Would you believe we’ve almost reached the end of our extended sojourn with the Sixth Doctor? It’s true – we’re fast running out of companions to team him up with! In fact, at this time of writing (and yes, The Folly is aware that another new companion is lurking in the wings, but all things in good time, eh?), there’s only one person left for him to meet. That would be Mel Bush of Pease Pottage of course. Except that the Doctor has met her already, at the end of his Trial. And he knows it isn’t time to meet her yet. Argh. Timey-wimey. And then some. So, while this could be Part 123, as would be perfectly proper, we’re going to shove this one further back in the timeline. Why? Well, listen up, and find out…
Big Finish Folly, Part 107a – The Wrong Doctors, by Matt Fitton
The Doctor is taking Mel back to Pease Pottage, returning her to her own timeline so that he can pick her up at the correct later date. The Doctor is also travelling to Pease Pottage, to pick up Mel, to take her on as his new Tardis companion. But there’s a problem: Mel already knows when she’s due to arrive in the Tardis, and it isn’t just yet. And there’s another problem, too. More than one, in fact. There’s a second Mel in Pease Pottage. And dinosaurs. And highwaymen. And a team of corporate alien business consultants with an aggressive enfranchisement policy. With this much going on, it’s a good job there are two Doctors on hand to save the day… isn’t it?
With this play it looks like Matt Fitton is out to prove that it isn’t just Nev Fountain who can run our brains into boggled mush (in a good way, of course).The counterpart of Trial of a Timelord’s Peri Conundrum – did she live or die? – has always been “how the heck did Bonnie Langford end up in the Tardis?”, and this goes part of the way to explaining that puzzle. Part of the way, though not completely, but it’s still a damned good way to be introduced to the character of Melanie Bush, not least because Bonnie gets to play her as both an experienced time traveller (with mad computer skillz, natch) and an am-dram ingenue at the same time. Meanwhile, Colin Baker plays the Doctor as his earlier TV self and the mellower, more considerate “Indigo Jones” Big Finish version. (Considerately, the sound mix plays each Doctor (and each Mel) in a different ear, so you can always tell them apart…)
Crucially, the fact that the four of them are able to meet up at all is down to the fact that the Doctor is accidentally crossing his own streams, and a dark nasty from the Vortex has turned up to take advantage by creating a pocket of cauterised time. Also in the game are the Mardax, a bunch of aliens who thrive on business speak, aiming to mine Valanxium from the ground in Pease Pottage, barely realising that they themselves have caused the Valanxium to exist….
The Sixth Doctor seems to get a lot of off-the-wall, what-the-frick? type of scripts, far more than Peter Davison has done. Mad concepts adhere to ol’ Sixey far easier. It does increase the sheer intensity of his run, and where there’s a lot of intense, it can get difficult to keep up. They aren’t actually as many off-the-wall concepts here as there are in Nev Fountain’s scripts, though it certainly doesn’t feel that way while listening to it, and the supporting characters get just as much consideration in the back-story stakes as Mel herself.
But is it any good? After the second listen, it all flows together nicely, and you’re not focusing too much on which Doctor is which. And Mel Bush – last seen on TV back in the 80s, and avoided ever since – is actually damned good. The rehabilitation has begun!