Synopsis: Separated from his companions, the Doctor attempts to find solace in the history of his favourite planet – Earth – but instead discovers new threats lying in wait.
Traveling from twentieth-century East Berlin to sixteenth-century Strasbourg, the Doctor encounters creatures from other realities: monsters beneath the waves, and human beings determined to exploit their fellow man.
But how long can he survive without a friend?
Review: Doctor Who: Time Apart is the annual anthology release. I’m a fan of both the four-in-one format and of Doctor Who historical stories, so this outing is a real treat.
I’m not a fan of modern Doctor Who stories that make the Doctor out to be a basket case who is perpetually a nanosecond from death without regular companions. Granted, the Doctor should be and is always challenged. However, there needn’t be such a fine line between challenge and emotional trigger event. Thankfully, the Fifth Doctor proves capable of processing the traumas that have separated him from Tegan, Nyssa, and Marc, while contending with the situations in front of him at the same time.
“Ghost Station” by Steve Lyons is an engaging variation on a ghost story. It’s set in a divided Berlin during the 1970’s. Indeed, the logistics and themes only work, because it’s set in a divided Berlin during the 1970’s. Peter Meier is the first of four layered temporary companions. He aids the Doctor with some of atmospheric exposition, which is a nice change of pace for a Classic era character. In the process, the Doctor is able to unravel a mystery with some foreshadowing to the Eighth Doctor’s era.
“The Bridge Master” by Jacqueline Rayner works on several levels. Rayner gives listeners the next marvelous temporary companion — Agatha. She’s a complex portrait of guilt, strength, and struggle. She places the Doctor and Agatha in a story that provides pointed commentary on economic hardship, while highlighting an obscure medieval practice. That practice, in turn, contributes to the fairytale quality of the piece, precisely because it was real.
“What Lurks Down Under” by Tommy Donbavand is my favorite story in the set. Big Finish commissioned Donbavand to write this piece, while he was terminally ill with cancer. Sadly, he didn’t live to hear the recording, but his creative wish fulfillment gave listeners a wonderful historical figure as temporary companion — Mary Wade.
The Doctor meets Mary as a young convict dreading transportation to Australia. Along the way, she encounters otherworldly beings that bring out her inner strength and sees the inside of the Tardis. For their part, listeners get a remarkable and dark portrait of life onboard transportation ships. Part of me is sorry Mary doesn’t stay with the Doctor, but she had to go on to become the founding mother of the largest family in Australia with more than 7,000 living descendants today.
“The Dancing Plague” by Kate Thorman highlights an obscure medical mystery that stumps experts to this day. The final temporary companion — Margareta — fictional assistant to Erasnus — is a product of competing social and political forces. The Doctor’s solution to navigating those competing social and political forces to address the immediate problem is as simple as it is clever.
Peter Davison is wonderful as ever. His supporting cast is equally marvelous. Laura Aikman plays Mary Wade to the hilt, leaning into the traits that make Mary hard to leave behind. For their parts, Timothy Blore, Wayne Forester, and Kate Harbour play each of their multiple roles with finesse.
Excellent once again! That said, I’m looking forward to Tegan, Nyssa, and Marc’s perceptions of their separation next month.
- You can purchase Doctor Who: Time Apart here.
- Audio Production10