The return to London in the 1960s provides an interesting starting point for this play. Unlike modern Who, with its far more reliable TARDIS and casts of recurring characters, in the first and second Doctor’s eras, the idea that the Doctor might ever be able to drop in on previous companions couldn’t even be contemplated. Once you were onboard, it was pretty much a one-way ticket (barring the ability to nick a Dalek timeship).
So when the Doctor and Steven find themselves back in the 60s, Steven is quick to point out that they can visit Ian and Barbara and see how they’ve been since returning home. Its an idea that the Doctor happily goes along with, and it nicely allows the play to cast an eye over modern episodes, from the view of the classic. The final scene with the Doctor insisting they must move forward and not look to the past strikes me as very reminiscent of the modern series, and nicely ties the first Doctor’s mindset to his more recent incarnations.
All of which is a throwaway to the main story, but one I felt worth commenting on. The real action in this play surrounds the London Stock Exchange, as the Doctor and Steven discover an alien race using the financial sector for its own purposes. A setting I found incredibly effective, and not often mined by Doctor Who. While the 1960s have long been a familiar destination for the show, throwing the Doctor and Steven into the heart of the financial establishment like this, gives the story a very unique feel, as the story approaches the 60s from a different viewpoint from the swinging 60s we’ve seen previously through the Doctor’s companions. There’s a very interesting, and at times quite dark tale here, that sets the Doctor and Steven up against the establishment in a very real way, with the aliens insisting everything they do is above board, and completely legal, having been agreed by the Government. In truth, there’s potentially an even bigger story here than the one we’re presented with, and at times the story felt evocative of the Third Doctor’s era, with its Government ministers and the like. This shift in tone for a First Doctor adventure was something I found quite interesting and distinctive.
Set against all this, is Steven Taylor, a man from the future, whose grasp of history isn’t all that brilliant, allowing a fresh perspective on all that’s going on around him as he finds most of the actions of London businessmen fairly absurd. Again, we’re used to the Doctor’s companions being contemporary, so to get this different perspective is a nice use of the character, not just relying on the sort of “oh isn’t this all primitive”, glib characterisation that you’ll sometimes find with characters from the future.
The whole play is expertly narrated by Peter Purves who it must be said, does a great job of not just recapturing Steven Taylor, but he also captures the First Doctor’s voice well, throwing many of Hartnell’s mannerisms into his speech. Assisting is Tom Allen, playing Oliver Harper, a London stock brocker. Between the two, they manage to bring a wide range of voices to the play, something I found particularly impressive, really giving the impression that this play has a much larger cast than the two-hander it actually is.
Overall, especially given my tendancy to stick to the main range with Doctors 5-8, I found this audio a lot of fun, and loved the way it was steeped in the era of the show at that time, while being offset against Steven’s future perspective, and its sets up an interesting new status quo for Steven Taylor Companion Chronicles going forwards.