I should start this review by admitting that I did honestly wonder whether there was a need for further adventures for Charley – I loved her first season with the Eighth Doctor, but felt that the character (and to be honest, the line) rather lost its way for a time. When she turned up with the Sixth Doctor, there was a new facet to play, and that, sensibly, wasn’t kept going for too long. This isn’t a criticism of India Fisher’s performance, but I felt that the character had had a good run and maybe it was time for her to ‘retire’.
All that said, the new box set is fun – it partners Charlie for sections of it with a more futuristic male version of herself (someone who wants adventure but family circumstances don’t necessarily look kindly on such activity), nicely played by James Joyce, and it picks up and explains some loose ends from other Big Finish stories. The first couple of stories seem to suggest that BF are trying to avoid naming the Doctor, but then his name is banded about freely later on which makes some of her coyness a little confusing.
Jonathan Barnes and Matt Fitton provide half the stories each, with Barnes starting the Lamentation Cipher thread running, which powers the second and third stories and is then dealt with in Fitton’s finale. The Viyrans’ pursuit of viruses is taken to its logical conclusion and both stories dealing with them are suitably convoluted in nature, and showcase Big Finish’s talent for space opera (as well as Michael Maloney’s talent for differing voices!)
It’s the middle two tales which are stronger dramatically – Barnes’ The Shadow at the Edge of the World features an all-female cast in a tale of paranoia and survival which throws some neat twists in along the way. Fitton’s The Fall of the House of Pollard reunites Fisher with her ‘screen’ parents, Terrence Hardiman and Anneke Wills, showing what happens when Charley finally gets a chance to get home. The reunion isn’t what she – or the audience – expects, and there’s an underlying feeling of dread in the latter part of the story which is fully justified by a final scene that confounds expectations and then delivers a crushing blow.
Although I can’t see this range going on to the extent of something like Jago & Litefoot, there certainly is potential for some more stories, given the way that the final episode ends – and I’m looking forward to them rather more than I expected I would.
Verdict: One more for Big Finish fans, perhaps, rather than a general Doctor Who audience, but will reward those who have noticed loose ends along the way. 7/10