If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that Big Finish is very willing to try new things. When I heard there was going to be a musical Doctor Who audio, my gut reaction was to run away from it. I was committed at the time to the 12 audios per year, so I wasn’t about to skip one, but I was reluctant. My reluctance was, to say the least, ill-founded.
The basic premise is that Evelyn decides to go see an old friend, Sally, after receiving her suicide note. With the help of the Doctor, Evelyn arrives the very day the note was sent and decides to tell her a story. Immediately it becomes clear that it’s a pirate comedy. What is not immediately apparent is that Evelyn is there due to the note. This fills out over time but first there’s this silly story Evelyn feels she has to tell, much to her friends annoyance. For the audience, it’s funny hearing Evelyn using the same voice for multiple people and when she even gets Sally into it, Sally demands not to be involved. It’s clear that Sally is suffering a terrible pain and she wants nothing to do with her visitor, who she believes is deranged as she talks about a time traveling friend and a pirate treasure map. But as the pirate story goes on, the reality of Sally’s life becomes the more interesting element while everything else is pleasant fluff.
That’s not to say the pleasant fluff isn’t fun. In fact, it’s very funny… frequently! There are some real laugh-out-loud funny moments, like when the captain asks one of his crew if he’s sure he doesn’t know something. The crewman says “no” to which the Captain, Red Jasper, stops his yelling and says “no you’re not sure, or no you don’t know?” There’s also an utterly hilarious moment where the captain is trying to read a treasure map. The island is shaped like a donkey and he think if he pins a tail on it, it will lead to treasure. Jem, a cabin boy, is immensely likable and Evelyn bonds with him, causing the audience to develop a bond as well. Unfortunately Jem is killed by Red Jasper, in a rather violent way. It’s through this part of the story that we come to Evelyn’s real motivation for sharing the tale with Sally. I’m not sure comedic tales are the way to handle people with suicidal tendencies, but I’m no doctor. Still, for my money, this was the story I wanted to know about, not so much the pirate tale. We learn that Sally was driving her car resulting in an accident that killed someone. She blames herself as Evelyn blames herself for the death of Jem. Evelyn’s attempt at a lesson here is one of life being unpredictable and you can’t blame yourself for an accident. Through all the comedy and singing there is a valuable life lesson to be found. Though again, do I think it would work as actual therapy? Not so much. But considering the fun that most of the story is, and we realize this is fiction, I can let that go.
There are also a number of noteworthy things in this one, like the pirate version of the Doctor Who theme tune. That was fun. There are a ton of humorous moments throughout. And there is a veritable cornucopia of canonical references. I don’t need to list them out, but there’s even one that questions the veracity of its canonical nature: Hecate, from K-9 and Company. But the biggest, best, brightest part of this story was hearing Colin Baker’s rendition of I am the Very Model of a
Modern Major General Gallifreyan Buccaneer. Colin Baker should win an award for this, and if you have not heard it, you’re missing out. In part two of the story, it seems Colin is about to sing when Evelyn cuts him off (with the humorous scratch of a record). But part three opens with that song! “Oh, no! You are going to sing!” “Well yes! I am!…” What follows is a veritable marvel of Colin’s linguistic skills. I’ve listened to the song dozens of times and can only get the part where he gently sings; you’ll know what I mean! The rest is lost to me! (Not that I’d dare to sing around other human beings… I know my limits!)
I won’t do the disservice of telling you more about what I could let you hear instead. I’d urge you to get the CD (or download) from Big Finish and savor this entire story since there’s quite a bit to enjoy but since this very piece is available on YouTube, let me leave you with this ultra-happy piece of Gallifreyan music. If it doesn’t get stuck in your head… you’re not human! ML