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Review of The Beginning by deltaandthebannermen

12 June 2024

In 2013, to celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, Big Finish released a trilogy of Companion Chronicles featuring a recurring character – Quadrigger Stoyn, played by Doctor Who veteran: Terry Molloy.

The first story in the trilogy was The Beginning, written by Marc Platt, featuring Carole Ann Ford as Susan and, as the title suggests, visits the very beginning of the Doctor’s travels in time and space.

In the interview extras on the CD, Carole Ann Ford expresses her disappointment that, despite being about the ‘beginning’ of their travels, she still doesn’t know why the Doctor and Susan ran away from their planet. It may seem odd that a story called The Beginning, released in the 50th anniversary year, doesn’t actually spend an awfully long time on Gallifrey. But the story’s title refers to more than just that most intriguing of events. The story is also about the beginning of the Doctor and Susan’s travels, the beginning of their relationship with the TARDIS and also about the beginning of life on Earth, the Doctor’s favourite and most visited planet.

It is a good story which echoes the early days of the series with its ‘big’ science fiction ideas and sense of wonder and yet manages to cross-pollinate it with later Gallifrey-lore without those elements seeming out of place. There are also some cheeky nods to various inconsistencies in the series’ narrative such as whether Susan named the TARDIS and the looms introduced by Platt in his novel Lungbarrow.

Carole Ann Ford is an excellent reader and performer and Terry Molloy is great in his role as a disgruntled TARDIS engineer. The idea that, when he ‘borrowed’ the TARDIS, the Doctor also accidentally kidnapped a lowly ‘quadrigger’ buried in its inner workings is wonderfully silly and it also allows for contrast in the way Stoyn reacts to the alien Archeons are oppose to the Doctor’s awe, wonder and excitement at making first contact.

The huge time jump between the first and second episodes is a little jarring and I’m not sure it completely works although it does allow Platt to include a little of the telepathy that Susan was once given but was usually ignored on TV. It also brings Lisa Bowerman in for a little cameo as a nurse tending to Susan who meets a grisly end.

The portrayal of the Archeons as sentient globules of silver is suitably alien for a time when the series went out of its way to present all manner of strange alien life and the whole tone and atmosphere of the story really does fit with those early days of exploration and experimentation.

The idea that they seeded life on planet Earth may contradict other versions of how life started on Earth in other Doctor Who fiction but when has Doctor Who ever let its already very loose continuity get in the way of a good story.

A lot of the expanded universe has explored what the Doctor and Susan did before arriving in the junkyard in Totters Lane, to varying degrees of success, but this story fits perfectly with what we know and what we may have imagined happened before two schoolteachers followed Susan home.

Something about this story almost feels mythical, dealing, as it does with the very beginnings of the series but it doesn’t feel bolted on or contradictory. Even with the modern Gallifreyan elements that are included, it works extremely well and is highly recommended.

Review created on 12-06-24