Though classic Doctor Who produced many beloved companions, it wasn’t until the 2005 revival that the series delved into the personal lives of the Doctor’s friends. Big Finish’s audios usually try to mimic the original style, but many of the best also take a leaf from Russell T Davies’ rulebook and tell more emotionally driven stories. Matt Fitton’s Quicksilver, closing the story arc set up in 2015’s Criss-Cross, is one such story – it begins with Constance Clarke returning home from her TARDIS travels only to learn of her husband’s death.
Set in 1944, the powerful first chapter sees Constance receive the telegram no spouse of a serving officer ever wants to receive. But she’s made of hardy stuff – or perhaps in denial – and so accompanies the Doctor on a trip to 1948 Vienna to help a frightened alien refugee.
Of course, the situation is more complex than it seems. Henry Clarke is actually alive and in Vienna, working on a secret military project, while the Doctor’s former companion Flip has been snatched by aliens and dropped into the situation. This sounds busy, but Fitton’s plot finds clever ways to bring in all these elements without anything seeming too coincidental.
A Cold War tale of intrigue and deception, the plot is inspired by iconic 1949 film noir The Third Man, also set in bombed-out Vienna. It’s a city split into zones by the Allies, except in this version, the various patrols are joined by the Vilal and the Zerith – neither of whom are from Earth. The adventure makes good use of its setting, both geographically – that iconic Ferris wheel makes an appearance – and politically – the Doctor gets riled up at all the paranoia and aggression, particularly in a climactic speech which Colin Baker must have loved recording.
But the heart of the story is Constance’s relationship with Henry, as she realises that not only is he alive, but he’s found love with another woman. Constance’s handling of this betrayal is developed beautifully across the four chapters; Miranda Raison gives a layered performance as her character’s wartime stiff upper lip is tested.
This is explored further through pairing up Constance and Flip – companions have met each other in various ways across Doctor Who media, but Quicksilver’s approach is original, revealing, and even funny. Though initially very antagonistic towards each other, the two very different characters come to bond, tying nicely into Constance’s marriage story while getting us excited for more audios with Raison and Lisa Greenwood together.
Quicksilver shows off just how good Matt Fitton’s writing for Big Finish can be, as well as the outstanding talents of its core cast. It merges the format of old Who with the emotion of the new, giving us a heartbreaking story set against a fascinating historical backdrop. A perfect end to Constance’s story arc, and a perfect beginning to the adventures to come...
WHO – QUICKSILVER / AUTHOR: MATT FITTON / DIRECTOR: JAMIE ANDERSON / STARRING: COLIN
BAKER, MIRANDA RAISON, LISA GREENWOOD, MATTHEW COTTLE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW