Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Original Doctor Who: Frostfire (2007)

Whatever happened to Vicki? At the close of The Mythmakers, she had adopted the identity of Cressida and wed Troilus of Troy, becoming a figure of legend in the process. Leaving the Doctor and Steven behind with their new companion Katerina, she ventured off to a misty and unknown future-past. Vicki never was seen again... on the show.

Once more, Big Finish comes to the rescue of First Doctor fans with the release of the Companion Chronicles series. The very first volume in the series featured Maureen O'Brien reprising her role as Vicki to reminisce about her life with the Doctor to a mysterious voice kept in the cold and dark beneath the temple in ancient Carthage. This strange other, it seems, is the only person that she can talk to about her former life. Through it she tells us that her new identity leaves much to be desired: it's all so very primitive, with no one to talk to honestly lest they take her for a witch. Poor Troilus can't even grasp the simple concept of a pulley!

To the freezing entity lit only by a tiny oil lamp, she unfolds a lost tale of the original Doctor. Immediately after their encounter with the Monk in The Time Meddler, the TARDIS landed the Doctor, Vicki and Steven directly on the frozen River Thames in Regency London. It is the coldest day of the year, practically of all time, feeling as though something is sucking the heat out of the whole city. Exploring, they meet a shifty Italian, some English gentry, Jane Austin and take in a frost fair sideshow. The sideshow's feature attraction also seems to be at the heart of this frigid mystery... A phoenix egg discovered in Tunis, the Carthage of antiquity.

Whether it was intentional or not, the placing of Frostfire in the continuity is well done. It was The Time Meddler that introduced into the series the concept of a Science Fiction historical, and Frostfire is of the same type. Of their First Doctor offerings, it would be interesting to see Big Finish attempt a true historical in the tradition of the first season. Despite the preference for Science Fiction, one still welcomes any and every canonical adventure of the First Doctor that is handed to us some 40 years after the fact.

This latter-day story in particular delivers wonderfully on the central premise of a causality loop and the ethical questions that can rise out of one, leaving a little something for one to ponder at the end of it all. If you were caught at the beginning and end of a causality loop, would you feel the moral obligation to try and end the death and destruction that comes in the middle? Is it even possible? This quandry, above and beyond her own emotional need to have a confidant, presses in on Vicki's psyche throughout the drama.

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