- Best Companion Chronicle
The Suffering marks a break from the norm in the Companion Chronicle series. The 27th release sees two companions not one to tell of their story with the Doctor. Both Vicki and Steven have done a story before. Maureen O’Brien did the very first story Frostfire in 2007 and Peter Purves did Mother Russia in 2008. The fact that there are two companions sharing the stage means that the story will have to be structured differently. Thankfully this story is in the safe hands of Jacqueline Rayner who wrote the superb story The Transit of Venus. Now I listen to this after finishing The Hollows of Time which I though was dreadful and so needed this story to pick my spirits up.
The story is told in two parts with Steven telling the first part and Vicki telling her part in the second half. Steven’s story is probably the more drama driven of the two. With Vicki out of it because of the influences of the skull that they stumble across. There are several moments where Steven’s in danger. Also as he is with the Doctor it gives him the chance to do a Hartnell impression which he doesn’t do that badly actually, much better than in Mother Russia. Steven’s story doesn’t really have much to do with the suffragette stuff and this means that his story is more of a character development piece. I think that for me I found this to be more Doctor Who than Vicki’s story. There was more science fiction than history and that meant the story was slightly stronger as a result.
Vicki’s story is where the suffragette story came into its own. The Suffragette Movement is an important part of history and its woven very well into the story and it tied in very well with the alien being who was a suffragette on her own planet. On her planet the men were rulers and treated women merely as baby carriers. This led the women to try and overthrow the men but what they did with her was cut off her head and throws it into space. This head landed on Earth and was only woken up when Vicki arrived on Earth. What I quite liked was how Vicki’s role in the TARDIS was put under the microscope. The way that Vicki dealt with any doubt was well handled and this part was enjoyable for reasons different to what Steven’s story was.
The Suffragette movement was given quite a lot of room and it shows what they were fighting for and it’s an interesting history lesson to younger listeners who might find it hard to believe that there was a time when women weren’t allowed to vote and men’s opinion of women were very poor indeed. There were a few instances which I thought were going a bit too far in terms of necessity. The first being the line about someone being pushed down some stairs and only the fact they screamed showed that she had survived was perhaps a bit too grim for a family orientated release. The second was the near three minute crossover of Purves and O’Brien reliving some of the torturous things that they would have endured. Personally this is what ruined it for me as whilst I thought it was important to be honest to what the suffragettes had to fight against I think it could have be toned down a tad.
Maureen O’Brien and Peter Purves were excellent. Their voices are very suited to radio despite not really sounding much like they did back in the 1960’s which is slightly understandable. They do however show a lot of enthusiasm and in the interviews at the end of the each part seem delighted with the idea of coming back to do more. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they are able to do so. However just on their own instead of together.
Overall whilst I did enjoy this I didn’t think it was Rayner’s finest offering. I just found that at times it did drag and could have been made slightly shorter. Really it was Vicki’s story and everything that happened in her part was more relevant to the theme of the story than Steven’s. Ultimately that is where the problem with this release. There was no need for two companions and it sort of diluted the story. That said the scenes between Vicki and Steven were funny and I think that it’s a better story than the previous CC story.