Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS Review

Matthew Kresal meets the mother of modern computing.

The Doctor meeting Ada Lovelace? Who might have thought that idea would have story potential? Chris Chibnall, for one, as the recent secondpart of Spyfall will attest. It also occurred to writers Paul Morris and Simon Barnard at Big Finish over a full year before that episode aired. Their story, The Enchantress of Numbers, featured the grandmother of modern computing meeting an earlier Doctor and their latest companion for an adventure of their own.

Released in January 2019 on CD as part of the Fourth Doctor Adventures Series 8 Volume 1 and separately on download, The Enchantress Of Numbers is a standalone tale despite its being part of the set. With Jane Slavin's WPC Ann Kelso as the companion, the pair arrive in 1850 Nottinghamshire at Newstead Abbey. It's there they meet Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, who seems to have put her mathematical career behind her and taken up a newfound interest in her father. A father who, as it happens, has begun to appear to her a phantom. The Doctor and Ann aren't without their own motives, either, as it turns out that human history has been threatened with Ada at the heart of a plan millennia in the making.

Big Finish, understandably, put the download versionof Enchantress on sale in the wake of Spyfall Part Two's airing and it's interesting to listen to it after that episode's broadcast. Portraying Ada some fifteen years after the events of Spyall are set, Flinty Williams (the actress daughter of Judi Dench and the late Michael Williams, as it happens) is fine casting for the role of this slightly older version of a woman who died far too young. There's both a feistiness and a world-weariness to Williams' performance that perfectly suits the character, especially in the latter half of the story. It's a different side of the character, an interesting one to be sure, and which also means that it and Spyfall can nicely co-exist alongside one another.

Enchantress is also a different kettle of fish as a story as well. Setting their story entirely in the past, Morris and Barnard set their story around the Abbey (the ancestral home of Lord Byron) and Ada, building their science fiction plot around it. Astute Classic Who fans (and those of this Doctor's era specifically) will likely catch on to what is happening quicker than anyone else but that doesn't detract from the fun of the piece. For Morris and Barnard create a compelling mix of historical drama and science fiction, playing with the tropes of both genres to create their tale that uses Ada's work as the anchor upon which the story pivots. If one needs a good example of the "celebrity historical" subgenre of Who, Enchantress of Numbers is as fine an example as any.

If Spyfall has you wanting more of the Doctor with Ada Lovelace, or perhaps seeking a different way of putting them together, than The Enchantress of Numbers is precisely what the doctor ordered. From its mix of genre tropes to Williams' performance as Ada, it's an enjoyable hour of listening telling the sort of story that Doctor Who excels at. That it does so on audio and through the ever strong work of Big Finish makes it all the more delicious.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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