Big Finish 204: Criss Cross
Written By: Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Paul Thornley (Robbie Flint/Cyril), Alistair Petrie (Major Harris/German Lieutenant), Hugh Fraser (Dr Schwartzmann/Rider), Charlotte Salt (Sylvia Wimpole/Waveform/Effy), Robbie Stevens (Captain Unger/Dutch/British Captain/Chuadri).
If we were to judge by the number of companions a Doctor has to determine which is the longest running Doctor, thanks to Big Finish, the Sixth Doctor might ironically turn out to be the Doctor who lived the longest. Of course, that also depends upon the length of time each companion as with the Doctor, but by the way the Sixth Doctor keeps attracting new companions, it seems more was happening during his reign than meets the eye.
It is difficult to figure out how long the Sixth Doctor’s newest companion, Constance Clarke, will be with the Doctor, nor the kind of interactions she will have with him. She certainly has potential to be a different kind of companion, someone who is more forceful in presenting herself, keeping to her own wishes and desires, than any of his other companions. But it is not because she is wanting or looking for a fight – it is, however, because she has a sense of who she is, which includes strict codes of duty and honor, which she wants to keep when with the Doctor. She meets him here, during World War II, a leader of many women, the WRENS, working behind the scenes in the war effort, giving technical skills such as code breaking to help the UK beat the Nazis.
When the Doctor lands his TARDIS and finds it broken down, sapped of it energy, he takes residence with the WRENS trying to determine what is interfering with his TARDIS. He has a lead, an Agent Spock, whom he believes is up to no good. And, after working with one of the WRENS, he recruits Constance herself to his cause. At first, she does not know what to make of the Doctor. She believes his desire to have a police box in his office to be a little quirk, not as bad as most who come to the office, though he also seems to be pushing her WRENS a bit too hard and so she confronts him, telling him to let them rest. Things change, however, as the Doctor, Constance, and others find out who Spock really is, and what is going on behind the scenes, where a radio-wave entity who seems to have emerged from another level of existence into ours, claiming to seek refuge from a war going on in that plane of existence.
The Doctor ends up working with Constance, Spock, and others on both the British and German side of the war, as they all come to realize that there is more at stake than fight between the British and the Nazis. But this does not mean they all trust each other – they don’t, and depending where they are, one or another will get an upper hand, trying to use the situation for their own gain. And behind it all is the Doctor, seeking to save humanity from any and all threats, internal and external.
Everyone seeks to have a secret or two. Constance’s secret lies with the disappearance of her husband. Is he dead, or has something else happened to him? We do not know by the end of the story, but clearly, it is something we will find out, as a part of Constance’s character arc and it serves as one of the reasons she decides to journey with the Doctor, thinking that it will help her find the answers.
I have avoided many of the plot points and twists (including character names) for obvious reasons. In general I think what is important here is the introduction of Constance. So how is she? I like her, although, the story is a bit too introductory to get a full glimpse of how she will be with the Doctor. She is clear, even though she knows the Doctor is alien, and his TARDIS is wonderful, she is still her own woman –she doesn’t want to be mistreated or bossed around, but on the other hand, she thinks the Doctor needs someone by his side, to keep him sane and on the right path. She figures it is, at least for the time being, her work. She is nonetheless able to show herself to be strong and independent. She has a lot of skills and capabilities of her own, and I believe this means she has quite a bit to offer (I would rank her qualifications and capabilities as the third best for the Sixth Doctor companions, with Evelyn offering the most, Mel second, and Constance third). Nonetheless, she needs to develop, for I don’t think she can stay exactly the same without her act becoming tiresome – certainly anyone who goes to other times and places will experience drastic changes in how they think. I would be surprised if this is not the case here.
The actual science-fiction alien threat started off interesting, but by the end, I tired of it, and was glad the story was over. I preferred the human interactions over the aliens. Sometimes, Doctor Who writers need to remember that. There are some interesting twists and turns, and some, crisp dialogue between the Doctor and others; but I would not rate this one as great.
7/10 -- a good start for Constance, some nice ideas, but not the best of Big Finish.
Big Finish 205: Planet of the Rani
Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Colin Baker (The Doctor), Miranda Raison (Constance Clarke), Siobhan Redmond (The Rani), James Joyce (Raj Kahnu/Guard), Olivia Poulet (Pazmi), Dominic Thorburn (Brejesh/Security Leader), Tim Bentinck (Chowdras/Governor), Chris Porter (Degoor/Montain)
We get for Constance’s second story a Rani story, with the new incarnation of the Rani introduced last year once again facing off with the Sixth Doctor.
And because of this, we go out of the fire and into the maelstrom for Constance.
Marc Platt gives us in this story the Rani’s realm, where she is both queen and worshiped like a goddess. It is a place we have heard mentioned in previous stories, and, Marc Platt, doing what he does best, fills in the blanks for us, showing us a world where the Rani is indeed queen, worshiped and yet hated, where she rules but also where she experiments with its people like the scientist she is.
In those experiments, she has created, as it were, a kind of heir for herself, a prince, Raj Kahnu, who she has molded to be great. And when the Rani is gone, he takes over, trying to help his people in the way knows how – molded as he is by the Rani, he is temperamental but also bright, a “god in the making.” But unlike the Rani, he does care about his people, even if he does not show it too well.
Thus, when the Doctor and Constance go to visit the Rani in a parole hearing, they find out the Rani has set up a plan to return to Miasimia Goria. Constance is caught in the maelstrom which is the struggle between the Doctor, Raj Kahnu, and the Rani. In her first (?) adventure in time and space, she really is brought into the thick of it – and her strong character allows her to roll with the punches, as it were, to keep her head on her shoulders and do what she needs to do to survive while also never abandoning herself and her principles. Sadly, though, she really was never free to look to the wonder of it all- as she finds herself going from one alien to another, each with their own agenda; but, at least the Rani, though cruel in her way, is not as cruel as many of the Doctor’s enemies, and is willing to help Constance live when she is separated from the Doctor if Constance does nothing to interfere with the Rani’s plans.
The heart of the story lies with Raj Kahnu; the Rani left the world in a bad shape, with her experiments causing havoc to his people, requiring him to make a mechanical protection that looks like a giant cockroach in order to survive. And since he is smart, trying to understand the world – and what lies beyond it, constructing what he can to help his people but also to help himself in his crazy existence, he takes an instant liking to Constance, creating another such mechanical device for her—which she adapts to (rather too easily, probably one of my few objections to this story). He tries to fight against his worst instincts when with her, wanting her to help him learn about the universe in a way the Rani did not teach him, to give him hope and ideas to help deal with the problems at hand. And Constance certainly is the right choice for him – because she understand his sense of duty even if she does not understand all he does and stands for.
The Rani here is more distinct than her last story, more her own new version, though still a version of the Rani. She seems more open to various forms of experiments beyond the traditional kind associated with her previous incarnation, though it is clear she still favors biological experimentation. She is also, I would say, more indifferent than her previous incarnation in regards to people “failing” her, and even, she has a sense, deep within perhaps, of other, somewhat positive, emotional attachments (the Doctor sees she has a “mothering” instinct despite her attempt to dismiss it).
All in all, this is a very good story, though it does not do what I wish for the second story with Constance. I wanted more reaction, positive or negative, for what she goes through here. In the end, we don’t see her ultimate reaction to the Doctor when the story is over. Hopefully it will be heard in the next audio, but I am expecting it will not. Which is a shame. Because I want to see how she really deals with the radical new world she is in.
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