Big Finish shook their Doctor Who range up many years ago now by introducing the concept of ‘the trilogy’. Each Doctor, Five through to Seven, would have three main adventures per year rather than one every three months.
The concept breathed new life in to the range (it barely needed it anyway) and created a far more dramatic concept for the Big Finish team to create: a full beginning, middle and end of a vast adventure for the Doctor to overcome. Over the last few years, this cleverly created concept has not been put to the best use for the Sixth Doctor’s stories and the latest 2014 trilogy proves no different.
Flip and the Sixth Doctor have always just… got on with it. There’s been the odd moment of tenderness or shared enthusiasm but no real spark.
Don’t take this the wrong way: the Colin Baker stories have been exemplary Doctor Who adventures in their own right and Scavenger is a fine tale full of great character and charm – but it’s about time that Baker was allowed to get his acting chops extended to a powerful trio of tales.
Why this sudden rant, you ask? Because Scavenger is lovely, Scavenger is heartbreaking and Scavenger unfolds like a West End play. But all through its run time, you’re left hoping that it is the middle of an ongoing bigger story rather than the end to a miniseries.
The Doctor and Flip arrive in orbit around Earth in the near future. The UK and India have joined forces to clean up a slow and inexorable problem: space junk. Bits from satellites and spaceships that have been falling to Earth could cause terrible problems and an arrangement has been made to clear the planet up. But of course, the TARDIS crew making themselves useful isn’t going to cut it in terms of plot and pretty soon, Flip finds herself cast adrift in space and separated, quite terrifyingly, from the Doctor.
Scavenger has many layers to it as well as many irons in many fires. The first half sets up the characters well, embedding their personal lives and loves and losses in careful details before taking them in the second half and expertly dashing all dreams, hopes and expectations that anyone will have the ending they wanted. Long lost lovers are reunited, albeit not in the fashion they desired and certainly not in the most romantic way. Those with dreams of success are thwarted thanks to their wicked ways coming back to bite them on the rear end and the Doctor and Flip… well, here’s something that this reviewer did not see coming.
Over the last few years, Flip as a character has not been the most compelling of companions for this reviewer. She does the standard job, and Lisa Greenwood, who plays her, is nothing less than fantastic, but Flip and the Sixth Doctor have always just… got on with it. There’s been the odd moment of tenderness or shared enthusiasm but no real spark.
Until the last three minutes of Scavenger, which may well break your heart.
Who knows what it is exactly. The incidental music, Flip’s speech, Baker’s anguished moans as he realises he’s helpless and powerless: it’s hard to pinpoint. The point is, the last three years barely matter; the last three minutes of this story have you believing that these two are truly friends with a close bond and a strong affection for one another. With the cliffhanger that Scavenger leaves things on, let’s hope that Big Finish give the Sixth Doctor the trilogy in 2015 that he deserves, and after Lisa Greenwood’s performance in this story, let’s have a lot more of Flip.
Scavenger is available now on CD or via download from Big Finish now.