Sometimes, conceits are a little too big for the piece of work designed to contain them. Sometimes, ideas are so out-there that the actual realisation falls short. Not so this one.
The Jigsaw War is a gorgeous piece of timey-wimey bendy-brainery that absolutely lives up to its creator’s intent. The story of Jamie McCrimmon, kidnapped (yet again!) from the Doctor’s side and made to live life as a prisoner. And sometimes a jailer. Only, not in the expected order – at least, not the order expected by Jamie. Yes, the episodic nature of this segment of his life is played utterly on shuffle, and unless he can work out the correct order, he’s never going to be allowed to escape…
The shuffle metaphor is not as loose as it might appear. The high-level conceit that writer Eddie Robson has put together here is very simple: play the CD tracks in any order, and the story is still as clear and understandable as if they’re played first to last. (Okay, to be honest I think probably the first and last tracks need to hold their place – but the rest are largely interchangeable.)
Well, I say as clear and understandable: what I mean is impenetrable and confusing. Since we are party to Jamie’s experience of the world, and he is experiencing it out of order, we’re getting two timelines for the price of one: that of reality, and that of his experience. (And should we press shuffle on the CD player, we’re technically getting a third too, I think.) And the joy – and mental torture – of this play is trying to work out, with Jamie, what the correct order is, and therfore what’s actually going on.
It’s not easy. But it is rewarding.
Lacking the usual (partial) prose narrative of most Companion Chronicles, The Jigsaw War is a two-hander between Frazer Hines’s Jamie and Captain Moran, played by Dominic Mafham. And the dynamic between the two, with the changing balance of power – which switches back and forth pretty suddenly in the ‘reality’ timeline, but really cranks across the room in Jamie’s perceived one – is handled very well.
But having said it’s a two-hander, it’s not. Actually, it’s a three, with the Doctor channelling himself through Jamie’s body at opportune moments. And just as Jamie channels the Doctor, so Hines channels Patrick Troughton. Hines is renowned for his ability to portray the second Doctor, but I have to say this performance is his best so far. One immediately forgets that Hines is there at all: Troughton’s Doctor is every bit in the room. It’s uncanny – and getting more uncanny Chronicle on Chronicle.
All in all this is a challenging piece that takes a fairly sharp and not at all hungover brain to comprehend. (I had to listen twice. Ahem.) But it’s also a good, old fashioned romp with Who stalwarts Jamie and the Second Doctor. Thank you, BF, for letting us have them back. Just lovely.