When Charlotte Pollard finds herself in a seemingly inescapable toyshop, she has no idea who she is or how she got there. Her only hope of escape is by playing along with the difficult- and sometimes downright dangerous- games set up for her by the mysterious Toymaker. With the Doctor’s essence trapped inside a ventriloquist’s dummy, Charley must rely on her wits to get out of this alive. But when the Toymaker is one step ahead of her at every turn, is this a game she can win?
Solitaire, released back in 2010, was now-prolific writer John Dorney‘s first script for Big Finish, and it’s no wonder they chose to bring him back with a debut as good as this! With an intriguing mystery at its heart, and some great twists and turns throughout, Solitaire shows that Dorney’s flair for layered, imaginative and surprising stories that place their characters at the forefront has been part of his oeuvre since the start.
As part of the Companion Chronicles range, Solitaire is a two-hander, starring India Fisher and the late David Baile as Charley and the Toymaker respectively. Both actors put on fine performances, with Fisher’s plummy pluckiness working well against Baile’s slightly sinister teasing. Unlike most Companion Chronicles, this story is set up so that it only needs two actors; there’s no narration at all, and the only other character who appears is the Doctor, who, as a ventriloquist dummy, speaks through Charley. All of this means that the story can take place in real time, rather than pausing for the narrator to describe what’s going on, making Charley’s plight feel immediate and palpable.
Overall, Solitaire is a strong and pleasingly unconventional Companion Chronicle with two excellent performances at its core. While its first half is stronger than its second, it’s a gripping tale from start to finish thanks to some captivating ideas from writer John Dorney. Highly recommended.
Solitaire is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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