I had predicted the third disc in this “companions chronicles” set on the Second Doctor’s various companions would focus on Zoe following previous stories looking at Polly, Ben, Victoria, and through them all Jamie.
What I didn’t expect was that the story basically had a cast of two, with Frazer Hines basically just playing the Doctor and Jamie while Wendy Padbury not only reprised the role of Zoe, but she played all the other characters too. Granted, with her narration, that basically amounted to all of three or four other characters, but the point stands.
Actually, this may be the first one of the set where I sometimes was a little unsure if it was the Doctor or Jamie speaking in some scenes, and Padbury’s voice doesn’t change much unless one of the alien Integrals are speaking, and even then, it’s just adding some electronic effects to her regular voice. That’s fine and all. This is basically supposed to be a story told by Zoe, so why not have most of the voices basically be Zoe’s? That works for me for the most part. I just sometimes wasn’t sure what character I was listening to.
Regardless, the basic premise here is to take a common Second Doctor plotline, namely the “base under siege” idea, and flip it around so it’s actually some aliens being besieged by humans. It fits in with the broader themes introduced in the opening minutes where Jamie’s 18th century perspective is clashing with Zoe’s late 21st century perspective. Zoe was raised to always look at multiple points of view and see shades of gray. Jamie, well, doesn’t, and his experience on the TARDIS has led him to believe that pretty much any alien the group encounters is probably out to hurt them. Zoe believes that’s mostly just a coincidence.
It’s worth noting that Zoe is (mostly) proven right by the end, but Jamie isn’t completely wrong throughout the story either. That’s a nice twist. Late Second Doctor stories often set it up as Zoe was there to basically do a lot of advanced math when necessary while Jamie was just the group’s muscle even if he did lose more fights than he won–Doctor Who was never the kind of show where the day was saved by a fistfight even with the swashbuckling Third Doctor–and there was a good deal of commentary by other characters that Jamie wasn’t all that bright. Granted, the Second Doctor’s tenure is the closest the series ever came to being a pure comedy, but the point stands. As it is, in this audioplay, Zoe does take the time to explain that Jamie isn’t dumb, but his experiences shape who he is.
The basic plot opens with Zoe and Jamie arguing over whether or not all aliens are bad news, the Doctor weighing in mostly on Zoe’s side but mostly because he wants the fight to stop.
It more or less does when the TARDIS touches down on what turns out to be a deep space mental hospital for humans suffering from a mental illness caused by playing a video game, one that made the patients murderously insane and out to take out anyone except other people infected with the same disease. The hospital staff includes a pair of aliens called the Integral, slightly psychic aliens that can calm people down. However, that costs the company money, so a scientist onboard is working on a machine that will do the same thing without the Integrals. The machine works to dampen even more emotions than the Intregal, but the machine also tends to short out.
Too bad someone is also murdering the Intregal, something that should be impossible since the Intregal smooth out emotions just by being nearby, making violence in their presence difficult if not impossible. I mean, Jamie doesn’t even have the ability to defend himself when he’s being attacked with an Intregal nearby until she dials back the field she uses to dampen emotions.
However, there are two things that come about here. The Doctor and Zoe believe that there should be more Intregals on the station. When the station is down to one after the only other one was violently murdered, it becomes even more apparent as Zoe notices the doctor building the machine, also on board, really screwed up the math and didn’t know he needed an impossible-to-achieve energy source. That ups the ante, and it does eventually lead the company to hire more Intregals because that, well, is more economical than a machine that doesn’t work.
That said, anyone hoping for the Doctor to cure the disease or directly confront the company, well, no luck there. What does happen is Jamie sort of cures the patients by teaching the Intregals about how anger, properly focused, can be a good thing, allowing the Intregal to fine tune their emotional fields to make the patients come across as more healthy and normal than just these dead-eyed husks that they used to be.
So, Zoe observed that both Jamie and the Intregal learned something. Not bad.
Next time is the last Second Doctor companion story. I have other Big Finish CDs, so I’ll have to decide where to go after that.