For today’s First Doctor Retro Reviews, we have two Companion Chronicles released in 2017: “Across the Darkened City” and “Fields of Terror”. Read on to hear my thoughts on these two releases.
“Across the Darkened City” by David Bartlett
What a unique and fascinating story! Following Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and a Dalek (Nicholas Briggs) as they traverse an alien city inhabited by the shadowy Chaons, this story by David Bartlett is as innovative and exciting as they come.
Both actors in the piece give it their all, bringing to life their characters in such a way that augments the already-stellar character work Bartlett has written in the script. Special mention should go to Nicholas Briggs, who gives a rather different Dalek performance than usual, giving Two-One-Zero enough humanity to give the character some depth, but still retaining the villainy we all love to hate.
Helen Goldwyn‘s direction is on point as well, really capturing the nuances of both characters, as well as creating a spooky and unsettling atmosphere throughout the piece. Along with Robert Harvey‘s music (which he details in the fascinating Behind the Scenes track at the end of the story), this adds to the story’s brilliance.
Overall, thought the plot drags a little in part two, this story is indicative of the incredibly high quality I’ve come to expect of the Companion Chronicles range, giving us an exciting Dalek story with lots of fantastic character moments as well.
“Fields of Terror” by John Pritchard
I sometimes find the narration in non-full-cast stories to be rather perfunctory: telling the story and nothing more. This is certainly not the case in John Pritchard‘s Fields of Terror, in which Maureen O’Brien‘s narration as Vicki is full of fantastic and evocative imagery, my favourite being the story about the man in the whirlpool that opens part one of the story.
Accompanied by a gripping historical plot, which sees the Doctor and friends return to the era of the French Revolution, and fantastic sound design by Robert Harvey, O’Brien’s performance is just one of the things that turns this story into the success that it is.
I should also mention Robert Hands, who imbues the character of Lagrange with an incredible sense of tangible, seething villainy, which really helps to get across the injustice against the French people Pritchard details in this story.
Overall, this is a fantastic Companion Chronicle, both in its portrayal of Vicki, and in its exploration of the darker side of the French Revolution.
Stay tuned for our review of The Dalek Occupation of Winter later this week!
Across the Darkened City and Fields of Terror can be purchased on CD or as a download as part of The First Doctor: Companion Chronicles- Volume Two boxset at http://www.bigfinish.com
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