Companion Piece

Posted in Audio by - April 11, 2019
Companion Piece

Released April 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following a strong and thorough introduction to the proper threat the Ravenous pose, ‘Companion Piece’ by John Dorney takes both the Doctor and the Ravenous out of the equation to tell a surprisingly isolated tale that celebrates so much of the Eighth Doctor era with his companions very much at the forefront. As the kleptomaniac Nine looks to complete his latest wild scheme, River Song and the assembled talents of Charley, Liv, Helen, and Bliss will all be tested to the fullest.

As thrilling as hearing these beloved companions interact as the Nine continues to collect the Doctor’s previous and future companions for his own display and amusement ultimately is, ‘Companion Piece’ likewise offers tantalising teases of the Nine’s ambition without fully explaining how this particular story came to be the focus. Companions from throughout the Doctor’s lives are being collected as is highlighted by some exciting cameos, but even with the Nine exploiting River’s intimate knowledge of the Doctor’s long list of friends while River surreptitiously plots against him, choosing this particular quartet only emphasises the areas of the Eighth Doctor’s life not included. Even disregarding the brief audio adventures glimpsed with Fitz, Izzy, and Bernice Summerfield in ‘The Company of Friends’ and Samson and Gemma in ‘Terror Firma,’ not including C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew, Mary Shelley, and Molly O’Sullivan is a glaring omission that keeps this from being a genuine encapsulation of this incarnation’s long audio life. Likewise, although each of the companions on display has a unique skill set or property she can call upon to facilitate their collective escape, it’s not difficult to imagine other groups of companions also succeeding, Romana in particular being a prime candidate who is also held captive, and so this information inadvertently seems to weaken the companions not in focus. Not that any one-hour story can be expected to fully cover then entirety of the franchise, but limiting the Nine’s focus to the Eighth Doctor’s box set life post Dark Eyes would have provided a much more focused storyline, even if that meant foregoing the wholly surprising inclusion of the ill-fated First Doctor companion Katarina that inadvertently takes away from some this group’s self-sufficient nature that had been built up to that point.

Still despite the desire to include so many companions to varying extents and a lengthy setup in which the featured companions must separately learn where they are and whom they are housed with, ‘Companion Piece’ perfectly captures the spirits of these women perfectly. The return of Charlotte Pollard to the Eighth Doctor adventures is undoubtedly going to be the major draw of this story for many, and India Fisher delivers a profound performance that perfectly exemplifies her companion’s intelligence, self-assuredness, and bravery. While not taken from a time after her journeys with the Doctors to explore the assured flood of emotions that would result, Charley is made aware of her unique relation with time as is shifted between two cells in the collection accordingly, and the hints offered of what awaits this character are satisfying nods to her long history in the audio medium. This contrasts nicely with the Eighth Doctor’s newest companion from The Time War series, Bliss, and despite this version of the character not knowing the Doctor thanks to a clever use of what fate awaits the Time Lord, Rakhee Thakrar likewise again proves why the Doctor has taken to Bliss’s keen intuition and courage in remarkably short order.

Naturally, a friendly competition of sorts forms within this group of unexpected comrades, and whether River were to remain as the mastermind behind the group or not, it is exceedingly easy to envision these companions continuing to work together to solve further issues and right further wrongs. Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan more than capably hold their own in a story that brings in both predecessors and successors, and it’s quite intriguing to note that Big Finish- allowing for the potential of River unreliably narrating- has seemingly provided a definitive closure to its Eighth Doctor chronology as River states that Bliss is next in line for travels aboard the TARDIS. Without undoing any of the emotional impact of her last appearance in Doom Coalition, Alex Kingston is the unsurprising glue of this assembly, and she once more exudes her natural charisma as River brings all of space and time into her gambit against the Nine who John Heffernan so brilliantly brings to life with malicious glee. Indeed, there truly is a tremendous amount to enjoy within the running time of ‘Companion Piece’ but the Nine’s ever-escalating ambition doesn’t quite serve to amplify this particular story and the companions in its focus, the somewhat sporadic collection of companions from throughout the Doctor’s lives at various points in relation to their travels with the Doctor raising more questions than needed and the Doctor’s jest about expecting Liv and Helen to need his help when he finally arrives offhandedly belittling what his companions can truly manage in their own right. There may be some confusing messaging about companions modern and classic alike, but this combination of companions is never anything less than totally enthralling.

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