Published on July 15th, 2009 | by Christian Cawley
The Company of Friends
Not only do we get four new adventures but we get four (sort-of) new faces for the Eighth Doctor to battle the forces of evil with in this set of adventures starring Paul McGann alongside a fascinating collection of companions from the novels, comic strips and the real world…
For starters we have the long lasting book companion and a headliner for her own Big Finish main rage of audio plays, Bernice Summerfield (played once more by Lisa Bowerman). Benny makes her third appearance in the Doctor Who line of audios, the first two being the Seventh Doctor adventures, The Shadow of the Scourge and The Dark Flame. Unlike her previous outings in the Doctor Who plays Benny is no longer the Doctorâ€™s current companion. Sheâ€™s had a life all her own, and plenty of time to grow into the character that she is in her series of audio plays.
But donâ€™t worry about feeling lost, all you need to know about Benny and the Doctor to follow this story is given to you in this one adventure and to be honest, it doesnâ€™t take much to love Benny.
Bennyâ€™s Story stays true to her character and where she would be in life at this point, while the Doctorâ€™s story is set a bit earlier then we last left him traveling with Lucie Miller. But this being a show with Time travel this of course all makes sense.
Benny and the Doctor work extremely well together, and just as the situation that brought them together does, their chemistry with each other just hits the ground running and leaves you well entertained.
Like Benny before, Fitz (appearing for the first time on audio and voiced by former EastEnder Matt di Angelo) is also a long running character from the Doctor Who books. And again just like before, you donâ€™t need any prior knowledge of the character. I must admit that I am not normally interested in the books, but now, after this play, I just might start to check them out.
Fitz and the Doctor find themselves with a bit of an interesting situation as they head to a planet with a Torchwood-like company, selling their services on TV in similar fashion to the Ghost Busters. Fear not, Fitz’s Story is not a repeat of that grating moment from Army of Ghosts, but rather an enjoyable and amusing situation for the Doctor and friend. But to say any more would set Prof River Songâ€™s teeth on edge as they would be spoilers.
So weâ€™ll move along to Izzyâ€™s Story. This time we pick up with a companion from the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips. Now, this is territory that I am familiar with, and Izzy was a great companion. As with Fitz and Bennyâ€™s stories, hers works without any prior knowledge of Izzy (played by the wonderful Jemima Rooper), and itâ€™s laced with a good humour.
The Doctor and Izzy have traveled the universe far and wide, fought the most evil of evil beings, seen things that you and I can only dream about, but this time, they have to face something so evil, so wrong and so upsetting to those who can relate to the pain.
They have to get a comic book that is missing from Izzyâ€™s collection.
I too have been there, and Izzy – I feel your pain.
But, as fun as the first three stories in this release were, the show stealer has to be Maryâ€™s Story, where the Doctor meets yet another of horror fictionâ€™s most famous writers, Mary Shelley, here played by Julie Cox. Hinted at in two previous Eighth Doctor Adventure, we finally get to hear the â€œtrue story.â€ The setting, the characters and the clever story telling take me back to the gothic days of the Tom Baker era and really bring me to those cold wintery nights watching the best Who there ever was in the way it should be seen. In the dark.
Overall the four stories were quite enjoyable with Bennyâ€™s Story and Maryâ€™s Story as the show stealers. You can easily see sequels or continuing series with either one of these characters. I for one would buy them. Who knows what the future will bring, perhaps weâ€™ll meet more of the Doctorâ€™s friends in time.
Oh yes, and thereâ€™s even a nice little reference to a Sixth Doctor play which makes me wonder about how they will tie up that particular storyline, but thatâ€™s for another review one day. See if you can spot it.
The Company of Friends is available now from www.bigfinish.com!