27 September 2013
 Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Eddie Robson

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 23rd September 2013

If you remember the Sixties, they say, then you can’t have been there.

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. That’s why he’s taking Nyssa on a trip back to November 1963. Back to where it all began. Back to the birth of the biggest band in the history of British music. Back to see those cheeky lads from Liverpool...

Mark, James and Korky. The Common Men. The boys who made the Sixties swing with songs like Oh, Won’t You Please Love Me?, Just Count To Three and Who Is That Man.

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. And there’s something very wrong with the Sixties, if the Beatles no longer exist…

* * *

So, it’s 2013, the year of the big 5-0. Ever since the series came back to our screens in 2005 and did exactly what Doctor Who, Paul McGann’s solo (so far) televised adventure, didn’t do, people have been counting down the days until November 23rd 2013 reached us, in which time we’ve had a whole host of new Doctors and more Big Finish than you can shake a stick at. (Please don’t shake sticks at Big Finish; they’re rather lovely.)

Now we’re in 2013 at long last, it’s time for the celebrations to begin and the nostalgia to kick in, and kick in big time.  We’ve had stamps, postcards, jigsaws, a host of e-books, Dalek toys and William Hartnell popping up in The Name of the Doctor (though what he’s doing wearing his ‘Earth’ clothes before he’s ever reached Totter’s Lane is a mystery) amongst many other kisses to the past.  Big Finish meanwhile have given us more than anyone else, with their forthcoming anniversary special The Light at the End, the Destiny of the Doctor range of stories which link past and present, and now this trilogy of stories under the 1963 umbrella, and what better way to start it than Eddie Robson does here?

We’re back to the first year of the show, centring a play round a throwaway reference to a band name-checked in the very first episode.  It could all fall flat and feel either forced or, worse, corny, but it doesn’t because Robson is too good a writer to let that happen.

The basic premise, that someone or something has removed The Beatles from time and replaced them with a similar but ultimately lesser band, is a good one, and it allows the play to let rip with some incredible music (the musical suite extras on the first disc are nine minutes of pure loveliness), some nice Beatles humour (a character named Sadie here, the Doctor mentioning All You Need Is Love there, a riff on John Lennon’s famous comment to the Queen et al. to rattle her jewellery) and a really enthusiastic performance from Peter Davison in the lead role.

Never one to give anything less than his all, even when the scripts don’t deserve such effort, Davison is on fire throughout here, rushing from scene to scene with a tangible energy and zeal, whilst Sarah Sutton is equally enthused, playing Nyssa with just the right level of alien bewilderment and a seriousness that hides a wry sense of humour.  The guest cast is similarly strong, Mitch Benn being especially impressive as Not-John-Lennon-Definitely-Not-Please-Don’t-Sue, or Mark as he’s known to his friends.

Where the play really succeeds though is in the script, which is tight and clever, with enough clues to keep you guessing and enough answers to keep you wanting to find out even more as the play unfolds. The ending is neat, too, and doesn’t leave you feeling cheated: we’ve not got ourselves a hexachromite gas situation here, nor is there a Myrka in sight, thank goodness.

Robson successfully hits that fine balance between kissing the past and striding towards the future, and certainly kicks off this latest trilogy in a fine way.  If the other two can match this play’s sense of joy, celebration and innovative energy, then we’ll be in for a treat these coming months. Let’s just hope the Companion Chronicles’ forthcoming celebratory trilogy has as impressive a beginning as 1963 has.

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