The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Charley – actually Mila in Charley’s body – to future Earth, where the human race is divided into a technologically and scientifically competent caste and a larger tribe of vicious nomads. Infected with something that both sides simply know as “the madness,” the nomadic humans have regressed to a feral state. The only thing keeping the madness at bay for the more civilized pockets of humanity is a vaccine provided by the Viyrans. When the Doctor and Mila/Charley are scanned by the humans for traces of the madness, the Viyrans are very interested in Mila and send a ship to Earth – a ship that also happens to contain the real Charley, alive and well. Now a number of truths must come out: that the Viyrans are terminating their support of the human race and will soon terminate the entire species, that Mila is not really Charley, and that Charley is from the Doctor’s own future – and traveling with him his created a potentially deadly paradox with implications that reach far beyond the TARDIS.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Michael Maloney (Viyrans / Alien), J.J. Feild (David McCallister), Andree Bernard (Ellen Green), Alec Newman (Ed Driscoll), Sam Clemens (Sgt. James Atherton), Alex Mallinson (Soldier Clive), Jess Robinson (Mila)
Notes: Apart from the Companion Chronicles release Solitaire, this is India Fisher’s final appearance to date as Charley Pollard in audio Doctor Who, after playing the character since Paul McGann’s first Big Finish story in 2001. She continues her work for Big Finish in other capacities, including an appearance in one of the company’s Sherlock Holmes audio plays.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: With a character as long-lived as Charley – the longest any one actor has been actively participating as the Doctor’s companion in the history of the franchise – an epic exit is required. Something on the order of Rose’s departure, which was arranged after only two seasons, if not something even more tear-jerking. Charley’s swan song is a curious specimen: it’s emotionally satisfying in its own way, and a bit deceptive as we find out that it may not really be what happened.
The cast assembled for Blue Forgotten Planet is top notch, with J.J. Feild providing his distinctive voice for one of the main guest characters, and storyline that constantly ratchets up the tension. By the time the Charley vs. Mila angle of the overarching story comes home to roost, so much else has been happening that one can be forgiven for going “Oh, I forgot that!”
The Viyrans are increasingly intriguing, as we learn that they’re taking their orders from someone else – someone whose identity is, naturally, not divulged here. With Big Finish-originated baddies such as Dr. Knox and the Forge having proven to be either two-hit wonders or villains whose stories are spaced out too far apart to be consistent, the Viyrans may yet fill this niche that Big Finish so urgently needs. The fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors each got Dalek stories in their 2009 “seasons,” and the Cybermen are slated to return in 2010 at least once, and while those enemies probably increase casual sampling of Big Finish’s Doctor Who fare, it’d be nice to see an original baddie that “sticks.” The Viyrans might just be it. They’re interesting because they’re not really evil; they’re simply single-minded and not constrained by any morality whatsoever. On the surface, their mission to rid the universe of disease seems noble, but in Blue Forgotten Planet, it’s also shown to be like using a hammer where a tiny screwdriver used to repair eyeglasses would suffice.
And Charley’s exit? It’s both satisfying and yet, perhaps, not as emotionally resonant as The Girl Who Never Was. But perhaps that’s the message – the character was playing a dangerous game and trying to cheat destiny by continuing her travels with another Doctor, effectively winning extra innings that weren’t really owed to her. The somewhat cold post-end-credit-music coda that we’re treated to seems to be passing that kind of judgement on her: she’s still alive, but has had to pay the piper in a most unexpected way, with a form of immortality that no one should have to endure. Mila, depending upon your interpretation of what is heard to happen here, also gets her comeuppance – and a bit of redemption as well.
One prediction I do have, however: surely Big Finish has collectively learned a thing or two from watching Russell T. Davies bring Rose back too many times; I expect we won’t hear anything more from Charley unless she gets more Companion Chronicles – or unless there comes a day when Big Finish’s license is not renewed and she returns in the company’s final audio play (which is not, incidentally, a day that I’m looking forward to). She truly is Big Finish’s most enduring character and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see her return in that context, in which her return would be a major event.