Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Contingency Club


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 793 9
Release Date: 28 February 2017

London, 1864 – where any gentleman befitting the title ‘gentleman’ belongs to a gentlemen’s club: the Reform, the Athenaeum, the Carlton, the Garrick… and, of course, the Contingency. Newly established in St James’, the Contingency has quickly become the most exclusive enclave in town. A refuge for men of politics, men of science, men of letters. A place to escape. A place to think. A place to be free. The first rule of the Contingency is to behave like a gentleman. The second is to pay no heed to its oddly identical servants. Or to the horror in its cellars. Or to the existence of the secret gallery on its upper floor… Rules that the Doctor, Adric, Nyssa and Tegan are all about to break…

Though generally played straight, the Peter Davison era of the television series had its fair share of quirky or ‘oddball’ stories. I’m thinking of the Escher-inspired dimensional instabilities of Castrovalva, or the curious clashes of cultures and low and high of levels of technology in Four to Doomsday and Enlightenment. Writer Phil Mulryne embraces the style of the latter source in The Contingency Club, an establishment whose members singularly fail to register that there is anything untoward in the fact that the servants all look and sound the same, and cannot see that Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) are woman. That would be utterly unthinkable, of course, as the fair sex is strictly forbidden from such places.

Good heavens, what would the patrons say if they realised that the club itself was owned by a woman? But then, the Red Queen (Lorelei King) isn’t exactly from around these parts. That’s not just a lighting effect on Tom Webster’s cover illustration – she really is red. Her very presence here is strange enough, but until her true nature and scheme are revealed, her self-confidence in the midst of a usually male-dominated time and place appears to be explained by director Barnaby Edwards’s canny decision to cast an American-accented actress in the role. Only an American would be so bold, surely?

The Red Queen is rather like the queen of a hive of insects, with the sinister club secretary Mr Peabody (Philip Jackson) as her king and the cloned servants as the workers. Jackson, who is best known to me as Grampy from the sitcom Raised by Wolves, is well cast as a man who doesn’t quite have the necessary class to be a member of the club, but has enough of it to run the place. The servants, all called Edward, are all played by Olly McCauley, who manages to make his various iterations of the character distinctive enough to give the listener a sense of their number while still convincing us that they are identical.

In common with the aforementioned television stories, The Contingency Club is generally played straight, with any humour arising naturally from the bizarre situations rather than from comedic performances.

After being in the foreground for the previous release, Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) takes a bit of a back seat for this adventure, with Nyssa afforded more opportunities for scientific discovery, while Tegan gets ample cause to be irate about social inequalities.

This is an entertainingly unusual adventure for the Season 19 TARDIS crew, and certainly an original setting for them, though there are distinct shades of the Players, alien gamers created by Terrance Dicks who appeared in his novels Players, Endgame and World Game. Still, that’s no reason to eject it from the club (otherwise known as my CD shelf).


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.