So, I have this set of Big Finish stories that are apparently some sort of anthology under the title “The Legacy of Time,” six different stories, each featuring a different incarnation of the Doctor, that may or may not all connect in the end.
First up, Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor is in a darker place than either his best friend or his wife can quite figure out.
OK, so I obviously knew about actress Alex Kingston’s Professor River Song. What I didn’t know about was a character named Dr. Bernice (Bernie) Summerfield. She describes herself as the Doctor’s best friend, and…OK, I have said a lot in the past about who may or may not be the Doctor’s best friend, and I have never really thought to rank Bernie Summerfield. There’s a good reason for that: I can’t say I have ever really heard much about her before. I probably came across the name a couple times when I looked stuff up, but it didn’t mean anything to me. Hearing the character refer to herself as the Doctor’s best friend here prompted me to look her up.
Um, holy cow. For a character that has never once appeared on the TV series, she has a long history across multiple mediums, a woman who, like River Song, was an archaeologist, and who also traveled as a companion with multiple Doctors over time. There was A LOT on this character, and she’s been in novels, comics, and Big Finish stories. So, if she says she’s the Doctor’s best friend, well…sure, why not? Someone has to be, and she’s been around quite a bit.
As for River, hey, I know her whole deal, and here the pair find themselves both separately investigating a dead planet’s archaeological site before encountering each other when the TARDIS shows up and the Eighth Doctor steps out with a new companion named Ria.
Ria doesn’t last long.
Ria, it should be noted, is a very…positive person, someone who constantly tells the Doctor how great he is and how he can always save the day while the Doctor himself seems to uncharacteristically gloomy. I have no idea what Ria looks like, but I imagine she’s very young and very, let’s say, bouncy. The Doctor is generally a somewhat asexual being when all is said and done, so why he would take a woman like that around suggests it has nothing to do with her appearance and everything to do with her cheerleader (and somewhat simple) personality.
But there are two things that pop up that make things worrisome. The first is some scavengers show up to take what they can from the planet. The second is the planet is Gallifrey, long dead, and the Doctor is in no mood to let his childhood home, even if he spent a good deal of time hiding from the place, get destroyed by scavengers even if it is already dead. He then sets up a shield that will destroy the scavengers if they don’t back off, using (he thinks) the Gallifreyian Matrix.
That seems uncharacteristically cruel, especially for the Doctor. These are scavengers looking to take stuff from a dead world. These aren’t Daleks or Cybermen or anything of the sort. That just means it’s up to Bernie and River to snap the Doctor out of his funk since the accident-prone Ria sure as hell can’t do it. Especially after she suffers what may be a lethal twist of the ankle.
Yeah, it turns out the Doctor is trying to avoid the Time War, and Ria is an android whose whole purpose is to make him feel better, but two people who know him better than anyone (Bernie and River) realize that isn’t the right way to do things. That means realizing, among other things, that the Matrix can’t make planetary forcefields. This is all the work of something else, some other form of Gallifreyian technology that provides the uses with what he or she wants…namely a dying TARDIS.
So, fortunately, the Doctor eventually realizes he has to go back to the Time War, and he can’t take a break from reality. That means abandoning Gallifrey to the scavengers, rescuing River and Bernie, and leaving the largely deactivated Ria behind.
Only Ria might not be so deactivated. But that may be the connection to the storyline as a whole.