What’s it about: When the First Doctor and his grand-daughter Susan escape through the cloisters of Gallifrey to an old Type 40 Time Travel capsule, little do they realize the adventures that lie ahead… And little do they know, as the TARDIS dematerializes and they leave their home world behind, there is someone else aboard the ship. He is Quadrigger Stoyn, and he is very unhappy.
An Unearthly Child: They left Gallifrey because it just wasn’t their home any more…but we all see these things differently, don’t we? We’re with Susan when she says goodbye to Gallifrey, watching the planet shrink away on the scanner to a dot. It would be along time before she returned and only then to play the Game of Rassilon in the Death Zone. Susan believes she has made up the name TARDIS, but the Doctor seems to know it too. He allows her this little victory when it is clearly not the case. Stoyn admits that nobody has Grandfathers these days – is it just an affectation?
Hmm: If anybody was going to script this momentous companion chronicle for the Doctor and Susan it would have to be resident Big Finish expert on these two characters, Marc Platt. When it comes to capturing the voice of the first Doctor and his grand daughter there is none finer and he has written a prolific number of adventures for them both already. Platt writes for both characters as authentically as David Whitaker did back in the sixties, he understands what makes them tick. His Doctor is authorative and intelligent but with a real twinkle in his eye and his Susan is alien, wide-eyed and naïve but an essential emotional anchor for the Time Lord. Wonderfully the Doctor smiles at Susan when she realises that he is going to pilot an old Type 40 out of the Dock and out into the universe. It takes years to learn how to fly one of these machines, to form a bond with it, but he mischievously takes to the controls and defies all common sense and kick starts his greatest adventure. All the Doctor and Susan had was each other now and they clung on to each other as the Ship first took off. Susan could hear his thoughts telepathically at this turbulent point. What had he done? Where would they end up? What would become of Susan? He describes the TARDIS as antiquated but quite serviceable. At home his views were too disruptive, he couldn’t keep quiet was his trouble and there were powerful people that would not endure such dissention. For her Grandfather to just sit and watch would have been intolerable, he had to do something. How great is it that the Doctor has never heard of the Earth at this stage of his life and wonders whether there is a suitable planet for them to put down upon in Sol 3 in order to affect some repairs. The Doctor mocks Stoyn for leaving the TARDIS in an environmental suit, cheekily poking at his precautions when he should experiencing the joy of standing on an alien planet for the first time. The Doctor’s first first contact situation is a bit of a flop, he stands to his full height, clutches his lapels and announces their presence dramatically. When the Doctor gets to watch the history of the planet Earth he is entranced by the experience.
Stoyn: He was down in the inspection webbing when the TARDIS went live – the Doctor almost killed him by setting the controls and leaving Gallifrey and blistered one side of his face. His job is to dismantle the engines before the Ship heads to the knackers yard. He’s a typical example of one of the Doctor’s people and exactly the sort he was trying to get away from. Nervous, insular, impulsive and unable to cope with situations outside of his frame of reference. He pretty much spoils everything the Doctor tries to achieve in The Beginning and then when the shit hits the fan tries to head off with Susan to leave him to his fate. When the Doctor ignores his pleas and removes the TARDIS and his only way of escape, you have to wonder how he will react when they meet again.
Standout Performance: Appropriately this is Carole Ann Ford’s most accomplished performance yet on audio. She understands the importance of this material and raises her game to match it’s quality. Listen to her delivery of ‘It would be a massacre!’ when the aliens attempt to destroy the human race, it’s a fingers down the spine moment.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Let the experiment be purged!’
Great Ideas: To be able to listen to the Doctor and Susan attempting to escape Gallifrey from her point of view gave me goosebumps all over. The story ties beautifully into the TV series’ The Name of the Doctor and Big Finish’s recent Prisoners of Fate with Susan entering one TARDIS and hearing the Doctor talking to somebody outside and suddenly pulling her outside and choosing to escape their home planet in a different TARDIS altogether. Out of date and condemned to the junkyard, the Doctor and the TARDIS begin their long relationship together. As the two runaways stare out at the universe before them they see a universe of possibilities that they had been denied. Beyond the food machine the Ship was as big as a house with many, many doors leading off and awaiting exploration. This old Type 40 is dying, the air getting too thick to breathe…the thought of their travels being over before they have even begun is heartbreaking. As it understands the affinity the Doctor will have with the planet, it forces the Doctor to the Earth. Whether by accident or by design, the Doctor has literally saved the TARDIS from being killed – it is no wonder they form such a close bond. At this point the TARDIS still has a functioning chameleon circuit and is disguises itself as a boulder. Susan gets to watch a ‘first contact induction video’ where she gets to experience the history of the human race from fishes swimming in the ocean right through to homo sapiens. Local time was frozen and the Doctor and Susan were caught in the bubble, centuries have passed, aeons even and in the meantime the Earth had evolved. It was only the arrival of human explorers with that insatiable curiosity of theirs that broke the spell allowed the Doctor and Susan to break free. It is a miracle that the Earth and the human race have turned out as well as they have given all this alien involvement over the years. Was the planet an experiment from the off? Were the human race seeded to try and keep order on a lush and verdant world, an experiment that went horribly wrong? The human race evolved on its own terms whilst the aliens have been trapped in time and have a right to exist, argues Susan. The TARDIS as giant mushroom – that I would love to see!
Audio Landscape: That glorious sound of the first TARDIS flight we ever heard, a staser blast, alarms, trying to cut their way into the TARDIS, unwrapping a food bar, the hum of the console room, a jungle full of verdant life, wet ground sucking at their feet, an eye of ice threatening to consume the Doctor and Susan, the squeaking, vibrating lunar rover, the great gun booms.
Standout Scene: The first ten minutes charter an incident I never thought we would get to experience from such an intimate point of view and so generated a great deal of excitement from the off. How could you not have goosebumps as the Doctor and Susan make their escape from their home world?
Result: The story I never thought we would get experience – the Doctor and Susan’s first flight in the TARDIS. In a year that is turning out to be choc-a-block full of anniversary treats, this is one of the mot exciting because it opens our eyes to the wealth of adventure that lays ahead for the time travellers and shows their first step on this incredible 50 year journey. Marc Platt is too intelligent a writer to simply turn this into a nostalgic exercise though and he weaves in his own brand of exciting, quirky ideas and strong plotting. In the same vein companion chronicle producer David Richardson is too clever a frontrunner to allow this story to stand as a one off and uses the anniversary as a lynchpin to tell three exciting, linked stories that follow the journey of a Time Lord technician who was unfortunate enough to be carried along for the ride. Played with skill by Terry Molloy, I can’t wait to hear the rest of his story. We get to experience the Doctor’s first contact with the human race and the start of his love affair with the species and get to witness the very first time he saved that blue/green pearl from destruction. There are far more treats than those I have mentioned above and you should do yourself a favour and get hold of this priceless little gem and discover them for yourself. It fits in with the continuity set up in The Name of the Doctor, Lungbarrow and Prisoners of Fate but has many other points to be discussed and questioned. For Platt’s expert handling of the first Doctor and Susan alone this is a story to be treasured but there is much more to this than that: 9/10