Tracking a disturbance in the fabric of time, the Doctor interrupts a college class being conducted by history professor Dr. Evelyn Smythe – only to discover that she is the disturbance he has been seeking. Evelyn initially wants nothing to do with the garishly dressed stranger until physical evidence of her family history begins to vanish from her home. The Doctor deduces that something in the past is unraveling, erased Evelyn’s ancestors from the timeline – and taking her along with it. He rigs up a stasis device to prevent Evelyn from disappearing altogether, but rather than staying put, the intrepid teacher decides to visit Earth’s history along with the Doctor. The TARDIS tracks the disturbance to a point roughly three years before the end of Queen Mary’s reign, where events – including a conspiracy to remove Mary from the throne by any means necessary – are converging with one inevitable effect unless the Doctor can stop them: Evelyn Smythe’s family will be wiped out in the process.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Maggie Stables (Dr. Evelyn Smythe), Anah Ruddin (The Queen), Jo Castleton (Lady Sarah), Sean Jackson (George Crow), Gary Russell (John Wilson), Jez Fielder (William Leaf), Nicholas Pegg (Reverend Thomas), Barnaby Edwards (Francois de Noailles), Alistair Lock (Royal guard)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: This woefully underpromoted Audio Adventure turned out to be much better than I expected. Colin Baker’s Doctor is very well suited to historical stories with a bare minimum of science fiction elements, and the introduction of Maggie Stables as Evelyn Smythe, a new companion unique to the Audio Adventures, shows great promise. The thought of a middle-aged woman traveling in the TARDIS, as opposed to the almost suspicious string of extremely young ladies who have graced the time machine’s console room, is a welcome twist, and the character dynamics work uniquely well with Baker’s Doctor – especially when Evelyn, a history instructor, is almost always certain that she knows better than the Time Lord how events should unfold. It will be interesting to see how the next adventure handles the revelation (for Evelyn) that the TARDIS is also a spacecraft, and that its owner is not quite human.
The support cast play their period roles with relish, and the conflicts of the end of Mary’s time on the throne are played out very well. I was surprised by the degree to which the Catholic-Protestant conflict was featured in this story, but not offended. It’s another sign that the Audio Adventures are exploring new territory with the Doctor Who format.
The Audio Adventures have, since early on, featured a track at the end of the second CD or cassette with brief, movie-trailer-style audio previews of upcoming adventures. Yet The Marian Conspiracy hasn’t been featured in any of these preview tracks. I contacted Big Finish to find out why – it’s not as if The Marian Conspiracy was a botched job that they wanted to bury as quickly as possible. I even wondered if the prominence of the Catholic-Protestant conflicts in the storyline might have given the producers some worries about offending their listening/buying public. Instead, the only answer I got was that The Marian Conspiracy‘s near-total lack of promotion was due to “oversight and lack of time.” A sad epitaph for this four-parter, as it’s worth at least two listens – one to grasp the plot, the second to watch for the clues falling into place now that you know what to listen for.