March 24, 2023

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Doctor Who “The Mouthless Dead”

In an audio play as told by the Second Doctor's companions, there's this haunted train yard...

So, I was rather curious about Big Finish’s Second Doctor stories.  I’ve never been shy about pointing out the Second Doctor is my favorite Doctor.  However, actor Patrick Troughton died in 1987.  How would Big Finish do Second Doctor stories?  Simple!  Hire his former co-star and good friend on- and off-screen Frazer Hines to portray the Second Doctor, and that way you also get Jamie too.

Anyway, this story came from a set called “Companion Chronicles” or something, and each of the four discs tells a story from the perspective of at least one of the Second Doctor’s companions.  As of the time these stories were produced, four of the five actors to play companions to the Second Doctor were still alive in the form of the aforementioned Hines, along with Anneke “Polly” Wills, Deborah “Victoria” Watling, and Wendy “Zoe” Padbury.  Watling has since herself passed on, but that’s not a bad get since Big Finish got all of them to do these stories, none of which seems to have more than three or four actors working on them.

First up, “The Mouthless Dead”.

“The Mouthless Dead” is based on a bit of English history I didn’t actually know, namely how the funeral train for the Unknown Warrior drew thousands of mourners along the train route.  The Unknown Warrior was a soldier who died in the trenches of World War I, and he was left unnamed (and perhaps unidentified) in order to symbolically represent all of Britain’s fallen.  As an American, I know my own country has its own  Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so I can relate a bit.

However, the TARDIS managed to materialize in the middle of the track and got hit by a train.  The Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie get out to look around, and then the trouble begins.

The point of this story, apparently, is to give the audience an idea of when Jamie and Ben became friends, something that just seemed to happen between serials when the two were on the TARDIS together.   Jamie narrates that part of the story.  Meanwhile, Polly, herself narrating her own view of things, is consoling a grieving young woman whose fiancé apparently died during the war and may be the Unknown Warrior.  She’s basically haunting the graveyard.  The Doctor, meanwhile, is having a nice chat with the signalman when everything goes crazy in the form of what appears to be the ghosts of the recently deceased in the war start walking around.

Or are they?  Jamie sees his old Highlander comrades while Ben sees sailors who died on a ship with his uncle.  Oh, and there’s one other guy out there, but he’s alive and real.

Yeah, apparently, the TARDIS getting hit by a train scrambled its telepathic circuits, creating all these potentially lethal images.  All the general mourning around the Unknown Warrior’s procession is making people conjure up personalized images of their own dead, hence why Ben and Jamie see different figures.  The key is to actually find a stronger positive emotion and get the Doctor back to the TARDIS to fix everything.  And don’t ask what the Doctor saw because he is an expert at dodging the question.

As it is, the figure Ben saw is a soldier who was scarred up a bit in the war and is actually the grieving woman’s missing fiancé.  She’s just glad to have him back, and he needn’t have hidden away.  Love is better than mourning, and that goes a long way to fix everything.

So, how was Hines as the Doctor?  Pretty good actually.  He’s obviously not Troughton, but he comes pretty close, with the right inflections and vocal mannerisms.  If I can’t get Troughton, what with his being dead and all, this is a perfectly fine substitution.

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