Kieran Brennan reaches the end of the Eighth Doctor’s Monthly Adventures with The Girl Who Never Was– the final installment of The Eighth Doctor Revisited… for now.
WARNING! This review contains immediate and major spoilers for the previous adventure Absolution. If you haven’t listened to that story I strongly advise not reading any further.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss The Girl Who Never Was.
Following the traumatic events of Absolution and the even more shocking reaction to those events by the Doctor, Charley has decided to leave the TARDIS for good. Their final destination? Shanghai. Is this long journey that began on the R101 finally at a close, or does one more threat lie in wait?
As the final entry in the Eighth Doctor and Charley’s adventures together, The Girl Who Never Was has a lot of weight to carry. For me personally, and I imagine many Big Finish listeners, this pairing was my true introduction to long term story arcs with changing relationships and consequences. With all of that pressure put upon this release, I can’t help but be just a little disappointed.
It’s not that this is a bad story, it’s decent, but without getting into spoilers the Doctor and Charley spend the majority of the runtime apart from one another. It’s a baffling choice, the final adventure for one of Big Finish’s most beloved pairings and I can’t help but feel so much of what was set up in their relationship was left untouched and unresolved. From a character perspective, writer Alan Barnes is trying to show us how far Charley has come since her first outing in Storm Warning and the idea of separation works from that point of view, but to me it still feels odd not taking advantage of much of the inherent drama of the situation these two are in.
However, if I am to separate the story from the notion that it’s the Eighth Doctor and Charley’s final adventure and look at it individually, then there’s quite a bit to enjoy here. There’s some fun time travel elements and it’s nice to see the Cybermen return as villains given how early they showed up in Charley’s adventures.
As is standard, it cannot be denied that both Paul McGann and India Fisher give wonderful performances, especially Fisher who seems to really shine and gives this story everything she’s got left in her. With them, Anna Massey also does great work here, playing an interesting and slightly tragic character to a tee.
While a well put together story on its own, The Girl Who Never Was in my opinion fails to satisfyingly end the relationship between the Doctor and Charley. Their separation for much of the story is a risky idea, and a commendable one because of that, but I don’t think it was well thought out or implemented particularly well here. Still, great performances and a handful of memorable moments make this release worth picking up.
And so that brings us to the end of the Eighth Doctor’s monthly adventures (barring a handful of exceptions). If you’ve followed this series of reviews from the start thank you! And have no fear. I fully intend on covering The Eighth Doctor Adventures with Lucie Miller very very soon, but for now I think i’ll take a slight break and spend the next few weeks covering John Hurt’s four box sets as The War Doctor, one of the series that attracted me to Big Finish in the first place. See you then!