The Tenth Doctor reunites with some old friends in The Tenth Doctor: Classic Companions! Read on for our thoughts.
1. “Splinters” by John Dorney
After finding his old friend K-9 floating in space, the Doctor arrives in the middle of an endless forest, where he bumps into another old friend: Leela, warrior of the Sevateem. He learns that the forest is under attack from the malevolent Spriggan, a mythical being made of wood, who steals away those who have just turned eighteen. Can the Doctor, K-9 and Leela protect young Jessica Kelly from the Spriggan? And how can a creature from myth possibly be real?
Splinters is a story of two halves, suffering from a very sedate opening where not much happens. The Doctor and Leela’s reunion is quite disappointingly underplayed, the side characters we meet are mere ciphers, and the plot just sort of takes place without any story to make it matter. Thankfully, things take a massive turn for the better once the Doctor, Leela and K-9 face the Spriggan around the story’s halfway mark.
Writer John Dorney incorporates some brilliant twists during these scenes, completely changing the story that has gone before it. The reveal of the Spriggan’s identity and where it came from it incredibly effective, and really tests David Tennant as an actor, forcing him to show some quite dramatically different sides to his character. Meanwhile, Louise Jameson is also served well by these surprising plot developments, getting to show Leela’s confusion as she struggles to come to terms with what she’s learnt.
Overall, while this is a story that takes a while to get going, once it does it’s packed with some really brilliant ideas, shocking twists and lovely character moments. A good opener to the set.
2. “The Stuntman” by Lizzie Hopley
On the trail of more fallout from the Time War, the Doctor and K-9 become involved in the machinations of criminal mastermind Dr Gommen and are drawn into a virtual reality. There, K-9 is transformed into Kent Novem, father of daredevil stuntman Kasey-Ann Frost, and the Doctor must work to free his robotic friend from his delusion, before Gommen’s plans reach fruition. But K-9 isn’t the only one of the Doctor’s pals who believes themselves to be someone different… because Kasey-Ann is none other than Nyssa of Traken!
The Stuntman is one of those stories that begins right in the thick of the story, cutting out any tedious setup and getting stuck into the juicy stuff from the get-go. Lizzie Hopley‘s script is the most action-packed in the set, taking us from a movie set to a hospital, a space station and the Wild West, and giving us high-octane car chases and daring pursuits on trains and in helicopters. The entire story has a glorious breathlessness and sense of fun to it, which is a lovely contrast with the more sedate opener.
While the reunion between the Doctor and his old friend Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) is somewhat understated, as the reunion between the Doctor and Leela was in Splinters, there’s a lovely scene towards the end of the script where we get some much-needed exploration of how this older Nyssa has reflected on her time with the Fifth Doctor, particularly the murder of her father by the Master. Aside from this, the best companion-related material in the episode goes to K-9 who, in the guise of Kent Novem, gets a lot more to do than usual. John Leeson proves more than up to the task, imbuing Kent with a sort of tortured wistfulness as he struggles to come to terms with his identity.
Overall, The Stuntman is a fast-paced and thrilling story with some lovely emotional moments thrown in for good measure. A strong showing from Lizzie Hopley.
3. “Quantum of Axos” by Roy Gill
Dorothy ‘Ace’ McShane is invited to Cambridge by a mysterious new company who want to partner with her charity A Charitable Earth. Little does she know, the Doctor and K-9 are also on the scene, tracking fallout from the Time War. As old friends reunite, an old enemy rises from the shadows, plotting its takeover of Earth. Axos has returned, and with the power of humanity at its tentacle-tips, it plots total domination!
The Tenth Doctor: Classic Companions closes with Quantum of Axos, the strongest story in the set. Out of all three stories here, this one feels most like it could have been done on TV back in 2009, with action and emotion in equal measure, and a plot set in the present day and tied to modern concerns. Writer Roy Gill ensures that Axos and the Axons as villains are modernised rather than this being a rehash of their previous appearances, tying them into the ideas of humanitarian aid and dangerous technology.
The Tenth Doctor: Classic Companions is a triumph from start to finish, offering us three very different but equally as exciting, poignant and creative reunions between the Tenth Doctor and some of his oldest friends. Though none of the three stories pack quite the emotional punch of School Reunion, which saw the Tenth Doctor reunite with Sarah Jane Smith, they follow in its footsteps well, tying the classic and modern eras of Doctor Who together in ways which will please any devoted fan of the series. Highly recommended.
The Tenth Doctor: Classic Companions is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com