(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
Leela (Louise Jameson) has had an interesting story arc within Big Finish’s line of Doctor Who stories. She’s a featured player, along with Lalla Ward as Romana and John Leeson as two versions of K-9, in the Gallifrey series, she’s recently started to appear alongside Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor in his series of stories, and she’s had a very fascinating set of stories within the Companion Chronicles series.
This is the latest chapter in that Companion Chronicles series. To recap: Leela apparently somehow survived the Time War mentioned extensively in the new series. But during her time on Gallifrey, she’d aged very slowly, and as soon as she left, she began aging at the rate of one year per day. Eventually, she wound up dying. Parts of this story take place after her death.
In this story, we have a young girl named Emily (Anna Hawkes) who has an imaginary friend named Leela that tells her stories. Leela tells her a tale of an adventure with the Fourth Doctor where the two visit a giant art project that takes up an entire continent. Think Christo only on a bigger canvas. While there, they find that things aren’t as they should be, and there’s a menacing woman of glass who has plans for them.
This story held my interest from the start to the end…of part one. When part two began, my interest started to drift, and by the time it was done, my thoughts basically were “Oh, we’re finished? Ok, then.” Now this isn’t to say it’s a bad story or anything like that. No, the setup was great, but…I dunno. Something about it just completely shut down my interest in part two.
That said, Jameson was her usual excellent self as Leela. She does a wonderful job swapping between the version of Leela who is fresh off her homeworld and doesn’t even understand the concept of art, and the Leela who has lived a long life and has since died. Or something. Apparently. Jameson also does an excellent job channeling Tom Baker, something that seems to work better for her now that she’s been performing alongside him in the Fourth Doctor Adventures.
Hawkes also does well in a largely undemanding role. I sense that larger things are in store both for her and for the character of Emily, who clearly has A Background we shall probably explore at a later date.
Now to address one of the usual questions with any of these audios: is this a good one to start with if you’ve never heard any of the audio stories before? In a word, no. It builds up way too much on the previous Leela Companion Chronicles stories and even I, who’ve listened to all the previous ones (though, it must be said, not in the right order), had a tough time keeping up with what’s been going on with her character. I even had to go so far as to look up her biography online to see what exactly happened. So, no, don’t start with this one. You can start with “The Catalyst” and work your way over from there. If you do, you’ll at least have a few good stories to listen to, and you might enjoy this one far more than I did.
Next time, William Russell and Carol Anne Ford return as Ian and Susan in “The Flames of Cadiz”!
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