The Doctor and Lucie are aboard a train bound for Sweden in the 1800s; also on the train are priceless artifacts by an artist named Tardelli. This piques the Doctor’s interest: he has followed Tardelli through time and space, removing his artwork, which has a psychically active component that tends to manifest itself as a malign influence wherever it takes root. But two other old acquaintances are aboard the train as well: the Headhunter and Karen, Lucie’s former co-worker who seems to have been liberated from a dark destiny to serve as the Headhunter’s sidekick. They’re also there to pilfer Tardelli’s latest masterpiece, a hefty black diamond, until the Doctor and Lucie intervene in their plans. The two sets of time travelers are in a race to see who can steal the diamond first: the Doctor wants to prevent it from depositing an evil psychic influence on Earth, and the Headhunter’s motive is pure profit… but she hasn’t even told Karen what the real job is, or who they’re really working for.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Michael Maloney (Simonson), Christopher Benjamin (Tardelli), Colin Spaull (Henrik), Sebastian Armesto (Anders), Katarina Olsson (The Headhunter), Louise Fullerton (Karen)
Timeline: after The Skull Of Sobek and before The Zygon Who Fell To Earth
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Doctor Who is infinitely adaptable, capable of stretching to encompass nearly any story format. But Grand Theft Cosmos may well be a Doctor Who first: I don’t think anyone’s ever tried to do an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper story (albeit scaled down to TARDIS’ Two) with the Doctor and company.
Helping matters considerably is that the Doctor and Lucie are up against characters we already know better than to love. If it wasn’t already easy to root for the Doctor and his companion in this story (after all, a caper almost necessarily involves an elaborate plot to steal something, surely not something that the TARDIS crew should be seen or heard doing), it’s certainly easy to root against the Headhunter and her own new companion, the decidedly bratty (and dense) Karen. Where the banter between Lucie and Karen was a highlight of Human Resources, here it points up the fact that her TARDIS travels have made Lucie so much more than who she was in her first audio season.
The mystery behind the object waiting to be stolen by any and all parties unfolds at a steady pace, and it’s not an obvious kind of mystery. When it finally unfolds in all of its glory, it takes on somewhat horrific dimensions, doing a lot to illuminate the character behind it. But the real fun of Grand Theft Cosmos is in the barely-restrained sarcastic volleys between the regulars and the returning baddies.