Crime Of The Century

Doctor Who: Thin IceThe Doctor pays a visit to Markus Creevy’s daughter, Raine, 23 years after her birth. Markus has largely gotten out of organized crime, but despite his best efforts to ensure Raine has an education, she has turned her considerable intelligence toward such pursuits as safecracking. She’s been stealing some very specific items for an unknown client who pays very well; it turns out that the Doctor is the mystery benefactor who’s been engaging her services. He needs the Creevys to help him do one last “job” – and the stakes are high: the survival of humanity itself. An old enemy of the Doctor and Markus is trying to tip the balance of the Cold War by inviting alien mercenaries called the Metatraxi to demonstrate their gift for warfare. But the Metatraxi are losing track of which humans they’ve been hired to assist or attack. The Doctor has an ace up his sleeve to keep the Metatraxi busy…

Order this CDwritten by Andrew Cartmel
directed by Ken Bentley
music by Simon Robinson

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Beth Chalmers (Raine Creevy), Ricky Groves (Markus Creevy), Derek Carlyle (Nikitin / Parvez), John Albasiny (Colonel Felnikov / Waiter), John Banks (Metatraxi / Walnuf), Chris Porter (Sayf Udeen / Valentin)

Notes: In the original plan for Doctor Who’s 1990 season, Crime Of The Century would have been the third story, introducing Raine (originally named Kat Tollinger according to some sources) as Markus’ daughter, with Markus being envisioned as a recurring earthbound ally for the Doctor, a la the Brigadier (and anticipating new series characters like Jackie Tyler, Wilfred Mott and Craig). This story would not have featured Ace in its original form.

Timeline: after Thin Ice and before Animal

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: The funny thing about Crime Of The Century is that fans have known about its opening scene in intimate detail for over a decade, ever since script editor Andrew Cartmel spilled the beans about it in the Sophie Aldred bio “Ace!”. What’s even funnier about Crime is that everything after that was up for grabs. There have been hints for years that it involved the Metatraxi, insectoid villains devised by Cartmel and Ben Aaronovitch for the script pitch they wrote for a stage play, but the rest is wide open.

What’s been a mystery, however, is the exact nature of the Doctor’s new companion who, in the original outline, would have replaced the departed Ace. Here, Raine spends most of the adventure alongside the Doctor, meeting Ace only at the end of the story – a TARDIS full of juvenile delinquents! One senses that Big Finish asked Cartmel and Doctor Who: Thin Icecompany to keep Ace aboard the TARDIS to create a new seventh Doctor cast to carry forward in later stories not tied to whatever plans had been tentatively laid for the 1990 season.

Beth Chalmers – who played Raine’s mother in Thin Ice – gives Raine an acid tongue and a nearly-unflappable nature (one can only be so unflappable when traveling with the Doctor, after all). She’s a likeable character, though we’re left to wonder until the plot threads tighten toward the end if she’s going to stay on the side of right or turn out to be completely self-serving. She has a wider skill set than being able to manufacture nitro-9, but in the end she’s a slightly more high-class bad girl than Ace. All of the hallmarks of late ’80s Doctor Who are on display here: the Doctor is pulling the strings from the background, there’s a fixation on the Soviet side of the cold war (though a few bits of dialogue make it obvious that the script was written post-Glasnost), and there’s a condemnation of war in general. One central setting in the story is a royal compound within a fictional story (one suspects it’s standing in for Soviet-besieged Afghanistan), with shady deals being done in the arms business.

And it just so happens that the Metatraxi are arms dealers with faulty translation devices, which at one point the Doctor fixes, but not without putting their translator into California surfer dude mode, which makes the Metatraxi’s threats even stranger than they already were. Ace spends much of the story in the company of Russian soldiers trying to track down stories of a “demon” that’s probably an alien presence, and she’s very much going it alone here – possibly the most independence that any of the Doctor’s companions (before or after the McCoy era) has ever had to show.

The cast is top notch, with John Banks providing all of the Metatraxi voices (both alien and surf’s-up-style), and two significant returning characters from Thin Ice. In a way, Crime forms a duology with Thin Ice, as the later story is still dealing with the alien weapons stashed away in the season opener.

Raine is a worthy addition to the TARDIS team, but now we’re left to wonder how well she’ll get along with Ace…