The Prisoner’s Dilemma

The eighth story of the third Companion Chronicles series is a Seventh Doctor story but with a twist. This story forms part of the Key 2 Time series which is set after this story but was in fact conceived, written and produced after the main three stories were recorded. The story is written by Simon Guerrier who wrote the superb Home Truths. Guerrier has a good track record with Doctor Who stories so I was looking forward to this story. The continuity is something that I didn’t quite understand in terms of the Seventh Doctor’s timeline. Apparently it occurs after the Big Finish play Death Comes to Time (2003) as Bernice Summerfield is gone but before the story Ground Zero which is where Ace dies.

The Prisoners Dilemma sees Ace encounter Zara (though she hasn’t been named yet at this point). The first part of the story is lead by Zara and half way through listening to it I was wondering why there was a lack of Ace. Considering this is called the Companion Chronicles it was distinctly lacking a companion. At one point I wondered whether some tracks had been lost. The second part was back to normal with there being a lot more Ace. It was really in the second part that the story got going for me. I liked the idea that the prison was a dome that had been abandoned and the inhabitants had developed their own way of life ruled by mad robots. The main plot point was trying to figure out what Ace was doing as by the end of the first part her memory had been wiped. When the point had been revealed it was believable and quite enjoyable. Something that wasn’t quite explained was the image of the Doctor mysteriously appearing on the lakeside in Part One. It’s quite an eerie image but one that should have been referred to maybe in Part Two.

Whilst I enjoyed parts of this story it did leave me feeling rather underwhelmed. It feels like they just inserted the Key 2 Time element after the story had been written and this made the whole story seem not as good as it could have been. If you listen to it before the Key 2 Time series then it will be a lot better as it makes more sense with those stories whereas if you listen to it with the other Companion stories then it makes less sense.

Simon Guerrier’s story seemed slightly rushed and the whole story felt like it didn’t really have a heart to it which is a shame. After listening to it I felt a little disappointed about what Guerrier had written which considering how good Guerrier is was a surprise. Lisa Bowerman directed this well. This is her third companion chronicles and she is proving herself to be a very good director. I hope that she is given a main range story to direct and it would be nice to see her direct more than two people and have to direct a longer story. I think she would do well. Sophie Aldred seemed different in this story. She showed why Ace is such a good companion. The moment when she said that she trusted the Doctor and the moment she didn’t she would have to stop was a nice moment and highlight the relationship she has with him. This isn’t her best performance but considering she hasn’t got Sylvester McCoy or Philip Olivier to work against it isn’t that bad a performance. Laura Doddington played the character of Zara well. I know that she is to feature heavily over the next three months in the Key 2 Time series and this story bodes well that she is a mysterious and slightly conniving character. I think that she has a potential to be the highlight of the year but only time will tell.

Overall a mixed that works in parts and doesn’t work in others.

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