Please feel free to comment on my review.
A Frosty Adventure with Vicki, the Doctor and Steven
Here is the first Companion Chronicle of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish!
‘Frostfire’ is a chilling adventure starring Maureen O’Brien in her Big Finish audio debut as Vicki in ‘Doctor Who’. I enjoyed listening to ‘Frostfire’ when I first heard it on CD. It was good to find how the Companion Chronicles began and nice to have Vicki read a tale from her travels with the Doctor.
The Companion Chronicles were relatively new in ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish when it started with ‘Frostfire’. These audio stories are more audiobooks than audio dramas. They have actors from the first four eras of ‘Doctor Who’ reprise the companion characters that they’d played in the TV series.
This is because the first three actors who played the Doctor, William Hartnell; Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee, are no longer with us to do full-cast audio dramas. The actors/actresses who played the companions reprise their roles to recreate these early eras of ‘Doctor Who’ in new audio stories.
In the case of ‘Frostfire’, it looks into the First Doctor era with William Hartnell. Maureen O’Brien played Vicki, one of the First Doctor’s companions from ‘The Rescue’ to ‘The Myth Makers’. It was nice that the Companion Chronicles began with Vicki as a companion from the First Doctor era here.
Series 1 of the Companion Chronicles included four stories. There’s ‘Frostfire’ with Maureen O’Brien as Vicki; ‘Fear of the Daleks’ with Wendy Padbury as Zoe; ‘The Blue Tooth’ with Caroline John as Liz Shaw and ‘The Beautiful People’ with Lalla Ward as the second Romana. More stories would come!
The first series of Companion Chronicles was produced and directed by Mark J. Thompson. Mark had produced/written/directed the ‘Soldiers of Love’ sci-fi comedy audio CD series with various ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Blake’s 7’ actors in it. So his producing/directing experience of audios fit this new range.
‘Frostfire’ is a two-part adventure by Marc Platt. As these Companion Chronicles are shorter in episode length and are mostly taken from the perspective of one companion in the first person, many CCs are on one disc by Big Finish. ‘Frosfire’ is no exception with the two episodes on one disc.
As I said before, ‘Frostfire’ is read in the first person by Vicki. The framing story for Vicki takes place after she left the Doctor in ‘The Myth Makers’ and where she is now Lady Cressida after she married Troilus. The main story in ‘Frostfire’ takes place between ‘The Time Meddler’ and ‘Galaxy 4’ on TV.
I’ve always liked Vicki as a companion in ‘Doctor Who’. I love Maureen O’Brien’s performances in the TV stories she was in as Vicki. It was a delight to hear her reading a story as Vicki. It was interesting to find out what had happened after Vicki had left the Doctor and stopped travelling in the TARDIS.
The story begins in Ancient Carthage, 1164 BC where Vicki is now Lady Cressida after she left the Doctor. It’s interesting how it starts, as she goes down to the cold damp cisterns below the Temple of Astarte. There is someone down there and Vicki is going to tell a story to this mysterious person.
Then it shifts to where Vicki narrates the story of ‘Frostfire’ set in Regency London, 1814 AD. The Doctor, Vicki and Steven visit a frost fair where the Thames is iced over. Something strange goes on at this mystery as a mysterious flame in the form of a Pheonix from an Egg is about to wreak havoc.
I like the eerie historical atmosphere of this story set in Regency London. It put me in mind of all those classic historical stories from the William Hartnel era of ‘Doctor Who’. Marc Platt provides an interesting take on this genre of ‘Doctor Who’ as he also adds a science-fiction element to his story.
For me, the highlight of ‘Frostfire’ is that it has the Doctor, Vicki and Steven meet the literary author Jane Austen in the story. This is unusual to have the Doctor meet a romantic-fiction author like Miss Austen. I loved the scene where the Doctor meets Miss Austen for the first time and how she is portrayed.
I’ve written a ‘Doctor Who’ fan-fiction story with Jane Austen called ‘The Austen Code’. This story takes place in 1814 where Miss Austen is in her forties and towards the end of her short life. I liked how Marc Platt gets her involved in the adventure and even when she manages to knock out a fire-eater.
Maureen O’Brien reads this story superbly. I like how she puts in so much enthusiasm with playing Vicki when she’s reading the story and when she’s actually playing her during events. I also like how she does voices for the First Doctor and Steven. They’re not exact recreations, but they’re very good.
I liked how the First Doctor is portrayed in being irascible and yet gentlemanly at the same time. The Doctor manages to fit in well with the Regency London setting with his Edwardian manner. Maureen knew William Hartnel so well, that she’s able to get the tone and mannerisms of his Doctor spot on.
I did enjoy Steven’s inclusion in the story. Steven doesn’t have a massive part to play in the story, as it’s taken from Vicki’s point-of-view. But I like it that it gets mentioned that this story takes place in his early travels in the TARDIS and I like how Vicki’s brotherly relationship with him is touched upon.
Keith Drinkel guest stars as the Cinder in this story. For many Companion Chronicles by Big Finish, there is a supporting guest star playing one of the supporting characters featured in this story. This is good, as it breaks up the monotony of Maureen reading the story and does make it very interesting.
I’ve seen Keith Drinkel already, as he appeared in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Time-Flight’ with Peter Davison and he starred in the TV drama series called ‘A Family at War’. It was nice to have Keith feature in this Companion Chronicle with Vicki and to have him playing a very mysterious character.
The Cinder is a very unusual character, as it’s someone Vicki talks to when she’s in Carthage as Lady Cressida in 1164 BC. I didn’t get his character for a while until it transpired that he is actually a part of the Frostfire caught in an oil lamp that Vicki talks to. The clue is that a ‘cinder’ turns into a ‘flame’.
There are sadly no CD extras to be found for ‘Frostfire’. So no trailers of behind-the-scenes interviews I’m afraid. This is one of the very early Companion Chronicles in the range by Big Finish. They would get popular later on with more CD extras including trailers and interviews with the cast.
‘Frostfire’ is a wonderful Companion Chronicle featuring Maureen O’Brien as Vicki. I enjoyed Maureen’s reading of the story, Keith Drinkel’s guest role as the Cinder and the inclusion of Jane Austen into the story as I enjoyed listening to her and found her interesting in a ‘Doctor Who’ tale.
‘Frostfire’ rating – 8/10
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