3 February 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Jonathan Morris

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 31st January 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Young for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 3rd February 2011

Part of Big Finish’s Sixth Doctor range, The Crimes of Thomas Brewster marks the return of the eponymous past companion as part of a fine cast in this funny, referential but somewhat unbalanced adventure...

The story begins when The Doctor (Colin Baker) is called to London by the Metropolitan police to investigate a mysterious gangster known only as...‘The Doctor’! The fun of this premise isn’t so much the mystery of who might be behind this (the title gives you a fairly good guess to begin with) but The Doctors reaction to the situation. Investigating, he at first assumes the gang leader could be a version of himself from a forgotten past or yet-to-occur future. Discovering that ‘The Doctor’ is collecting weapons for some unknown purpose, he wonders if his future self could be capable of something which, to him, seems unthinkable; “doesn’t sound like me” he muses. This timey-wimey conundrum is furthered by the inclusion of DI Patricia Menzies (Anna Hope reprising her role from The Condemned and The Raincloud Man) who, previously a companion to The Doctor, has now encountered him from before he has met her. All the while, she must keep quiet about knowing him in order to secure their time line. As well as some humorous scenes where Menzies feigns amazement over time travel, I laughed out loud when Menzies said she figured all of this out by reading ‘The Time Travellers Wife’ (“well, watched the DVD”). It’s a brilliant piece of referential humour that brings a great sense of fun to the story while also playing with the concept of time travel to great effect.

Moments like this reveal The Crimes of Thomas Brewster as a story driven by its appealing characters. It’s strongest when it allows them to let loose with some great humour and energy. I have always loved Evylne Smyth (Maggie Stables) as a companion – an elderly British History professor travelling with The Doctor just makes sense – and her dialogue and relationship with The Doctor is at its best here.  There are also some brilliant Colin Baker moments that will give you the giggles: The Doctor finds a use for that coat; asserts that he is “not captain Kirk!”; and even lets out a well timed “Geronimo!” 

Gangland goings on are not the only thing the Doctor has to contend with, however. He is also being attacked by Terravores; giant and deadly robotic mosquitoes. To continue with the theme of displaced meetings, they have met The Doctor before; but he has yet to meet them. As the story progressed, and The Doctor got involved with the police and murky underworld of London as supernatural goings on transpired, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a contemporary version of The Talons of Weng-Chiang. This, in my book, is a very good thing and the first two parts of the story have a similar sense of referential fun mixed with genuine threat. I wish the story either embraced its setting of modern London more or had picked another time period as a setting. There are references to iPhones, Twitter and Lady Gaga which make it unmistakably modern, but there is also a large cast of stereotypical cockney gangsters which, while causing some serious titters, seemed out of place. 

In fact, the setting of London was so fun that some of the lustre was lost once the action shifted to a mysterious alien world. The storyline involving the Terravore conflict with ‘The Locus’ – the hive mind of a living planet – is interesting in itself, but feels drafted from another story. While modern London and this alien world are linked – quite literally – in the story, I felt that after leaving London the story never replicated the sparkle present in the first two parts. This is made worse by the late introduction of two needless and little used characters and the absence of Evylne’s lively self in the later sections. Most disappointingly, Thomas Brewster (John Pickard) himself isn’t used to great effect. Again, he is closely linked to the story line but, other than a compelling conversation with The Doctor explaining his actions, he is by no means the heart of the story I was hoping for. I felt more interested in his history and activities in London than the story of the Terravores and Locus.  While consistently entertaining, this story had all the ingredients to be much more. Thankfully, the final minutes suggest we might learn more about Brewster very soon...

 

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