‘The Auntie Matter’
Written by Jonathan Morris, directed by Ken Bentley
Released January, 2013
Big Finish has been producing stand-out dramas for years, but even though the quality has been superb many fans have been waiting with baited breath for Tom Baker to join in. The actor was reluctant to become involved until he saw some scripts that suited him. Last year saw more new stories starring the Fourth Doctor than we had seen for some time including a full series of new stories and two lost ones. Teamed up with Louise Jameson as Leela, the new stories were outlandish and off-the-wall, even the Dalek one. This was an entirely different style of Doctor Who than fans of the traditional Big Finish were used to, and they heard Colin Baker sing!
This year a new series has begun, but set later in the Doctor’s life, just after he had assembled the Key to Time and defeated the Black Guardian.
Set in the roaring 1920’s, The Auntie Matter Drawing heavily from P. G. Wodehouse, The Auntie Matter concerns the trails and tribulations of Reginal ‘Reggie’ Basset. He is desperately looking for a wife who can stand his awkward social graces (or lack thereof), but she must meet the demands of his Aunt Ligeia. Unfortunately, Reggie’s aunt takes over the young women’s bodies as her own. Not only does Reggie remain a bachelor, but his memory is also wiped so that he believes he has been raised by a steady succession of similar but different aunts. Let’s not dwell on the fact that they each resemble someone he proposed to…
When the Doctor and Romana become embroiled in this mess, things only get worse. On the run from the Black Guardian, the Doctor is determined to develop some kind of device while Romana wanders into town, bored to tears. She is soon propositioned by Reggie and brought back to Basset Hall by his robotic valet. Meanwhile the Doctor has detected alien technology emanating from the hall and takes his maid Mabel as a stand-in companion. There is a lot off fuss over not telling Romana about the arrangement which of course Mabel misunderstands.
The Auntie Matter is a delightful and silly romp through a period setting with robots, cackling evil alien body snatchers and buffoonery.
There are golden times that still shine in our memory with a glamour that even age does not damage. For many Doctor Who fans, that era is the Key to Time series that saw so many wildly different types of adventures set within the Doctor Who universe amid clever and humorous scripting along with a daring leap into the unknown that is rarely seen these days. No returning monsters, no references to the past and an entirely new tonal shift into the realm of the absurd. Even attempting to set a story in this era is a dangerous move and not one to be taken lightly.
Luckily, Jonathan Morris (author of Bloodtide, Flip-Flop, The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, The Eternal Summer and Protect and Survive to name a few) handles this task with consummate skill. Blending comedy with wit and style, the Auntie Matter is one of those rare stories that I can easily picture in my mind as a televised serial.
Sadly, actress Mary Tamm passed shortly after recording of this series was completed. Only 62, her death shocked those closest to her, Tom Baker included. There is a lovingly adoring speech that Baker delivers about his co-star and friend, saying how marvelous it was to know her and to have known her. It is a bitter-sweet experience to hear them together again, but this foray is a testament to their time together.
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