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Neverland with the Eighth Doctor, Charley and Romana
This is a turning point in the Eighth Doctor adventures with Charley Pollard!
‘Neverland’ is a 2 by 70 minute episode story of ‘Doctor Who’, starring Paul McGann as the Doctor and India Fisher as Charley. It’s also the finale to the second season of Eighth Doctor audio adventures with Charley Pollard by Big Finish. This is where things are about to change for this TARDIS duo.
Charley Pollard made her first appearance in the ‘Doctor Who’ story called ‘Storm Warning’. She met the Doctor when she was aboard the R-101 airship in 1930. Since then, Charley has had lots of adventures with the Doctor, facing Cybermen; Daleks and a scary house at ‘the chimes of midnight’.
But Charley’s adventures with the Doctor have had a cost. Charley was supposed to die during the crash of the R-101 airship at the end of ‘Storm Warning’. But the Doctor broke the rules and allowed Charley to join him in his travels. In this audio story, Charley and the Doctor face the consequences.
This two-part audio adventure is by Alan Barnes, who created the Eighth Doctor and Charley team in their first adventure together. Alan resolves a running story arc that has been prevalent throughout this second season of Eighth Doctor adventures, concerning Charley’s fate in disrupting the web of time.
Having this as a two-part feature-length episode story is pretty amazing and makes it extra-special. It’s also fitting as it resolves what the Eighth Doctor and Charley story has been about so far. But not everything gets resolved in this story and it builds up to a pretty exciting cliffhanger at the very end.
The story begins with the Doctor and Charley in the TARDIS after defeating the Daleks in ‘The Time of the Daleks’. Very soon, in the time vortex, the Doctor’s TARDIS gets encircled by a number of battles TARDISes. It’s clear what these TARDISes want. The Time Lords want the Doctor and Charley.
The Doctor attempts to escape the Time Lords’ TARDISes by dodging a time torpedo fired upon them and using a very clever, tricky, timey trick. The Doctor tries to persuade Charley to take her to another planet where she can celebrate her ‘birthday’, while he goes off to sort out the Time Lords with what they want.
But Charley isn’t having any of it and very soon she presses the fast-return switch for the TARDIS to head back to where they were with the other Time Lord TARDISes. I must admit I found that scene between Charley and the Doctor in the TARDIS where they talk about what’s happening compelling.
Charley reflects that she was never meant to live on after the R-101 crash and she was supposed to be dead. She blames herself for what’s happening with the Time Lords and she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save the web of time. The emotion of Paul McGann and India Fisher’s characters are great!
Eventually, the TARDIS ends up on a time station and the Doctor wakes up to find himself reunited with old friends. This includes Anthony Keetch as Co-ordinator Vansell, whom the Doctor has met, and importantly…Lalla Ward as former companion Romana, now President of the Time Lords of Gallifrey.
It was great to hear Lalla Ward return as Romana in this story. Romana had met the Eighth Doctor before in the 2003 audio version of ‘Shada’. It was interesting to hear the Eighth Doctor reunite with Romana again, although under more serious circumstances as Romana takes this situation seriously.
Romana knows what’s going on with the web of time and how the Doctor was somehow involved with taking Charley with him as a companion from the R-101 airship crash. Romana is more tolerant with the Doctor than the other Time Lords, although she does put him in his place at times.
Anthony Keetch returns as Co-ordinator Vansell in this story. Vansell has appeared twice before in ‘Doctor Who’ in the audio stories ‘The Apocalypse Element’ and ‘The Sirens of Time’. Vansell can be quite a shifty character at times and the Doctor doesn’t wholly trust him and he makes jokes at him.
Vansell seems to be on Romana’s side at first when they’re venturing into this Neverland of an antiverse during the story. Later on, Vansell reveals his true colours, especially when he becomes obsessed with resurrecting an old Time Lord legend and he soon takes in the anti-time energy into him.
As I said before, Romana and Vansell tell the Doctor what’s happening and they soon enter into this antiverse which contains the anti-time energy there. It’s where they find the Neverpeople. They include Time Lords that were banished long ago. It’s also possible that Rassilon maybe there as well.
I must admit I found the concepts of the antiverse and the Neverpeople rather baffling to listen to on audio. Sometimes I did get confused and lost in the plot. But it was interesting to listen to and it emphasises the seriousness of how Charley’s living existence causes a paradox in this strange world.
In this story, Don Warrington guest stars as Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society. For me, Don Warrington played the President of Great Britain in the two-part Cybermen story ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’ with David Tennant. It was so nice to hear him as Rassilon in this story.
There were times when I wasn’t sure whether Rassilon was actually in the story or not, especially as he tended to leave a message at the end of ‘Part One’. He eventually ends up appearing to the Doctor as he travels in his TARDIS as well as to Romana in the Time Lord Matrix at the end of ‘Part Two’.
Throughout the story, there have been these mentions of Zagreus. It turns out that Zagreus is actually an old nursery rhyme of the Time Lords on Gallifrey. It goes, “Zagreus sits inside your head, Zagreus lives among the dead, Zagreus sees you in your bed, And eats you when you’re sleeping…”
I wondered what the point of this nursery rhyme was, as Zagreus happens to be a Time Lord monster. The Doctor dismisses it, saying that Zagreus doesn’t exist. But maybe Zagreus isn’t just a nursery rhyme, since Charley points it out with one of Earth’s nursery rhymes, ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’.
The performances of Paul McGann and India Fisher in this audio adventure have been superb. Beforehand, Paul and India have gradually developed their character relationships as the Doctor and Charley in their two seasons together. It’s clear how they’ve grown fond of each other in this story.
Paul McGann delivers the charm, funniness and seriousness of the character of his Doctor very well in this audio adventure. I liked the scenes he shares with Charley in this story. I especially enjoyed it when he’s having scenes with Romana and it’s like they’re carrying on from where they left off in ‘Shada’.
There’s a scene between the Doctor and Charley, where he refuses to shoot Charley on the spot by the Neverpeople. Charley begs him to shoot her but the Doctor tells her he can’t, since he loves her. That might be the only time where the Doctor gets to declare his love to one of his female companions.
India Fisher is equally good as Charley in this story. She gets to meet the Time Lords in this story and sometimes protests at their methods of handling her when they venture into the antiverse. She gets baffled by what’s going on, but she never gives up on the Doctor and is always delighted to see him.
There’s another character that India gets to play in this story and that’s one of the Neverpeople. In fact, this Neverperson happens to look like Charley and she’s called Sentris. Sentris has appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ before, since she was that mysterious Charley person at the end of ‘Seasons of Fear’.
There aren’t any CD extras to be found on ‘Neverland’. So there aren’t any ‘coming soon’ trailers for upcoming ‘Doctor Who‘ CDs and there aren’t any behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew on this.
‘Neverland’ has been an enjoyable audio adventure with the Eighth Doctor and Charley as well as with Romana. It’s pretty complex and mind-boggling to follow, but it serves as a fitting finale to the second season of Eighth Doctor audio adventures with Charley and it also builds to a gripping climax.
The story ends on a shocking cliff-hanger. Charley eventually finds herself back in the TARDIS and reunites with the Doctor. But the Doctor is acting strangely and his voice sounds wrong. The Doctor eventually strikes Charley with a blow. Charley is shocked. It turns out the Doctor isn’t him anymore.
I was shocked by how this story ended. The story concludes with the Doctor saying to Charley, “I told you, girl! I am not the Doctor! I am become he who sits inside your head, he who lives among the dead, he who sees you in your bed, and eats you while you’re sleeping. I am become…ZAGREUS!!!”
‘Neverland’ rating – 8/10
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