The Victorian era has been one of Doctor Who’s favourite locations since almost the beginning. However, the setting was not one that the Fifth Doctor ever visited on-screen. Cue The Contingency Club to belatedly put things right…
This story is not about strange goings-on occurring in the peasouper fog, though, but is set inside the ostensibly harmless environs of a gentlemen’s club on Pall Mall. But within the walls of the titular Contingency Club, the Doctor and his friends find that something very odd is brewing. The waiters all look the same. The members are so deeply hypnotised that they can’t tell a woman from a man. And then there’s the Red Queen waiting to conquer the Earth from below…
Despite the 1980s TARDIS team, writer Phil Mulryne’s story feels like a blend of ‘70s Who and ‘60s series The Avengers. In particular, The Avengers: ‘The Hellfire Club’ and Doctor Who’s ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang.’ Any Who story set in the Victorian era will be compared to ‘Talons’, regardless, but there are several key similarities too – namely, the villains being a stage hypnotist and his alien overlord (or, in this case, overlady).
The Contingency Club also sports a strong supporting cast. Lorelei King is great value as the oddly American alien Red Queen, while Clive Merrison gets to play investigative reporter George Augustus who naturally recalls his most famous role – Sherlock Holmes, in the complete set of adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Phillip Jackson’s Mr. Peabody feels a little short-changed in comparison, but then that’s a consequence of an unexpected twist taking the spotlight away from him halfway through the story.
What is particularly enjoyable about the story is how Mulryne nails the dynamics of this TARDIS team – with the Doctor acting as the headmaster of his ragtag bunch of companions. Regular Big Finish listeners will have become used to hearing Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton together over the years, but it is always nice to hear the classic quartet completed with Adric and Tegan. Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse don’t exactly sound like they did all those years ago on TV anymore, but they do both give spirited performances.
All in all, The Contingency Club is a solidly entertaining yarn that, while familiar, still has some sparkling moments. It might not feel apiece with the era it is trying to recreate, but what’s the point of Doctor Who if you can’t time travel?
DOCTOR WHO: THE CONTINGENCY CLUB / DIRECTOR: BURNABY EDWARDS / WRITER: PHIL MULRYNE / STARRING: PETER DAVISON, MATTHEW WATERHOUSE, SARAH SUTTON, JANET FIELDING, CLIVE MERRISON, PHILIP JACKSON, LORELEI KING / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 2017