Released May 2011
Big Finish’s adaptation of the season twenty-seven that never was continues with Andrew Cartmel’s ‘Crime of the Century,’ a story most notable for properly introducing new companion, Raine Creevy. Delving fully into the manipulative and scheming nature of the Seventh Doctor, a safe-cracking heist in London, an invasion of Soviet and alien forces in the Middle East, and a highly guarded facility on the Scottish border all play into his newest plan.
Even if the many storylines don’t completely come together in an equal and balanced whole, ‘Crime of the Century’ is exceedingly confident with the story it sets out to tell and is filled with superb imagery and atmosphere that help to sell every action along the way even if the plot is somewhat lacking and the Doctor’s plan and even the titular crime do not come into focus until the very end. Strangely, though following an absolutely superb introductory scene for Raine in which she sneaks away from a party to crack a safe, only to find the Doctor inside, the narrative very much takes the focus off of Raine to put Ace and the warzone in the spotlight for an extended period of time. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but ‘Crime of the Century’ resultantly ends up only being a tease for Raine as a character, though one whom Beth Chalmers instantly imbues with a strong sense of self-confidence and acumen and whose combination of wide-eyed wonder and resourcefulness should make her a perfect fit aboard the Seventh Doctor’s TARDIS.
‘Crime of the Century’ is also notable for bringing back Raine’s father from ‘Thin Ice,’ and it’s apparent from the start that Raine and Markus share a very strained relationship which Chalmers and Ricky Groves play excellently. Of course, the fact that Ace’s story features Markus before Raine arrives hampers the dramatic effect of this reveal, and the decision to give Ace the climactic swordfight rather than Raine the fencer is an incredibly odd one, though likely one made to keep Ace involved in the portion of the story she had carried to that point. Even if the heavy weaponry may have been a bit much to actually appear on a family programme, the menace of the Soviet and unknown alien forces early on forms a satisfyingly tense backdrop, and the blurring of lines as the Prince considers getting weapons from one of the invaders he is trying to protect against works wonderfully. Less successful is the eventual reveal of the rather generic alien threat, a foe who fits the needed role perfectly but has little to it aside from a communicator mayhap introduced by the Doctor that makes the leader speak in somewhat grating sixties surfer intonations rather than the usual hissing menace.
With these stories being written decades after their conception, it’s hard to say just how true to the original visions they are. Still, even with a focus more on spectacle and atmosphere than on actual plot, ‘Crime of the Century’ carries itself confidently through a few missteps to create another enjoyable if ultimately safe story that shares quite a few notable similarities with the preceding tale. Nonetheless, the beguiling Raine instantly makes her presence known and shares a wonderful chemistry with both the Doctor and Ace in their scenes together, creating a strong sense of optimism for this new, expanded team going forward.