The Three Companions

Posted in Audio by - April 30, 2019
The Three Companions

Released August 2011

Originally included as twelve ten-minute segments included at the end of the Doctor Who audio releases ranging from 2009’s ‘The Magic Mousetrap’ to 2010’s ‘Survival of the Fittest,’ Marc Platt’s ‘The Three Companions’ is now compiled into one cohesive whole as part of The Specials collection. When Polly electronically tracks down one Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart after reading Jo Grant’s online account of ‘The Doll of Death,’ her desire to share stories of adventures with the Doctor soon uncovers just how intertwined their pasts and a current planetary crisis truly are.

When the story is taken as a whole, it becomes clear from the start how difficult framing a story through email conversation is, and Platt seems to realise this as Polly and the Brigadier quickly shift from a more formal format complete with salutations to a more relaxed format that feels more like a live chat complete with interjections. The first two segments of the story unfold in this fashion as the script tries to balance narration and character interaction despite the great distance between the two, and while it is accordingly not wholly successful in capturing the essence of either approach, it does serve to introduce these characters to each other while allowing Polly to learn that the rejuvenation of the Doctor she witnessed was hardly an isolated event.

The narrative shift becomes more apparent when Big Finish companion Thomas Brewster is revealed to be watching these conversations from afar, adding an element of full-cast drama to a script that also tries to maintain the narration already in place that is all the more pronounced when all three unite once Brewster claims that he is in possession of a TARDIS without fully revealing who he actually is. This element actually works quite well given the rather ambiguous morality of the character who earned the Doctor’s consternation and worse on more than one occasion, and the hint at his mysterious employer ties nicely if somewhat awkwardly into the individual stories of Polly and the Brigadier as well as the progressive conditions climate change are wreaking upon the planet. Understandably for a story originally released sequentially, the padding of the individual pieces becomes a bit more apparent when linked into one with the villainous presence as the only major throughline, but the atmosphere inherent to each is impressive and at times oppressive with a true sense of deterioration present from the very beginning. From an alien world facing its final moments to an Earth that seems to be headed down that same path, the uneasy tension of the parallels supported by the unsettling presence of so many versions of the companions helps to create a suitably engrossing mystery to compensate for the somewhat jarring means of delivery.

This, of course, marks Nicholas Courtney’s final appearance for Big Finish prior to his untimely passing February 2011, and though his tones here do understandably carry with them the passage of time, in certain instances he is perfectly able to recapture his character of old with a youthful energy and bombast. For a supporting character who meant so much to the franchise at a crucial period of reinvention, ‘The Three Companions’ provides a fitting mix of action and nostalgic overtures that celebrates everything the Brigadier has accomplished and become over the many years. Supporting Courtney are equally impressive performances by Anneke Wills who brings a sensitive but tempered aspect to her elder Polly and by John Pickard whose enthusiasm and roguish charm intertwine this more modern character with the classics expertly. The climax may let down the production somewhat since the companions hardly feature, but despite the disjointed approach to bringing these three stories together, the performances, direction, genuine emotion, and ambition nonetheless make this an intriguing experiment worthy of a listen.

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