Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Original Doctor Who: The Lost Stories (2010)

One of the great what-if's of Doctor Who lore are those seasons that would have been had television been nicer to that famed British TV series. Colin Baker, as the Sixth Doctor, suffered for some of the poorest scripts and had his run curtailed. Great ideas were in store for his replacement, Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy, but the series was cancelled. Big Finish Audio, to supplement their ongoing series of Doctor Who audio-dramas and Companion Chronicles, took many of those scripts and adapted them into a successful series of “Lost Stories.”

The second grouping of The Lost Stories dug deeper in time to produce two boxsets, one of the First Doctor and another of the Second. Doctor Who: The Lost Stories: The First Doctor Boxset (phew) features two stories read and ably dramatized by William “Chesterton” Russell and Carole Ann “Susan” Ford. The first is a six-episode historical epic entitled Farewell, Great Macedon, and the second a Sci-Fi short called The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance.

Farewell, Great Macedon takes place just after The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara's misadventures during the French Revolution, landing them within the walls of the Hanging Garden of Babylon. They quickly learn that they have not visited Babylon at the height of its imperial glory, but rather, during the peak of Alexander's conquests. Enjoying his company, our heroes find themselves at the heart of a conspiracy as members of Alexander's entourage begin to die off one-by-one. When the emperor himself starts to fall ill, attention turns to these interlopers who worked their way so well into the trust of his majesty.

The Fragile Yellow Arc of Fragrance is one of those Doctor Who stories that best exemplifies the weirdness that British Science Fiction can get up to. Having bid farewell to Great Macedon, the TARDIS lands on the alien world of Fragrance, where the Doctor convinces the natives to help him build a special membrane which will improve the operations of his ship. Whiling away the time on Fragrance, Barbara makes the acquaintance of Rhythm, an amorous young man. Barbara can't claim to feel about him the way he feels about her, which is further complicated by the fact that the people of Fragrance bond to the object of their affections for life. So deep is this bond that should the object of their affections not reciprocate, the ill-fated lover must take their own life.

The biggest question of the set, which is posed in the supplementary round-table interviews, is why these stories were not actually produced for the show. Farewell, Great Macedon itself could have easily been the equal of the famed Marco Polo, which was made but later lost in the video purges of the BBC archives. At least the boxset makes for quality audio-drama. Big Finish has since gone on to dig up two more First Doctor adventures: The Masters of Luxor, about a machine trying to gain a soul, and The Dark Planet.

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