It’s not too often that we touch on the First Doctor’s era in Big Finish, but when we do, it tends to be terrific. With the release of the Companion Chronicles box set, The First Doctor: Volume Two, we’re being treated to four new tales from the First Doctor’s time in the TARDIS. Today, I’ll be reviewing the final story in the set, The Plague of Dreams.
“Pray welcome, one and all, to this, a fantasy in two acts, presented, most humbly, for your pleasure. We bring you drama and magic, angels and demons, a tale of mysterious plague… of nightmares made flesh… of a war fought both in this world and those immeasurably distant. A war, in fact, fought through the mists of time itself. It will make you gasp! It will make you weep! It may even make some of you wake-up…”
And so here we are, at the end of this box set; four more adventures with the First Doctor under our belt. Well, nearly. There will be by the end of this review. It’s reviewing a Guy Adams story, so it’s probably going to be an absolute corker; some emotional piece that makes you get all philosophical whilst laughing uncontrollably due to his twisted sense of humour. Without any further ado, let’s journey into The Plague of Dreams.
From the opening monologue, it’s clear that this isn’t your run of the mill Big Finish story; it’s not quite as experimental as torchwood_cascade_CDRIP.tor, but then again, what possibly could be? It’s strange that from this opening monologue, which coincidentally is also the synopsis, that it seems to be alluding to the Time War. I suppose that, if you have a war throughout time, the ripples of the event will eventually be felt by every incarnation of the Doctor.
It seems that in The Plague of Dreams, all the world’s a stage. And the world is well and truly in your ears this time. Guy Adams has brilliantly encapsulated what it was like for children in school playgrounds everywhere too, getting them to act out new adventures with the Doctor. Who will play who? Where should they do? Timmy, why aren’t you playing along? If any of those seem familiar, then this release will take you straight back there. Just close your eyes and imagine.
If, like me, you’re a fan of theatre, then I expect that this release will really tingle your molecules, as it is set, in part, at one of the most fabulous and impossible theatres ever. I know that I’m probably a niche audience, but this story is already ticking all of my boxes. It even gets rather Shakespearean, it’s great.
The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode is a rather peculiar one; mainly because you already know the outcome. I know in most Big Finish cliffhangers, you know the ultimate outcome, because there’s more adventures to be had with the Doctor; but in this case, it’s slightly different. You’re wondering why this conclusion isn’t the conclusion. It’ll make sense when you listen to it. Ish.
The second act, well, let’s just say, it gets extremely theatrical. Polly doesn’t seem to mind though; she’s seemingly having the time of her life, being able to play make believe.
It’s incredibly difficult to talk about the second act without ruining anything for you; but I will certainly say that it is a rip-roaring ride. Then, on a dime, the emotional shift occurs. It’s so bittersweet, knowing exactly what the events that come after The Plague of Dreams are. The First Doctor just got a hell of a lot more heroic in my eyes.
Overall, The Plague of Dreams is an odd one; and I mean odd in the most endearing way possible. Guy Adams has written a story about storytellers, their imaginations and why they choose to live in worlds of escape, fantasy and magic. If, like me and so many others, you feel as if writing is what you are meant to do; then I think that this story will really speak to you. If you aren’t blessed (or cursed, depending on your viewpoint) to share the love for drama and the power of the word, then I think that The Plague of Dreams will be a fascinating insight into the inner workings of a creative mind. The Player, I think, is Guy’s inner monologue finally being brought to the fore; yes, it’s great to have this zany adventures, but chances are, like both the Player and the Doctor, you’re only having these adventures because sometimes you can’t look back or forwards. You have to live in the now.
Should you want to purchase Companion Chronicles- The First Doctor: Volume Two, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 on CD or £15 for a digital download for a limited time.