The Queen of Clocks

Posted in Audio by - March 18, 2024
The Queen of Clocks

Released March 2024


From Big Finish’s earliest days with Doctor Who, few writers have shown such an incredible grasp of the immense potential the Sixth Doctor continues to hold as Jacqueline Rayner. Showing a brash and confident yet humble and- when needed- contrite individual, she helped to create the template for this short-lived incarnation from the screen to thrive and wonderfully develop within the audio medium. In this fourth set of Classic Doctors, New Monsters, Rayner returns to the Sixth Doctor’s era as Mel and he discover a castle under siege from Clockwork Droids in ‘The Queen of Clocks.’

The Clockwork Droids, of course, made an immense impact in Steven Moffat’s ‘The Girl in the Fireplace,’ effortlessly weaving into the themes of time and providing an immensely visual and stylish threat with a very unique and singular focus in mind to repair their ship. As important as the visual component of the clocks were to that story, though, they and a reverence for time become even more important in ‘The Queen of Clocks,’ the master clock and its time dictating all events as those under siege wait for the strike of midnight when their clockwork aggressors reset and allow them a temporary respite to fortify defenses for the next inevitable attack. With a surprisingly small cast, Rayner impressively fleshes out the royal and everyman components of this society and the devoutness to the accuracy of time and its passing even so many generations after this journey began, and Paterson Joseph in particular perfectly straddles the line between the two shown sects of society as the determined Harbolt who provides a clear entry point into the ongoing struggles here for the Doctor and Mel. Although Queen Catherine herself surprisingly does not focus too much given the title of this story, Finty Williams perfectly conveys the requisite confidence and honour of her character’s position that is tempered by a genuine sense of compassion for her people and of yearning and loss as her son looks for a new world for their civilization. The Queen’s eventual need to turn on everything she has ever decreed and believed at the Doctor’s behest becomes all the more resonant given the immense characterization and emotions poured into and pouring from this character, and with Jennifer Saayeng likewise providing an enthusiastic and emotional performance as Annette who so openly follows her heart and asks pertinent questions, the Guyenne backdrop is wonderfully dynamic and realized on many more levels than initially seem apparent.

Of course, the truth behind this siege is anything but straightforward, and Rayner mines immense drama out of the conflicting truths stemming from the Doctor’s beliefs, the residents’ beliefs, and the ultimate reality shown that calls the ever-present reminders of time fully into question. Even without a ready supply of anti-oil at arm’s reach as this story’s beginning seems to suggest might be an easy contrivance, there’s little reason to suspect that this eternal siege is anything more than a variation of the base under siege format that Doctor Who has perfected over the years, and the Doctor so confidently playing by that rulebook highlights both the incredible strengths of this incarnation as well as the fallibility that any would hold. Colin Baker is once more incredibly charismatic and lively as his Doctor doggedly tries to help this civilization break free from this cycle of violence with the promise of a new world nearing ever closer, and his chemistry with Bonnie Langford who highlights the unyielding drive and passion of Mel is superb and again shows why this pairing has been so wholly successful for Big Finish. In fact, ‘The Queen of Clocks’ is a story that works on just about every level except for the fact that nobody elected to check on the status of this civilization after the climactic twist that throws all previous assumptions to the wind. While emotions can certainly factor into this as stated, it seems unlikely that nobody at any time would summon the desire and courage to actually check on what has occurred. Along with the Doctor and Mel more or less walking away from events with just a passing mention of the complexity of attempts at helping others, these are brief emotionally hollow moments in an otherwise profoundly emotional story, and even without the actual visuals of the clockwork present, these unique droids and their unique component pieces that the sound design realizes so brilliantly make for another outstanding outing in this series that continues to blend the different eras of Doctor Who so seamlessly.

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