The Girl Who Never Was
Written by Alan Barnes, directed by Barnaby Edwards
Released December 2007
After losing C’rizz, Charley has come to the realization that her life with the Doctor was at best a fantasy that has come to an end. The Doctor may appear to be a dashing romantic adventurer, but he is also an ageless alien being who exists outside of time and space. He is incapable of relating to Charley as she would like and the closer the two have become, the more alien he has become. Their journeys through time and space were fun, but the excursion into the Divergent Universe strained their partnership to the breaking point. Despite all this awkwardness, the Doctor is determined to give his best friend one last adventure before they part and takes her to Singapore, where she was headed when they first met.
However, nothing ever goes as planned and the TARDIS has become confused by a temporal anomaly, causing them to land in the right place but the wrong time, New Year’s Eve 2008. But he is not the only person investigating the strange temporal hump centered on the SS Batavia. Charley is convinced that the Doctor redirected the TARDIS to 2008 in order to prevent her from interfering with the ‘web of time.’ She befriends the shifty man named Byron who, along with his mother, is very interested in the anomaly on the SS Batavia. The Doctor and Charley manage to extricate themselves from Byron and travel to the Baravia to find that it is mysteriously abandoned and encrusted with what appears to be rust but is actually temporal corrosion. As the infection spreads for the TARDIS, the travelers become separated and the HADS (Hostile Action Defense System introduced in the Troughton story the Krotons) prompts a sudden displacement.
The Doctor and Charley become separated by decades with Charley back in 1942 and the Doctor, Byron and his mother who identifies herself as Charley Pollard. Meanwhile, Charley attempts to help the crew of the SS Batavia, stranded in the Karimata Strait and under attack from a platoon of Cybermen, stranded om Earth.
Yes, I had intended to listen to the Eighth Doctor adventures in order but after the dreadful pacing of the Divergent Universe stories and the arrival of Dark Eyes in the mail, I decided to skip ahead. The final adventure of the Eighth Doctor and Charley arrived strangely after the BBC4 radio series started with Blood of the Daleks which introduced new companion Lucie Miller. As such, it is a celebration of the early days of the Eighth Doctor era and the beginning of a different approach to the dashing romantic as he became more of a brooding loner. It’s a remarkable idea and The Girl Who Never Was fits the bill, being equal parts melodrama, comedy and action.
I am a fan of the Cybermen, so I was very happy to hear them in this story, earning their place as the second most dangerous Doctor Who monster. It is true that the Cybermen are always on the verge of extinction with each appearance. There is no exception here but I do have to say that I am getting very tired of hearing their battle cry ‘you will become like us.’ As monsters they make a great impact and are suitable creepy, but it does become clear that they are filling the void as the ‘monster of the week’ which could just as easily been Zygons, Ice Warriors… Mechanoids…. whatever.
I am a broken record, I know, but there are so many elements of the Eighth Doctor era that are present in the Russell T Davies material that I cannot ignore, especially the whimsical character of the Doctor and his sharp wit. However, just as Alan Barnes and company deal with the ‘Doctor in love’ idea far better than Davies, so is the Eighth Doctor far funnier and full of vitality than the 10th who serves as a pale imitation (in my opinion, anyway).
Like many, I was overjoyed with Charley at first, but as with everything, her character grated in the Divergent Universe adventures. Happily she is in fine form here and full of spunk and daring courage in the face of the unknown and an army of body stealing Cybermen. The temporal conundrums got a bit confusing at times, but the strength of the emotional story held up very well and paid homage to one of the most beloved of companions (if only to a select few) the ‘Edwardian Adventuress,’ ending on a sour note as the Doctor comes to realize that he must always lose his companions in the end.
I must say that the ending, sign posted by the change in signature theme, was very surprising and I look forward to what comes afterwards for both Charley and the Eighth Doctor in the stories to come. After some major set backs, the Charley/Doctor story ended on a very high note that Big Finish should be proud of.
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