Released April 2010
Arriving in the middle of a barrage of musket fire, the Sixth Doctor unexpectedly finds himself back in the Scottish highlands where Black Donald and his rebel followers are battling against the Redcoats. Joining forces with his one-time companion Jamie McCrimmon, the Doctor must traverse into the looming City of Spires to solve the mystery of the ominous Overlord and Red Caps and their relation to the presence of anachronistic oil-pumping machinery in the Scottish highlands.
The relationship between the Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor and Jamie was unquestionably one of the strongest in the classic era, and Colin Baker showed flashes of a great camaraderie with Frazer Hines as well in ‘The Two Doctors.’ Here, realizing that the Time Lords wiped Jamie’s memories after the heartbreaking finale to ‘The War Games’ and that he himself has regenerated several times since those events, the Sixth Doctor continually shows an unbridled if melancholy enthusiasm as he tries to rekindle what he has lost. Even with this more bombastic Doctor and this tougher and more mature Jamie who has taken on the clan leadership role as the devilish Black Donald himself, the inherent comradeship and connection these two characters show is wonderfully on display from beginning to end. Because Jamie inexplicably does not even remember his very first adventure with Ben and Polly, the two leads forge a brand new relationship as they fight side by side through each successive challenge, a very rewarding and deep progression.
It would have been quite easy to try to recreate events of ‘The Highlanders’ as Jamie is reintroduced to the Doctor, but writer Simon Bovey uses only the setting as a point of commonality. Otherwise he foregoes the lure of crafting another true historical tale, instead crafting a fast pace that quickly introduces a temporally fractured world with the titular City of Spires at its heart, bringing both extraterrestrial and very human elements into the fold as the City’s Overlord drills the eighteenth century highlands for oil while the nearby nineteenth century Edinburgh and Glasgow sit empty. While the parasitic Hirudinea Overlord out to capitalize on financial potential may not be the most inspiring of villains and is more effective in creating a sense of foreboding and raising several important questions when not directly involved with events, his Red Cap minions are certainly suitably effective subordinates.
Georgia Moffett, hoever, offers an utterly spellbinding performance as Alice Cyprion, forming a wonderful relationship with both the Doctor and Jamie while imprisoned by the Overlord to secure her engineer husband’s assistance. She goes on a harrowing journey from hope to hopelessness and everywhere in between, and she delivers the necessary emotion believably and realistically, adding yet another emotional layer to this very emotive tale and almost demanding that she be written in as a new companion in the process.
As a result of all of this, ‘City of Spires’ is a satisfying but ultimately odd release since it’s clearly only the first act in a trilogy, raising questions that likely won’t be answered for some time. How does Alice conveniently show up when Jamie mentions her, what has happened to Jamie’s memory, who is the mysterious ‘she’ the Overlord refers to when talking to the Doctor, and just what is the black liquid that doesn’t smell or taste like oil coming from the ground? Banking on a hint of nostalgia even as the Doctor and Jamie begin their comradeship anew, ‘City of Spires’ is wonderfully atmospheric and features fantastic chemistry among everyone involved, an ambitious story that emphatically demands listeners stay invested through the subsequent two releases (and The Companion Chronicles accompaniment release).