The Doll of Death

Posted in Audio by - February 20, 2019
The Doll of Death

Released September 2008

With Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney already starring in Pertwee-era installments of The Companion Chronicles, Katy Manning is the natural next choice, taking up narration duties as the beloved Jo Grant recalls an investigation into a temporal anomaly and an unstable alien artefact in Marc Platt’s ‘The Doll of Death.’

On television, Jo was a woman maturing and finding herself in a world that didn’t always acknowledge her enthusiasm and determination because of her relative inexperience, and it’s intriguing to hear a much older Jo who has been away from London for so long while chronicling her adventures with her husband reflect upon her younger self. She readily admits that she may have been something of a lost cause alongside the Doctor, and her resolve to prove herself getting interrupted by her equally strong fascination with fashion when she sees a pair of boots that she proudly still owns to this day is the perfect encapsulation of this most unique companion. Manning had already proven her audio prowess and versatility by bringing the bombastic and garrulous Iris Wildthyme to life for Big Finish on multiple occasions prior to this release, and her first official reprisal as Jo is authentically emotional and very much captures the spirit of the era. And although she does not necessarily attempt to imitate her male companions, there is never any doubt about who is speaking at any point, a true testament to the actor and a fact that ensures this very populated story flows effortlessly from beginning to end.

Released at a time before more complex time travel stories became more commonplace in every medium, ‘The Doll of Death’ features the rather fascinating concept of retrocausation, or events occurring before their cause. This allows Platt to introduce a bevy of ideas and situations early on that aren’t put into context until much later when multiple time streams begin intersecting. With a conduit linking this time to a parallel universe in which time flows backwards and its future has already occurred here, Platt’s prose is evocatively descriptive and highlights this uniquely visual scenario and hauntingly tense setting filled with ominous ghosts and figures to perfection, and the intersection of the two Jos to put everything into perspective is a particular highlight of the exploits of the future historian studying the Doctor’s experiences on Earth based on what he already knows will occur.

While it is true that perhaps a little bit too much time is spent with the interplay of these two realities as the leads come to realise what is occurring and gain perspective about what they have previously seen rather than spreading the focus to some of the other clever ideas on display, this is a stylish story with a fantastic central concept that is absolutely befitting of the Third Doctor’s more Earthbound tenure. In fact, this is the Third Doctor at his brash best as he foregoes any sense of furtiveness and must contend with the Brigadier’s audacious demands for more cooperation, for no personal missions, and for him to file his taxes like any other British citizen, and the continued turmoil resulting from his contempt for his exile and his love of humanity makes for a fitting internal dilemma to complement the larger external threats he seemingly faces on a weekly basis.

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