It’s a funny thing when you think about the evolution of the Companion Chronicles. What started out as a small, regulated series of tales narrated by former companions of the Doctor has turned into a massive run of inventive stories that complement the world of Doctor Who and add strength to it that we may not have been able to conceive of before.
This is partly due to well written scripts, fantastic performances and tight direction. Binary is one such adventure that reminds you just how far the Companion Chronicles have come. This tale does away with the usual narration-over-the-action scenario that we’re used to and instead opts to have a full cast performance in its place. Well, full cast may be a bit of a leap in this case when there are only three actors keeping the flame alive, but they do incredibly well in creating a tense atmosphere in this Liz Shaw tale about a damaged alien computer being guarded by UNIT.
With Liz brought in by request of the Brigadier and the Third Doctor being kept out of the loop for nefarious government reasons only a small amount of people have been assigned to this project. The only problem is that the previous assignees have disappeared whilst working on said computer and now Liz is about to discover exactly what happened to them.
Binary feels more like a Doctor Who spin off than a bona fide adventure, there are some good Third Doctor era traits: the involvement of UNIT instantly sets the scene, the mention of the Brigadier and the appearances (although very, very fleeting) of the Doctor all put one very much in the Season 7 frame of mind. The change of setting later in the first episode can also be imagined as a Pertwee-era tale, albeit one that forms part of a six episode story perhaps. Where Binary really sounds different is the tone. This is a small and self-contained adventure, whereas the television stories we’re used to from that particular series are fairly grandiose and epic. Binary perhaps could be the setup story for the P.R.O.B.E. tales (a 1990’s spin off drama with Liz Shaw as an investigator of strange events) rather than a side step into the first Jon Pertwee series of Doctor Who.
There’s lots to enjoy here especially the refreshing action adventure feel of this story, a narration overlay from John would have slowed this piece down and spoiled its whole feel. The involvement of the Doctor is seldom and is delivered in a neat and clever way that requires no imitation, impressions or interpretations on John’s behalf. The story is neat and fast and although formulaic at times, keeps you interested until the end where you’re given a satisfying conclusion to events.
While Binary may not offer anything new in terms of storytelling or characterisation it certainly offers something different in terms of a Companion Chronicle, a testament to how far this series has come over the last few years.
Binary is available from www.bigfinish.com on CD or download now.