Released September 2006
Big Finish has been releasing Doctor Who audio adventures since 1999 and, finally, Janet Fielding has reprised her role as the strong and stubborn Tegan Jovanka, agreeing to do so for one story only to provide a sense of closure for the character. In fact, ‘The Gathering’ is based upon the Fifth Doctor reuniting with his companion decades after they went their own separate ways, and although Tegan may not be the core focal point of the story, it’s quite clear that this is a tale about Tegan herself.
It’s Tegan’s forty-sixth birthday in the story, and she’s quite overwhelmed that the small celebratory outing she had agreed to has turned into a rather bigger party with even the Doctor in attendance. Apparently, the Doctor happened upon Dr Katherine Chambers, one of the party’s hosts and someone who clearly knows who the Doctor is, as he was investigating a series of energy anomalies, leading to the reunion of sorts.
Fielding recaptures the sort of acerbic wit, determination, and bravery so characteristic of Tegan effortlessly, and the length of time that has passed since traveling with the Doctor means that she is an unknown quantity at this point, most notably demonstrated by the fact that she a malignant brain tumour. Right from the start, Tegan is quite blunt with the Doctor, telling his that reappearance must mean that someone is going to die. Still, despite her rather snarky toughness, there’s certainly a softer character on the inside, one who admits that she is happy with her life and will not rely on the Doctor or any alien technology to cure her. It’s a very touching and fitting moment for the character, one who has become quite successful in love and business after leaving the TARDIS.
Yet despite all of the character work afforded Tegan, she is not necessarily the focus of the story which serves as a sort of sequel to ‘The Reaping’ and even as a sort of prequel to ‘The Harvest.’ Landing in 2006 Brisbane- after avoiding 1984 Baltimore- while searching for the cause of the energy readings, the Doctor’s curiosity is the driving force behind the tale. Fighting a losing battle, he continues to try to make the best of the situation and to keep people safe even as more and more die around him. The scenes in which Tegan refuses to be saved by the Doctor perfectly encapsulate how much the two mean to each other, even as the Doctor fails to fully be able to put his appreciation and admiration for her into words. The plot may not be the most unique, featuring loose morals with the attempted use of advanced technology to save a loved one, but the characterization of the leads is superb.
Jane Perry reprises her role at Katherine Chambers, Peri’s friend from ‘The Reaping.’ Driven by thee twist in that story, she has become driven to become a surgeon and to save people by trying to incorporate Cybermen technology into her techniques with unsurprisingly poor results. James Clarke’s Richard Grieve is quite enjoyable as Chambers’s more ostentatious assistant, and Dait Abuchi’s Michael Tanaka is believable as a boyfriend Tegan would want to be around and a man who would want to be around Tegan, even showing off a flash of jealousy when the Doctor returns to Tegan’s life.
Tegan has always been a strong character and stands out from many others because she left the TARDIS of her own will when it stopped being fun for her. Even after all of this time apart, she never regrets her decision and is perfectly content with the life she has created for herself back in Australia. As an intended final farewell, ‘The Gathering’ hits all of the right notes even without putting Tegan as the primary focus.