Released December 2005
The TARDIS trio of the Eighth Doctor, Charley, and C’rizz has been one met with overall mixed reviews despite some genuinely intriguing storylines and character development. However, ‘Other Lives’ completely mixes things up by offering a more light-hearted story in which each of the characters has a double in 1851 Britain. Stories with doubles are nothing new in the long history of Doctor Who, but Gary Hopkins pushes this idea to the limit with all three having doubles, and the result is easily one of the best releases from Big Finish’s 2005 catalogue.
While the doubles of Charley and C’rizz are interesting enough as French aristocrats who end up taking the TARDIS, the inherently more intriguing aspect is the double of the Doctor as the missing and married Doctor Marlow. Seeing the regulars assume these lives, the Doctor posing as Mrs Marlow’s husband to keep her from losing her home and Charley and C’rizz posing as the aristocrats to prevent a revolution is both written and acted well by everyone involved. Of course, a Eutermisan in Victorian England is sure to raise eyebrows, and C’rizz experiences a hauntingly effective journey as he is brutally introduced to the time. Quite quickly after exiting the TARDIS, in fact, he is captured and beaten, forced to become part of a traveling carnival’s ‘freak show.’ Mike Holoway does exceedingly well as the charming but dangerous owner of the show, Jacob Crackles, and the revenge C’rizz eventually takes on him after again suffering through many visits from different souls within his head is brutal and fitting. There is a light sense of danger throughout, but C’rizz’s dilemma is far darker than anything else on offer and the real emotional crux of the story.
As mentioned, though, the double with the most intriguing story is that of Doctor Edward Marlow. While the situation of needing to convince Edward’s uncle that the Doctor is Doctor Marlow to keep Marlow’s wife from losing the house after he’d missing for such a long time is hardly a creative masterstroke, it does allow for Paul McGann to play a man more in line with his persona before the Zagreus incident and the ensuing emotionally-laden adventures. Full of charming romance and a thirst for adventure as the Eighth Doctor of old was, McGann does extremely well here and it’s interesting to note that the appeal of a regular life seems to grow more on him as time progresses.
Charley has the lightest story of the bunch, becoming involved with the scheme of Ron Moody’s Duke of Wellington to assure the public that the French aristocrats are safe and present, but it still offers some clever dialogue and nicely-written scenes even. Here character is written at her best here as well, allowing India Fisher to portray a headstrong and independent woman. So even though there is not a true evil to be spoken of and the story is more just a means of putting the leads into intriguing situations, this is still a superb offering that takes full advantage of the Great Exhibition and offers a clever twist on time travel in the process. It’s a gamble to write a story so egregiously different from the typical Doctor Who tale, but the risk pays off handsomely for Gary Hopkins and Big Finish.