Our journey through the Eighth Doctor’s earliest audio adventures continues as Kieran Brennan takes on Other Lives.
While visiting the Crystal Palace on its opening day, the Doctor, Charley and C’rizz all become separated, each lost in 1851 without a way home. Can our heroes find each other or will they be lost in time forever?
Other Lives is, to my knowledge, the Eighth Doctor’s one and only pure historical. A concept abandoned early in the show’s run, it’s incredibly refreshing to see an Eighth Doctor story not relying on any sci-fi tropes and being a pure “put our characters in a time period and see what happens” story. It’s a much needed breath of fresh air after a series of higher concept ideas and stories, one that still comes together in a mostly very entertaining and surprisingly engaging way.
While usually I don’t really enjoy separating a TARDIS team for the majority of an adventure, here each character is given a very distinct and interesting storyline that suits their character quite well, with perhaps the exception of C’rizz who has just a plain odd storyline that doesn’t really expand on his character much and instead just kind of retreads on old ground. Charley is given a more lighthearted tale that India Fisher seems to relish in; Charley is an inherently fun person with a kind of “go along with anything for the fun” spirit that really matches what could have been an odd story to give a companion. By the same token, Paul McGann does really well with his suitably tragic story that feels very appropriate for this more romantic take on the Doctor.
A major issue with this release however, is once again in its pacing. Most of the story moves along fine and honestly surprisingly well as I didn’t think I’d be too invested in it, but its final part just feels unnecessary. Maybe not from a plot perspective, but it has that unbearable feeling of waiting and expecting it to end soon. I felt that the idea and execution of it felt quite wrapped up and done by the end of its third part, but it just kept going for another forty minutes and it does drag the overall story just a bit, even if the content of that final part isn’t bad.
It’s left me conflicted on how I feel coming out of this. If you enjoy three quarters of a story a lot, but have a slightly bad taste left in your mouth because of a final quarter that drags, how much should that impact the rating of a story? I think my decision would be a lot harder had it not been for the final few minutes of this release being wonderful, especially the ending which, although nonsensical, is still extremely wholesome and is bound to put a smile on your face.
Other Lives may overstay its welcome, but you’ll feel just a little bad for wanting it to leave. For most of its runtime, it’s a very engaging and charming shakeup for the Eighth Doctor and his crew, acting as a lovely breath of fresh air after so many very heavy stories.
Other Lives is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com