Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fiction > Reality

SPOILER ALERT! The following post contains obscene amounts of SPOILERS for the following Big Finish "Doctor Who" stories: #133 - City of Spires, #134 - The Wreck of the Titan, #135 - Legend of the Cybermen.  Not to mention scattered SPOILERS for all of the Second Doctor's era (especially from "The War Games" and "The Mind Robber") and maybe a few other minor things. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!

I love all the Doctor's companions, though some I love more than others.  It's just the way things happen.  One of my absolute favorites is Jamie McCrimmon, the lovable Scottish highlander who was a mainstay of the Patrick Troughton era.  The Second Doctor had a good handful of companions, but Jamie was THE companion in the late 1960s.  He was brave, if a little naive, but definitely a quick learner and always eager for adventure.  He could roll with the changes in the Doctor's traveling lifestyle with ease and the most adorable smile you've ever seen.  Jamie's story arc is one major reason I often bemoan the fact that so little of the Troughton era remains complete - how cool would it be to watch Jamie's character progression from an 18th century Scotsman with little knowledge of anything outside his own circumstances to someone who fully accepts and embraces time-and-space travel?  But there's no point in lamenting what you can't control, I suppose.  But I can get annoyed that Jamie and Zoe Heriot's memories of traveling with the Doctor were taken away by the Time Lords at the end of "The War Games" because - ARGH! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO A COMPANION??? WHY WHY WHY??

Yes, I'm side-eyeing you, RTD. SO HARD! (poor, poor Donna...)

So, when I discovered Big Finish had produced a trilogy of audio stories with the Sixth Doctor with Jamie as the companion, I wondered "How in the name of Gallifrey is this going to work?"  How are they going to justify Jamie meeting the Doctor again and how will he remember the Doctor and what will the Doctor have to do to bring Jamie along on these adventures?

(Before I go on - I'm blaming/crediting Traveling the Vortex for my renewed binge on Big Finish.  Last week, they had a Companion Archive for Evelyn Smythe, who is a Big Finish-only companion.  And we're watching "The War Games" for Friday Night Who last week and this week.  So, this is their fault).

Long story short (and spoiler-free) - Big Finish did all of that. And more.  You owe it to yourself to seek out these three stories and listen to them (and there is a Companion Chronicle that goes with them - "Night's Black Agents" - but I haven't bought it yet. I will soon, though).

Short story made longer - Let's just take this one story at a time:

(SPOILERS really begin here, so if you're looking to remain unspoiled on the Big Finish stuff, this is where you ought to stop. Seriously - stop now.)

"City of Spires" - This starts out where you'd expect Jamie to be, given how "The War Games" ended. The highlanders are at war with the Redcoats (though Jamie doesn't show up until later).  The Sixth Doctor sort of stumbles into the middle of the fighting (you know, like the Doctor always does) and eventually meets up with Jamie, who is now much older and doesn't remember the Doctor at all.  This story is pretty straightforward - your standard Doctor-meets-new-companion (or former companion who's about to get re-recruited) story.  I won't lie - it's a little odd to have Jamie with the Sixth Doctor at first, but the decision to write Jamie as someone older and with more life experience (and not all of it positive) helped make the reunion work.  Plus, there's a mystery for the Doctor to solve that directly relates to Jamie.  Recall that, at the end of "The War Games," when the Time Lords erased Jamie and Zoe's memories, they were allowed to keep the memories of their first adventure with the Doctor, but they never left in the TARDIS.  The mystery here is this: Jamie doesn't remember anything about the Doctor.  Not even his very first meeting (which would have taken place in "The Highlanders").  So, there's that to figure out on top of the other, more pressing weirdness of anachronistic oil drilling in 18th century Scotland.

"The Wreck of the Titan" - This is where things get really odd.  It starts with the title and the trailer for this story.  The trailer mentions the Doctor and Jamie have landed on the Titanic - which is all the trailer could really talk about without giving away the entire thing.  And as similar as the two are, Titanic is NOT Titan.  BUT - and this is where serendipity comes in because I listened to this the weekend all the Titanic centennial commemoration was going on - there is a book called "The Wreck of the Titan" that was published 14 years before the actual Titanic sank (go here to read about the uncanny similarities between the fictional Titan and the real Titanic).  So, I'm wondering where in the world this is going.  This isn't going to be the movie Titanic with Jack and Rose being replaced with the Doctor and Jamie? Because that would be cool on one level, but totally bizarre on another level.

Luckily, they kept James Cameron away from this one and brought in the fictional Titan.  And that's where things start getting interesting (and where I had my AHA! moment).  Right before the Titanic is due for her date with the iceberg, everything shifts and turns into the story of the Titan.  Even the characters change.  And instead of falling into the ocean, the Doctor and one other character wind up on the iceberg being chased by hungry polar bears (it's a lot cooler in the audio, believe me).  In the meantime, Jamie hooks up with Captain Nemo and the Nautilus and it's about here that my absolute favorite Troughton-era story comes into play.

My friends - Big Finish actually revisted "The Mind Robber." And the fandom rejoiced. (don't click that link if you value your free time).

By "fandom," I mean one crazy fangirl that's bouncing up and down in her seat while driving down to visit her folks for the weekend. Amazing that I didn't careen into the ditch.

"Legend of the Cybermen" - And we're back to the Land of Fiction. Oh and Zoe's back!! (HOLY CRAP - IT IS ZOE!)  And the White Robots! And the Karkuss! And the unicorns! And the - and the - *squee!*

(And there is an absolutely hilarious scene where the fictional characters start narrating their own stories - but Jamie thinks he's in a booth in a sound studio recording for a radio play. Complete with Nicholas Briggs directing and the Doctor/Colin Baker tapping the window of Jamie/Frazer Hines' sound booth and referring to them being trapped in meta-fiction.  It's downright brilliant).

All right, all right - not everything is a fantastic trip down memory lane.  For one thing, the Cybermen have invaded the Land of Fiction.  For another, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe discover that the oil that was being drilled clear back in "City of Spires" isn't oil.  It's ink.  And what do you do with ink?  You write stories with it.  Stories like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Dracula" and "Oliver Twist." Oh, and you bring an old traveling companion to life in the Land of Fiction so you can call on the Doctor to come help you get rid of the clunky old aliens that you inadvertently dragged into this place when they attacked your home.

Translation: Zoe became is the Mistress of the Land of Fiction when the Cybermen attacked her home, she created a fictional Jamie from her memories of him, fictional!Jamie took on a life of his own to the point of getting older, the Doctor got pulled into the Land of Fiction by Zoe and I'm a pile of goo because "What? Jamie's not real???"

(That was FOREVER HEARTBREAK when Jamie realizes he's not a real person and even goes so far as to berate the Doctor for never going back to check in on the real Jamie back in Scotland.  I mean, Jamie does have a point - but does he have to be so mean about it?  Well... yeah, he kind of does... Doesn't mean I have to like it, though).

In the end, the Cybermen are defeated.  Jamie sacrifices his own life to allow the Doctor to escape with Zoe.  The Doctor gets Zoe back to her home on the space station, but not before Zoe forgets the Doctor again.  And the end theme tune plays - with the Troughton-era tune melding into the Colin Baker tune and I want to crawl into a corner and sob.

(On a lighter note - I can't help but think that there was someone at the Big Finish studios that, in a fit of boredom fueled by whimsy, doodled various mythical creatures like fairies and mermaids as partially-converted Cybermen.  On the surface, the idea sounds terrible, but it really works and it's even worth a good laugh).

On the whole, I loved this entire trilogy (I'm not even sure what to call it.  The Jamie Trilogy? The Mind Robber sequel?)  It's Big Finish doing what they do best - creating new stories for well-loved characters and putting them in physical and emotional situations that were unheard of Back in the Day (and probably couldn't be done on TV anyway).  I love that Jamie gets another chance to shine and underneath all that life experience as a jaded war hero, he's still that lovable and endearing traveling companion that I absolutely adore.  This aspect of Jamie meshes well with the Sixth Doctor - where Jamie isn't 100% sure of this goofy-looking "Frenchman" and the Doctor is able to handle it with grace and appeal to that part of Jamie that never really forgot his friend (I maintain that the companions who are made to forget the Doctor still retain a bit of remembrance deep in their subconscious because an experience like the Doctor is too wonderful and precious to ever truly erase.  Sure, it's sentimental and goopy but I don't care).

Bottom Line: I need a Jamie marathon now. (I don't care that it's 12:30 in the morning - where is my "Mind Robber" DVD???)

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