Charlotte Pollard Series One

Posted in Audio by - February 28, 2018
Charlotte Pollard Series One

Released May 2014

Self-proclaimed Edwardian adventuress Charlotte Pollard, as played by India Fisher, remains one of Big Finish’s most enduring and endearing creations, a no-nonsense and fiercely loyal and intelligent figure who eventually came into conflict with her emotions and the web of time while traveling alongside the Eighth Doctor and then renewed that latter conflict while traveling alongside the Sixth Doctor. With circumstances in ‘Blue Forgotten Planet’ necessitating that she uneasily ally with the Viyrans, a race dedicated solely to the eradication of viruses throughout the cosmos released during the destruction of the Amethyst Station, Charlotte Pollard Series One continues that mysterious tale with the Doctor squarely in her past.

‘The Lamentation Cipher’ by Jonathan Barnes opens the series emphatically with the marvelous visual and discussion of the spatiotemporal riddle known as the Ever and Ever Prolixity, a pulsing darkness with a cascade of light from within that defies all knowledge and attempts at explanation. With that in the backdrop, Charley comes upon Robert Buchan at the Jolly Brewer pub, another professed adventurer from Earth who begins saying antiquated words he does not understand, the hallmark of the parasitic virus that attacks through race memory that Charley has been sent to locate. Her current task completed, Charley begins to think of herself as nothing more than a pet of the Viyrans, but as the Prolixity begins to change and warnings of a time virus blare, a very unique Viyran allows her the chance to escape her associates and into the universe at large. In a remarkably short space of time, Charley’s surroundings, forced partnership, and personal sentiments are relayed incredibly effectively, setting the scene for the box set immensely well and reminding listeners of just what Charley has been through and endured.

Back at the pub, Buchan seems to have forgotten their previous meeting, but while offering Charley a trip on his ship back to Earth he discloses that he is an investment broker who works for his father, a man seeking to capitalize financially on the Prolixity and its recent change. Although it’s clear that Robert will be more intimately involved in future stories, James Joyce gives a powerful performance as a man whose thoughts and actions are clearly influenced by his father but who wants to do and be something more, proving to be the perfect conduit through which Charley can escape her doomed fate with the Viyrans into the mysterious unknown that the Prolixity itself presents. Knowing from the strange Viyran who is not recognized by the Viyran commander that she holds and must trust the lamentation cipher, her burden and her curse, Charley unknowingly finds herself the target of a relentless pursuit from her former associates in which no cost is too high, a cryptic and exciting ending to a strong introductory instalment.

Charley lands in a mysterious forest in the north of Scotland in 1936 in ‘The Shadow at the Edge of the World’ by Jonathan Barnes, her short-term memory seemingly erased as she quickly comes upon a strong group of women, one of whom would just as soon kill her as pay her any attention as they continue their dogged flight on foot from the beastly Slaverings. Somehow producing a burst of light that gives the group a temporary reprieve from pursuit, Charley earns at least a modicum of trust as the group slowly opens up and explains that they are all that remains from a university expedition looking for an ancient temple that an aircraft photograph suggests may predate estimates of life on Earth by millennia, a temple that seems to be cursed given the many losses of lives and minds that have ensued in the successive quests. The forest creates a dark and claustrophobic setting that only intensifies the ravenous menace of the single-minded Slaverings, allowing the time for the story to be told naturally without ever sacrificing tone or energy.

Jacqueline King, Abigail McKern, Nicola Weeks, and Lucy May Barker each do well to meaningfully portray the different internal and external stresses of losing so much while trying to retain sanity amidst such dangerous hunters. As Emmeline continues to speak about glimpses of the pattern and guiding force in the shadows, the others fear that she has become the latest to lose her sanity, but after Charity comes upon one subdued creature that she seems to have an affinity for and Emmeline then says something to Susan that makes her fear for her life, it’s clear that the goings-on are much more personal than they dared ever believe. The truth behind the Slaverings may be well-telegraphed from almost the very beginning, but the revelation when it hits the characters is nonetheless effective and puts the well-trodden path that leads to Charley’s crashed ship and beyond into new light. Given the Viyrans’ involvement in this set, it’s also no surprise that a virus has taken hold of certain individuals, and while perhaps spilling too much information Charley is quickly able to spin these heartbreaking and tense events to her advantage to get these people a form of help before ultimately choosing possible death by re-entering the Prolixity instead of living her life with these Viyrans who strangely seem to not know her until after her escape.

‘The Fall of the House of Pollard’ by Matt Fitton tells unquestionably the most intimate and emotional tale of the series, squarely discussing the aftermath of Charley’s family after her disappearance and presumed death aboard the R101 airship. Doctor Who and its spinoffs do not often dedicate lengthy periods of time to revealing the emotional and physical fallout of actions that the Doctor and his companions take, but this detailed personal look into the Pollard family is both welcome and exceedingly poignant due to the emotional range and genuineness of Anneke Wills as Lady Louisa Pollard and Terrence Hardiman as Lord Richard Pollard. Unsurprisingly, the death of their daughter is not an event that the family has been able to simply cast aside, and Richard has become a recluse in his realm of books and writings, taking to drink much more than to food. Knowing that they are down to their last farthing and that they will soon lose the house if they can’t begin lessening their debt, however, Louisa comes across as the more practical of the two, but it’s clear that the relationship is strained because of her husband’s many questionable decisions since the crash, an open-ended statement that she implies to mean of the stock market but that he takes to mean of the airship when cornered.

When a mysterious boy with the familial trait of second sight, Michael Dee, arrives at the Pollards’ doorstep claiming that he has been listening to Charlotte, the tempered emotion and sense of civility that pervade these aristocrats are lost, Louisa berating him for trying to play upon their emotions and finances as so many have done over the previous years by offering false hope and empty sentiments. Using knowledge that only Charley and former cook, Edith, would have known, however, Dee is able to gain entrance to the home and is warily offered the chance to run a séance, during which the spirit of Louisa’s mother strangely suggests that Charley is trapped somewhere else. David Dobson gives a strong performance as a man who only barely understands what is going on, and he provides the emotional anchor by which Charley is able to return to this world, a return that is met with as much anger and skepticism by her parents as it is with relief and joy. This initial shock and confusion gives way to some of the most powerful drama Big Finish has ever produced, however, as Louisa assumes that it was her failure as a mother that caused her headstrong daughter to leave and her husband to then be unable to even look at her. Stating that one cannot control the people one loves because that would not be love, Charley proves her own identity and assures both that her disappearance was not simply a trick as she discusses the Doctor and her many adventures. With the Viyrans on her tail and attempting to eradicate all knowledge of this encounter with Charley, though, she agrees to rejoin her pursuers in exchange for her parents’ lives, resulting in only whispers of investments to make remaining in her father’s head and a conclusion to this satisfyingly heartfelt reunion that is simultaneously upbeat and downtrodden note.

The Viyrans bring Charley back to the Ever and Ever Prolixity two years after she disappeared into it as ‘The Viyran Solution’ by Matt FItton begins. In her absence, the Prolixity has become a haven for cures for all ailments, and beings from across the cosmos are flocking to it as Robert Buchan acts as the new Viyran intermediary for curing before erasing all memory of his actions. Accordingly, Buchan acts as the nexus point between dual storylines featuring the Viyrans to whom he is a genetic anchor for their developing panacea and his own father who still holds so much sway over his actions. Nicholas Briggs portrays Bert Buchan as a thoroughly evil and ruthless man who puts profit margin above all else, and his discovery of the hidden Viyran ship with its antiviral contents through the torture of one specific Viyran is a target his ego and paranoia cannot leave alone. With Louise Brealey’s equally determined and callous Millicent Belanger III at his side, the two form a formidable duo that brings both danger and emotions to the forefront as the truth of the Viyrans’ plans and just how Bert can be utilised to see them to fruition are revealed.

Unsurprisingly, however, the Viyrans and Charley form the true crux of ‘The Viyran Solution’ as the Prolixity is revealed to be a creation of the Viyrans themselves due to an attempt to contain a time virus that developed a semblance of sentience. As Charley realises that the Prolixity’s continued existence goes against temporal causality, the Viyrans explain that it is now maintained so that they can extend their monitoring throughout time, their top priority being given to one strain that escaped them and brought with it the biggest mutation that the universe has ever seen. This revelation shows just how dedicated and single-minded the Viyrans have become given this opportunity and significantly enhances the stakes to far beyond the more personal nature of those in the earlier stories. Filling a very satisfying arc as well is the rogue Viyran introduced at the beginning of this series, revealed to be on a distinct mission of his own that expressly goes against the rest of his race, exemplifying just how all-encompassing the Viyrans and those unseen powers above them are at any given time and giving new meaning to the earlier discussion of the lamentation cipher as Charley and Robert realize just how integral Charley and her adventures away from the Viyran ship have truly been.

Charley’s time with the Doctor ended on a somewhat open-ended note with her future anything but certain, and this first series of Charley’s own adventures more than adequately showcases the profound events at which the Edwardian adventuress finds herself centred thanks to incredible writing, acting, directing, and sound design. With the Viyrans more powerful and fearsome than ever as their quest to produce a panacea progresses and with an engaging secondary duo of Robert Buchan and the rogue Viyran, Charlotte Pollard opens with a bang and proves that plenty of stories remain for the indomitable India Fisher to fill her character’s ever-expanding diary.

  • Release Date: 5/2014
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