The Companion Chronicles – ‘The Mists of Time’
Written by Jonathan Morris, Directed by Lisa Bowerman
Release date: August 2009
“Many thousands of years ago the Time Lords were not the peaceful people they are today. They interfered with the destinies of other races… the way an errant schoolboy toys with ants.”
The Doctor and Jo have arrived on a dreary planet where the swirling mist plays with your mind. If you aren’t careful, strange things come out of the mist in the night. Ghosts from the past; unearthly specters still clinging on to reality yet unaware that they have passed on. When the travelers encounter a survey team stranded on the planetoid, they are determined to help, but it soon becomes apparent that one of them is determined to see that none of them leave and is prepared to kill to make certain.
The Mists of Time is a marvelous and clever story set in the early days of the Third Doctor and Jo’s collaboration. Still living on Earth, the Doctor is only just gaining control of the TARDIS and is eager to explore. I know she’s not popular, but I adore Jo Grant, mostly for the reasons that others dislike her. Dizzy-brained, easily fooled and likely to walk straight into a trap, Jo is perpetually in need of the dashing Doctor’s help. She’s also very innocent and accepts things and people at face value, which more often than not gets her into trouble but I find her naivety heartwarming.
The Mists of Time poses an unusual conceit that Jo Grant is telling Caulder a story of their first meeting. It’s odd in that it implies that the narrative style of the Companion Chronicles is a forced one which I don’t agree with. This is a trifle distracting, but the story itself is so sharply written that I soon forgave it. Jo tells Caulder of her arrival with the Doctor and the strange mist that brought ghosts to life. Throughout the telling, Caulder interrupts her a couple of times asking if Jo understands why she is back.. leaving the listener with a cold sense of dread reminiscent of a traditional fireside ghost story.
Katy Manning tackles a large portion of the voice over work, providing Jo Grant’s narrative and the voices of the Doctor as well as other characters. Andrew Whipp is a good sounding board as Caulder, the linking thread from the past to present. I have heard a bit of Manning’s work previously but she really steals the show in this one. I had read that she was very reluctant to return to the character of Jo, but she is just fantastic, taking up the squeaky mouse-like voice as if it were a furry turquoise jacket. Her range as a voice artist is phenomenal and she not only reproduces the ‘out of breath’ Jo Grant voice but manages a serviceable Jon Pertwee as well.
I remember hearing that Katy and Jon would perform weird little routines in silly voices while filming Doctor Who. Pertwee was a celebrated voice from the radio (sorely missed in these Big Finish Productions) and his influence on Manning pushed her into voice work as well. I’ve been holding back ‘Find and Replace’ which unites Jo Grant and Iris Wildthyme in the same adventure because I want to save it for a ‘rainy day.’
The Mists of Time also includes a stirring moment when Jo and the Doctor encounter an army fighting a war frozen in time. The Doctor recognizes the beings but seems moodily silent about them at first. Reluctantly, the Doctor weaves a tale of ancient Time Lord lore and the removal of the Memosians from history during the ‘dark times.’ Including a reference to the Time Lords is brilliant enough, but the manner in which it is written and performed seamlessly matches the tenor and delivery of Jon Pertwee from stories such as the Time Monster.
Jonathan Morris is also the author of numerous other stories including the Big Finish tales Bloodtide, Flip-Flop, and The Haunting of Thomas Brewster as well as the highly acclaimed and award-winning 4th Doctor novel ‘The Festival of Death.’ His writing style is very clever, but not so much that he attempts to perform tricks for his audience as some other writer might. His understanding of character and tone are so well balanced with his brilliant prose that it comes together in a wonderful package. There are some moments where Jo Grant’s vocabulary takes a few leaps into the poetic… but they are also very impressive moments as well.
The Mists of Time was initially available as a download only, but was re-released as part of the Companion Chronicles – The Specials Box Set which can be purchased directly from Big Finish.