Released December 2014
The first run of The Early Adventures closes with ‘An Ordinary Life,’ pairing Peter Purves’s Steven with Jean Marsh’s Sarah Kingdom alongside a more sidelined First Doctor, again voiced by Peter Purves. This pairing is always an interesting one since they shared so little time on screen together and since there’s only one slot in the televised timeline where new stories can be set; however, with how wildly successful the Sara Kingdom trilogy within The Companion Chronicles was, it was inevitable that that setup would be expanded into the more traditional stylings that this new range offers.
‘An Ordinary Life’ takes the very simple concept of having these two companions from the future live in London in the 1950s- complete with its urbanity, desolation, and even racism- and crafts an incredibly moving and engaging tale while this remains the focus. With these two coming from times when skin colour and prejudice are nonexistent, they offer a unique take on what was otherwise considered normal, utterly appalled at how the kindhearted Newman family members who immigrated from Jamaica are treated because of their looks amidst other, more subtle forms of bigotry. It’s telling that even people who aren’t racist still act accordingly because of what other may think. This is the equivalent to the Dark Ages as far as they’re concerned, and the prospect of staying in one place is a scary one for them, and these lonely scenes of contemplation are brought to life wonderfully.
This storyline fills the majority of the first two episodes, but later a science fiction element that had been bubbling behind the scenes starts to exert itself more strongly. In a sense, the addition of the alien presence desiring to live a normal life just like the Newmans do is a nice complement to the human storyline, but it is presented in such a way that it never quite reaches the impactful height of the companions’ and the Newmans’ struggle. It does provide for a nice resolution to the overall story, but this almost seems like a plot thread tacked on just to add a science fiction element to appease the masses rather than to advance the plot. The Hartnell era had no qualms about focusing on the struggle of normal life in different era and places, and ‘An Ordinary Life’ may have been even stronger had that been the case here.
With the focus so squarely on Steven and Sara as they attempt to fit in to this strange society, the story affords ample time for both them and the supporting cast to develop. Sara, in particular, does very well in this story as she attempts to be useful and even join the police force given her natural talents, encountering the gender bias of the time as well. She did not get much opportunity to display emotion on television, but that situation is rectified as she befriends Audrey Newman and tries to keep her family safe. Steven proves quite practical and assertive as he tries to make sens of the situation as best as he can, and the romantic undertones between Sara and him make perfect sense given the situation even if they aren’t fully realized.
The Newmans are brought to life incredibly well by Sara Powell as Audrey, Damian Lynch as Michael, and Ram John Holder as the uncle Joseph. Holder, in particular, offers a spectacular performance as brings to life a war hero that is keen to stop the injustices to others but turns a blind eye when those same injustices are directed towards himself. Powell is quite strong as portrays the uncertainty of a new mother in a strange land, and Lynch is able to hint at something more serious going on while remaining quite understated in the process. For the most part, the accents are very well done as well.
While it’s a shame that the Doctor is absent for such a substantial portion of the story again, the world that the trio finds themselves in is excellently presented, the sounds and people within it very vibrant realistic. The inclusion of the alien subplot feels somewhat padded and ultimately unnecessary, but the story that focuses on the characters themselves is fantastic.