Tony Fyler wishes a Merry Christmas to all of you at home.
Whenever two or three Whovians are gathered together in the Doctor’s name, conversation inevitably turns to who they’d love to see back in the show, who they’d love to see paired up with which Doctor (see our very own Wil’s article on the subject recently – Frobisher forever!).
The joy of course about the New Who, both on screen and especially on audio through Big Finish is that to a large extent, the lunatics (Whonatics? Anyone? Ah, just me then…) have taken over the asylum. That’s why on Big Finish audio there have been stories about a return of Axos, about the Spiders of Metebelis Three conquering Earth, about the Voord being seriously kick-ass, about a new infestation of the Krynoids, about what the Meddling Monk did next and so on – if you can think it, they can get someone seriously talented to write it, and act in it, and basically turn your fantasies into compelling audio drama.
As well as reinvigorating classic monsters though, they’ve had the chance to tell companion stories you always knew should be told, but could never get anyone to listen to you about – the Sixth Doctor joined the ranks of Doctors who’ve worked with the Brigadier in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, and the Eight joined the club in Minuet In Hell. The Eighth Doctor and the Second Romana finally got to visit Professor Chronotis and unlock the secrets of Shada – as they’d been (ahem) planning to do when the Doctor was in his fourth incarnation. And – fulfilling the promise that one day he would come back (Altogether now – ‘Yes, one day I shall come back’), the Eighth Doctor also went back to visit his granddaughter Susan in the mindblowing story that was An Earthly Child. The Earthly Child in question being the Doctor’s great-grandson, Alex. (No, no, I’m not telling – if you want to know if Alex has the whole two-hearts, regeneration deal, you’ll have to trot along to the Big Finish website and get it yourself).
But when the Eighth Doctor, now travelling with spunky Blackpool lass and no-nonsense-taker-from-no-one-no-how Lucie Miller, decide to host Christmas, there are only two options: round to hers (they did that in 2009 – really didn’t work out well, as you might be able to guess from the fact that it’s recorded in a story called Death In Blackpool), or invite the Doctor’s family on board the Tardis for Yuletide festivities. Having been re-introduced to Susan in An Earthly Child, Relative Dimensions shows us what a Tardis Christmas is really like.
Much like Christmas round at your house, as it happens, only with even more awkward silences between family members who haven’t seen each other in too long. Oh and the semi-psychotic trans-temporal dimension-fish of death of course.
If you have a semi-psychotic trans-temporal dimension-fish of death terrorizing Christmas round your house, feel free to invite me out.
I’m not about to explain the semi-psychotic trans-temporal dimension-fish of course – that would be a spoiler too far and I want you to enjoy the story when you get round to listening to it (maybe Christmas Day, when the Christmas Special’s over and you’ve watched it again, as you know you’re going to do, and the horrible cold, Decemberish realization sinks in that it’ll be months and months and months before there’s any actually new on screen Who to not appreciate?). I will say that the story hangs on a fact we’ve seen referred to on screen – specifically that the Tardis archives rooms somewhere in its transcendental self, even if the Doctor doesn’t know it does. It’s not, as it turns out, just control rooms that get the filing cabinet treatment; the Tardis, for all its eccentricity of form, likes things relatively neat and tidy, and archives the rooms that have belonged to companions, as they were when they left them – like a slightly creepy grieving mother who refuses to change anything about the room once they’ve left. That means that if, like Sarah-Jane Smith and the Ponds, you have a reasonably tidy exit from the ship, all that’s left behind is probably a fairly generic Tardis room. If, like Susan, your quixotic Doctor locks you out after you’ve had a bit of a snog with an Earthman, and you have no time to take all your trinkets and knick-knacks with you – they all get saved, forever, somewhere in the multi-dimensional mystery of the Tardis interior. Presumably, somewhere in its archives, there’s a set of Jamie’s bagpipes (C’mon, you know you want to see the 12th Doctor take those up, in a nod to Troughton’s recorder). Somewhere, Peri’s botanical clippings, and more disturbingly, Peri’s lycra boob-tubes, still exist. Somewhere, there’s a room full of Leela’s unused Janis thorns. Somewhere, Tegan’s air hostess uniform is draped over a radiator. Somewhere else, that wretched Union Jack T-shirt of Rose Tyler’s is on a hanger, forever preserved against the destruction it deserves by deep and complex multi-dimensional forces. Semi-spoiler alert: None of these rooms have anything to do with the Yuletide threat of a semi-psychotic, trans-temporal fish of death, but it’s a thought, isn’t it? Although given the choice between the S-CT-TFoD and Rose Tyler’s Union Jack T-shirt, I know which I’d choose to face.
Relative Dimensions is both a Christmas romp, a great excuse to get the Eighth Doctor and Susan back together, and an even better excuse for Alex to finally start to get to know the man who is his great grand-father, and realize how similar they are is many ways. It also, though this too might be spoilerific, marks the start of a horrible, evil, wonderful, utterly heartbreaking story-arc for the Eighth Doctor and Sheridan Smith’s pitch-perfect Lucie.
Of course, Who fans have come to expect evil, wonderful, utterly heartbreaking stories at Christmas: trust me, Relative Dimensions is the Tardis’s ‘best Christmas ever!’
But all the sobbing and air-punching comes later. As a Christmas episode, Relative Dimensions is fun and energetic, with a credibly-explained if demented threat, and another box well and truly ticked on your ‘Fantasy Episode’ List. Go onnnnn, have a download. And a Merry Christmas to all of you at home too.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk