The Company Of Friends

Doctor Who: The Company Of FriendsVarious companions of the Doctor recount their adventures with him. Professor Bernice Summerfield recalls her second adventure with the Doctor’s eighth incarnation, while the redoubtable (and irrepressible) Fitz Kreiner looks back on an adventure in which he had to become the hero of the hour. Comic-collecting companion Izzy tries to use time travel to add an elusive back issue to her comic collection, with disastrous results, and finally, much later in his own timeline, a grievously wounded Doctor arrives on the doorstep of an august gathering of 19th century literary luminaries. But since many of them are noted for writing early horror fiction, will they nurse him back to health… or consider him a freak upon whom to run their own macabre experiments?

Order this CDBenny’s Story written by Lance Parkin
Fitz’s Story written by Stephen Cole
Izzy’s Story written by Alan Barnes
Mary’s Story written by Jonathan Morris
directed by Nicholas Briggs
music by Matthew Cochrane

Benny’s Story Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Lisa Bowerman (Bernice Summerfield), Richard Earl (Klarner), Su Douglas (Venhella)

Fitz’s Story Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Matt di Angelo (Fitz Kreiner), Fenella Woolgar (Commander Hellan Femor), Paul Thornley (Michael Rond), Su Douglas (Gem Weston)

Izzy’s Story Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Jemima Rooper (Izzy), Steve Hansell (Grubb / The Man), Teddy Kempner (Grakk / Clerkie / Camp Robot), Anthony Glennon (Courtmaster Cruel), Robert Forknall (Foreman), Katrina Cooke (Juror), Robert Forknall (Suit), Ian Hallard (Suit), Ian Hallard (Captain Cannibal)

Mary’s Story Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Julie Cox (Mary Shelley), Anthony Glennon (Percy Shelley), Robert Forknall (Lord Byron), Ian Hallard (John Polidori), Katrina Cooke (Claire Clairmont)

Notes: Company Of Friends is a quartet of individual, self-contained stories, the first three of which feature companions originated in other media. Bernice Summerfield was, of course, the first print-only companion, introduced in Virgin Publishing’s New Adventures novels in 1992; her only prior encounter with the eighth Doctor was in 1997’s novel “The Dying Days”. Fitz Kreiner was the Doctor’s companion for much of the BBC Books eighth Doctor range, while Izzy traveled with the eighth Doctor in Doctor Who Magazine’s monthly comics. References to Mary Shelley have been peppered through numerous eighth Doctor audio stories.

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: A clever valentine to the many years of Doctor-Who-in-other-media that bridged the gap between the original series and the new series, The Company Of Friends celebrates the Doctor’s adventures outside of the audio realm. There once was a time when fans lined up for the printed adventures of the eighth Doctor, Sam, Fitz and a whole succession of companions, and Doctor Who Magazine subscribers got new adventures of the eighth Doctor, Izzy, Destrii and more. Both of these entities once stood alongside Big Finish’s audio adventures as the only source of new TARDIS travels, but when the BBC underwent a radical rethink of the Doctor Who license in the wake the announcement of a new TV series, only Big Finish survived intact; arguably the eighth Doctor traveled on in comic form in DWM, but even that was subject to creative oversight (and, some might argue, interference) from the BBC on behalf of the then-upcoming TV series. The eighth Doctor novels came to an end in 2004, and the DWM comics naturally shifted their allegiance to the incoming ninth Doctor. The Company Of Friends is a fun reminder of those days when Doctor Who was being made, not on TV and not for the masses, but by the fans and for the fans.

It’s therefore more than a little bit surprising that the 3/4 of Company based on existing characters are so accessible to the casual listener. Throwaway mentions of book characters like Anji, or the events of “Love And War” and “The Dying Days”, are there to flavor things for fans who will get the references, but they aren’t central to the plot.

Benny’s Story opens things and sets the tone for the first three episodes at a fast-paced, less-than-deadly-serious bar. Fitz’s Story is fall-down funny and is the highlight of the whole exercise, whereas Izzy’s Story wears out its central joke fairly quickly. It’s the one episode of Company where I was ready for it to end about ten minutes sooner than it did. The casting of Fitz and Izzy is dead-on – both characters have a definitive new voice in my head. It’s a shame that a Izzy’s Story is so predictable.

Mary’s Story is where things really get interesting, however: a mortally wounded eighth Doctor, having just survived an encounter with “vitreous time” which has left both him and the TARDIS in shambles, shows up on Mary Shelley’s doorstep, barely alive. This installment is not a bundle of laughs, and interestingly it’s not a reference to a novel or comic character, but a payoff of several hints planted through the eighth Doctor audio adventures.

Are any of these stories ripe for a follow-up? I wouldn’t kick Big Finish out of bed for more audio adventures pairing the eighth Doctor with either Benny or Fitz. The notion of Mary Shelley traveling with the Doctor is intriguing enough that I’d be willing to give it a shot for a full story. Any further audio outings with Izzy would have to be a much stronger story to get my attention. But with the exception of Mary Shelley, there are already copious adventures with these other companions: one just needs to crack open the cover of something other than a CD case to experience them.

That’s what I really liked about Company Of Friends: it’s a fond revisitation of the time when these characters, who existed only on the printed page, were new Doctor Who, period, and not some easily-dismissed offshoot.