The Gathering

Doctor Who: The GatheringThe Doctor follows a trail of highly unusual energy emissions through Earth’s history to Brisbane, Australia in 2006. There, he meets Dr. Katherine Chambers, a woman whose life was changed forever by her last encounter with the Doctor (an encounter that won’t happen until his next regeneration). When he tells her that he’s trying to track down potentially dangerous alien technology, Dr. Chambers begins evading the Doctor’s questions, but he follows her to a surprise birthday party, badgering her with question anyway. But the guest of honor at the surprise party manages to stun the Doctor into silence: it’s Tegan, his former traveling companion, who hasn’t seen him in over 20 years. She isn’t thrilled to renew their acquaintance, since she maintains that anywhere the Doctor goes, trouble – and death – follow. But even without the Doctor, they’re already catching up with Tegan anyway.

Order this CDwritten by Joseph Lidster
directed by Gary Russell
music by David Darlington

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Jane Perry (Katherine Chambers), Richard Grieve (James Clarke), Dait Abuchi (Michael Tanaka), Janie Booth (Eve Morris), Zehra Naqvi (Jodi Boyd), Jef Higgins (Waiter), Nicholas Briggs (Alan Fitzgerald), Belinda Hoare (Rosemary Stark)

Appearing in clips from The Reaping: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Claudia Christian (Janine Foster), Stuart Milligan (Anthony Chambers), Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor (Nate Chambers)

Original title: Summer In The City

Timeline: between The Council Of Nicaea and The Kingmaker, and during The Veiled Leopard

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Easily the most eagerly anticipated Big Finish audio play of 2006, and one of the most eagerly awaited releases in the entire series, The Gathering completes a trilogy of impossible things that producer Gary Russell wanted to accomplish before breakfast with the Doctor Who audio license. (The other two were bringing back Bonnie Langford for a fresh look at Melanie, and bringing back Paul McGann as the Doctor.) Of those three, the return of Tegan was long considered the most unlikely goal, simply because actress Janet Fielding had become more jaded and disenchanted with her Doctor Who connection in the 22 years since her final appearance as Tegan (a few DVD commentaries notwithstanding). Russell had stopped asking when she suddenly volunteered her services for a one-off return appearance, so long as it tied up the loose threads of her character and addressed some of her own misgivings about the Doctor Who format.

Doctor Who: The GatheringConsidering that Ms. Fielding had long since given up acting as her primary profession, instead becoming an actors’ agent (she represented Paul McGann in his negotiations for the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie), and Big Finish’s knack for re-examining characters in a newer and deeper way than screen time and limitations imposed on writers during the 1980s, the result is far better than I expected. She slips back into character almost effortlessly and convincingly, and makes a strong case that there could have, and indeed should have, been more to Tegan during the character’s TV stint. Tegan’s return appearance is remarkably effective and leaves the character on a note that, while not exactly rosy, is certainly most final. Kudos also go to Peter Davison – between the two, one genuinely gets the impression that Tegan was as near and dear to the Doctor’s heart as Sarah or Rose, only with a completely dysfunctional relationship.

It’s surprising how much The Gathering leans on “flashbacks” to The Reaping; it was always known that the two stories were interwoven to some degree, but I was surprised to find out just how much. Anyone who picked up this one without its immediate predecessor might be hopelessly lost – and one has to imagine that the publicity surrounding The Gathering‘s one-off guest star might have resulted in a lot of sampling from casual listeners who weren’t subscribing to every release. The flashbacks are barely enough to clue one in, though that’s really a limitation of the format – it’s hard to build a context for such short snippets from the previous story. Imagine trying to figure out an average Babylon 5 or Lost flashback from sound alone.

This story is an “event” on the same scale that School Reunion was for the new series, and there are a few strong similarities as well, but some significant differences to go along with them. Side-by-side, they make an interesting study – and The Gathering might just edge out ahead as the stronger of the two.