Criss-Cross

Posted in Audio by - January 05, 2017
Criss-Cross

Released September 2016

Following Big Finish’s The Last Adventure set that ‘officially’ told the regeneration story of the Sixth Doctor, there was a subset of fandom that insisted that the Sixth Doctor had been thoroughly explored from beginning to end and that little new could be done with the character. However, within that set was the non-chronological introduction of Miranda Raison as leading WREN Constance Clarke from World War II Bletchley Park, a character brimming with potential and who now gets her official and chronological debut in ‘Criss-Cross’ as the Sixth Doctor’s newest companion. As mysterious radio signals cross the Earth and a surprisingly discrete Doctor attracts the attention of spy-catchers from MI5, ‘Criss-Cross’ offers a fantastically tense story that proves that Big Finish is certainly not in danger of running out of ideas any time soon.

In the audio medium, Evelyn Smythe proved to be the definitive companion for the Sixth Doctor, and it’s clear that Constance will share some of the same sensibilities as her predecessor, expressing an immense pride in her work and unflinching in her sense of rectitude even if it means boldly standing up to her male superiors. More importantly, she is willing and able to stand up to the Doctor, bringing out the very best in him as he tempers his sometimes grandiose and imposing actions when faced with her consternation. The two don’t develop an instant friendship, but it’s clear that the somewhat aloof relationship is about to warm as well, Constance already showing chinks in her armour of upright professionalism when asking about her huband, Henry, who has been MIA for the past year.

Aside from a fascinating new companion, ‘Criss-Cross’ succeeds because of how it embraces such a dark and fascinating historical period. There is a tangible sense of suspicion and distrust around nearly every corner, the plight of the British side and the threat of spies never far from the surface. Intriguingly, when something scrambles the TARDIS’s systems and effectively leaves the ship dead, Bletchley Park seems the logical location for the Doctor to go to help track the coded signals while attempting repairs. Of course, events soon take an otherworldly turn as an alien ship under the British coast sending out reconnaissance signals is discovered, but ‘Criss-Cross’ then excels even more by bringing to fruition a war on a plane of existence of which mere mortals are completely unaware. A war within the sound waves is a truly fascinating premise, especially given the time and the setting, and it fleshes out the very literal hunt for golden eggs and the wildly swinging allegiances of Mr Flint superbly.

Even as the narrative and genres shift, the tale of the Doctor trying to decipher the war beneath the war without rewriting history comes together flawlessly to create one of the more engrossing adventures in recent memory. With a very strong supporting cast, a claustrophobic and distrustful environment, and the introduction of Constance Clarke who promises to be an incredibly engaging companion for the Sixth Doctor, ‘Criss-Cross’ looks to the past to set an incredibly strong foundation for the future, telling an immensely engaging tale featuring a realm Doctor Who rarely visits in the process.

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