Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 6/20/17 1:46 am
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In the final story of The Companion Chronicles: The First Doctor, Volume 02, Polly (Anneke Wills) has been taken by a mysterious man called The Player (Elliot Chapman) to take part in an odd play of sorts, acting out adventures with the Doctor and Ben. But there's more to this play than meets the eye; what is the message that this mysterious Player is trying to pass on to the Doctor and Polly? Polly will just have to act out her life, even if it kills her. The Plague of Dreams ends this set on a solid note, with a real shake-up in format and story for this final story. Similarly to last month's Short Trips release Falling, this story acts as a build-up to The Tenth Planet in the end. But the journey to get to the end of the story is a fun, rompy adventure. Elliot Chapman is a definite highlight of this final story as the larger-than-life Player, while Anneke Wills does a strong job as Polly here. Similarly, Guy Adams' script for the final story of the set is an enjoyable, engaging fun romp, building up to an interesting, if slightly dull, finale. It was a strong way to end the box set, and made for an overall enjoyable box set.
Elliot Chapman and Anneke Wills star in this story as the Player and Polly Wright. Chapman, having played Ben Jackson in the previous story, takes on a different role of a character who takes Polly through a play for the Doctor's life. Chapman does a strong job here as the Player, getting a chance to be a bit more grandiose, and allowing him to have a different sort of relationship with Wills. Their relationship is a little more cautious in the story, but they obviously share the same chemistry they do when Chapman is playing Ben, and it makes for a fun interplay between the two characters. Anneke Wills stars as Polly in this story. Much like in the last story, Wills is fine in the role, but Chapman's performance overshadows her own. Not to say Wills is bad in the performance, as she is strong throughout. I particularly liked her breaking down over the Doctor's death at the end of part one/the beginning of part two, and the curious nature of their relationship at the beginning of the story.
Guy Adams drafted up a solid story for the finale of the set. I particularly liked the choice to go with a rather unique format of a full-cast audio, and using that to cover for the absence of Hartnell as the Doctor. Beyond that, Adams wrote a pretty simple story of friendship, death, and resurrection. The format of the story was the highlight here, as the story took the form of a play, becoming a two-hand act between Ben and Polly. This format generally works, when Big Finish can find ways to cover for the absence of the Doctor throughout the story (I'm thinking of Solitaire here), by having him trapped or otherwise occupied. Here it works out well, as it gives an excuse for Chapman and Wills to narrate as fancifully as they want. I particularly liked the way Wills narrated for the maid in the first half of the story, in an extremely exaggerated voice at first, and then Adams had her drop the voice like normal, only for Chapman to make a snide comment about it. This kind of humour and interplay is possible because of the format of the story, and because it's a Guy Adams script. Most of the story is just fun and rompy, right up until the very end, where the story turns a little more serious and there comes a nice little moment where the Player talks to the Doctor about his upcoming regeneration. It's a sweet little moment, because the Player talks about how his future incarnation will be okay, and other people will be okay in the end. In that way, it connects somewhat to Falling, but instead of warning the Doctor, it reassures the Doctor of his upcoming regeneration.
Finally, I'd like to pay tribute to the excellent sound design work throughout the entire set by Robert Harvey. Harvey also did the music for this release, which I talked about a bit in an earlier review, but he also did the sound design for the entire set, and did an excellent job of it. One of Big Finish's greatest strengths lies in their ability to do extremely extensive and professional sound design, to the point that you barely notice it. Stuff like foot steps, the scuff of shoes, to the sound of picking something up off a table go massively underappreciated, but they're half the reason these plays sound as good as they do. Harvey did an excellent job with this release, in my opinion, as he was able to make each story sound distinctive and rich with life. Each story felt like it was set in it's own special, rich world. It's always nice to hear such quality sound design work coming from Big Finish, so I always try to highlight it when I can.
Overall, The Plague of Dreams was a solid story, start to finish. Anneke Wills and Elliot Chapman both did a strong job with their acting, especially Chapman, who was a grandiose delight throughout the story. Similarly, Guy Adams' script for this story was quite a fun romp throughout by and large. He did a great job characterizing Ben and Polly, and really made the world come alive. But he did especially well with one of the last scenes, where he has the Player talking to the Doctor about his upcoming regeneration, talking about how his next incarnation is a good person, reassuring him that it's okay to regenerate. All this added up together makes for a solid story, and a fitting end to the set itself.