Trapped by the Time Lords and tried for the crime of interfering in history, the Doctor is scheduled to be exiled to Earth – but he escapes into his TARDIS and leaves Gallifrey. Not that this really does him much good, as he winds up trapped on Earth anyway. A few incarnations later, the Doctor’s situation has become even more unsettling – he has not only changed bodies, but changed gender as well. Without her TARDIS, the Doctor becomes bored, listless, and – with the help of two friends she makes on a job she takes to eke out a meager existence – perhaps just a little bit alcoholic. Or perhaps a lot – the Doctor begins to see and hear her previous (male) incarnation, warning her of alien invasions and labyrinthine plots against modern-day Earth. When the Time Lords send two agents to track the Doctor down and bring her back to justice (though they don’t know that the Doctor is now a woman), the only thing standing between the Doctor and her doom is an increasing reliance on the bottle. When it comes right down to it, which oblivion will the Doctor choose?
Cast: Arabella Weir (The Doctor), Hannah Smith (Cherrie), Jeremy James (Cheese), Toby Longworth (Time Lord #1), David Tennant (Time Lord #2), Graham Duff (Mr. Baggit), Nicholas Briggs (The previous Doctor)
Timeline: after Logopolis – the Doctor’s sacrifice in that episode is said to be a suicide, and a non-fatal suicide attempt triggers not only a regeneration, but a gender change, in Time Lords!
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: I try to avoid spoilers and discussions about Big Finish’s Doctor Who audios before I have the chance to hear them myself, but it was almost impossible to do so where Exile was concerned. Message boards and mailing lists glowed white-hot with speculation of which actress would make a good Doctor, then whether or not comedienne and author Arabella Weir was a good choice, and then just how bad everyone seemed to think that Exile was. I had to set aside some personal distaste for stories treating alcoholism as something less than serious, until I realized that the story actually addresses that and takes a game swipe at resolving it. The point of all this is: it was hard to listen to Exile with zero prejudice. But I was so stunned by the fan reaction that I was determined to get through the story and find something good about it.
It’s got some nice cover artwork.
But I jest – Exile actually is quite funny in some places, but due to a shuffle in the production and release shcedules, it replaced Rob Shearman’s Deadline as the last story in the Doctor Who Unbound sextet – and that’s a problem, when Deadline addresses blurry lines between fantasy and reality in a much weightier way. Exile also deals with this, with the Doctor questioning whether or not she really is in the middle of an alien plot or a vodka-induced haze at critical moments, but where Deadline tackled the issue with pathos, Exile treats it as fodder for comedy. There’s room for both ways of doing things, but Deadline stole Exile‘s thunder in a big way. I recommend listening to Exile first and Deadline last, as was originally scheduled.
And as for Ms. Weir? She’s in her element for the majority of the story, which falls into many of the well-worn formulaic grooves of British “pub comedy,” but when more dramatic events started to take place, I was surprised by how much I really liked her as the Doctor. Introspective and moody, Weir’s Doctor is perhaps the one Unbound Doctor I’d most like to hear in a second story – if only so she could play it straight. Sadly, she’s restricted to this single story, really sort of a drunk-and-disorderly Absolutely Fabulous take on Doctor Who, and we’ll never know how it could’ve been. I’m convinced that it’s all meant in good fun, and isn’t the franchise-damaging blemish of a story that some fans seem to be making it out to be. If anything, Exile‘s biggest failing isn’t a stereotypical style of writing or acting, or even the fact that it’s trying to be no-holds-barred comedy. Exile is a victim of timing – it was originally meant to be a tap-on-your-shoulder-and-then-run-away diversion to throw the audience off-guard before the extremely heavy Deadline. By finishing the brilliant run of Doctor Who Unbound stories with a very lightweight comedy that plays fast and loose with the show’s format, actually parodying the characters and stories that it’s celebrating, it’s almost a non-sequitur, certainly not fit to wrap things up.