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Audio Book Review
Many years after he gave up travelling in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Dodo, Steven Taylor is now the deposed king of a distant planet. From the confines of his cell, he shares his story with a young girl called Sida. He chooses to elaborate one tale in particular – a visit to a whole world at war, enmeshed in the horrors of trench warfare, which will mark Steven for life...
For the third month in a row, The Companion Chronicles return us to the era of the First Doctor – this time focusing on the character of Steven Taylor.
The prospect of catching up with Steven post-The Savages is something that performer Peter Purves has long expressed an interest in, as far back as the interview he recorded for the audio release of The Ark in 2006. As we learn from the sleeve notes for this CD, it’s also an idea that writer Simon Guerrier has been pestering Big Finish producer David Richardson about for almost as long. Now at last we can hear it! Purves had imagined Steven turning into a corrupt dictator. Guerrier’s version of events is somewhat different, but even so it’s not looking good for Steven...
The TARDIS trip that he recalls to his visitor Sida (Alice Haig) is not as compelling as the world inhabited by the older Steven. Guerrier’s grim depiction of the war on the planet Comfort – which, as the story title suggests, owes much to the atrocities of the First World War – is fairly pedestrian, though it does contain a few good surprises, and Purves’s vocal qualities are perfectly pitched to narrate it. It also affords us the rare opportunity to hear a new story involving Dodo Chaplet. Actress Jackie Lane has proven unwilling to reprise the role, but Purves does a decent impersonation of her character.
However, the biggest surprises lie within the King Lear-inspired frame story (there is one particularly fascinating aspect that I won’t reveal). As is often the case when Guerrier is involved, this one ends with tremendous potential for further exploration – which makes it all the more frustrating that The Companion Chronicles are coming to an end. Indeed, this was the last one to be recorded, as is revealed in the CD extras, though there are two more yet to be released.
Fortunately, Richardson also reveals that a return to the range at some point in the future has not been ruled out. Failing that, perhaps the planet of the deposed king could be revisited in another range, so this need not be the Steven story to end all Steven stories.
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