begins from a rather horrible starting point: Vicki’s recognition of some of the realities of time travel – it gives a very different perspective on the idea of who’s alive and who’s dead. Depending when you are, people either haven’t been born or died many years previously. Couple her realisation of this with the knowledge the listener has of Vicki’s eventual fate in the TV series, and there’s a strong basis for the set-up of a medium reuniting an older (dead) Vicki with the current living one.
The timing of this is appropriate, with the return of Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit in the West End – I’d love to see what Jacqueline King would do with the Noel Coward role, based on a rather splendid performance here – and Rayner walks a fine line to ensure that the medium in her story doesn’t become a figure of fun, which is mirrored in King’s performance and Lisa Bowerman’s direction.
The lion’s share of the work though is done by Maureen O’Brien as two incarnations of Vicki – the younger one who is about to go off in the TARDIS to have the adventure which her older self is telling her about. She’s suitably disbelieving as the “current” Vicki, while the older one has the necessary air of desperation. Rayner knows her audience, particularly how much they’ll read into apparent errors in the storyline, and has the younger Vicki spotting inconsistencies at roughly the same time as the listener goes, “Did she just…” She also nails the dynamics of teenage girls’ relationships – the infamous BFFs who can fall out over the slightest thing if the stars aren’t aligned in quite the right way – and the subtle differences between the Hartnell/Lambert era of the show and its successors. Hopefully this sort of intimate story won’t be a casualty of the cancellation of the Companion Chronicle line.
Verdict: The praise the cast and crew lavish on the script in the extras is well-deserved; a thoroughly enjoyable tale. 9/10