Return of the Artless Dodger

Big Finish Folly, Part 96 – The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, by Jonathan Morris

There’s a new face in town, upsetting all the kneecappers. The Doctor – gunrunner extraordinaire. Modern crime, Edwardian style. And when the real Doctor and Evelyn are nabbed by DI Menzies for crimes they have not committed, they quickly realise that fings are not wot they seem (although that might also have something to do with the giant robotic insects chasing them across the city). Guess who’s back? Shady’s back. No, wait, that’s not quite right….

With the major spoiler already in the story’s title, Morris is free to dispense with the set-up and so we begin in media res – a breathless chase, James Bond-style down the Thames, followed closely by an encounter with da Fuzz. The pace can’t be maintained, more’s the pity: DI Patricia Menzies, as played by Anna Hope, is so laidback and laconic that her character manages to rob the following scenes of any urgency.

There’s a catch here too, of course: Menzies has met the Doctor before – but in his future. Her part here therefore involves a lot of sly “mugging to camera” when the Doctor turns away, while she pretends for his benefit that she doesn’t know about him and the Tardis. In fact, there’s rather a lot of recurring characters cropping up in this one play – as well as Evelyn and Brewster, there’s Menzies (who we’ll meet again in the company of another recurring character – but hush!) and young party-goer Philippa (“Flip”) who gets caught up in the action too. We’ll be seeing more of Flip in a later “season” of Sixth Doctor audios.

Confused yet? We haven’t even started on the plot itself. Thomas Brewster, his new life in 21st Century London at a tragic end, is up to his old tricks, pretending to be the Doctor and answering a distress call from an organic planet which is under attack by robotic terraformers. His unorthodox solution is to provide the organic world (Symbios) with soldiers, hence the gun-running and odd disappearances from within London’s Tube network. Who knew you could go so far with an Oyster Card? It’s up to the Doctor and DI Menzies to not only foil the Terravores but also return the unwilling soldiers to their correct world – all while fooling the Locus of Symbios itself into believing that Menzies is actually the Doctor.

Now I can’t even remember why they have to do that. Given the sheer amount of continuity weighing down this play, that’s hardly surprising. When you consider that, by this point, Big Finish had already released a play in which Evelyn reminds the Seventh Doctor of the time they had both travelled with Thomas Brewster, it’s clear that taking care of the continuity is actually more important than the plot itself. Despite the different dynamic that Brewster gives the Evelyn/Doctor axis, there’s too many distractions here to truly enjoy the tale.
***¾

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