originally written 28/05/11
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that some of the best Doctor Who audios are the Companion Chronicles. Which is all the more impressive given what limitations these stories have to work within. They are not “full cast” recordings nor are they talking books (which for the most part I find too boring; I would rather actually read the book). To me they demonstrate the triumph of radio art at its best. They seem uniquely suited to historical Doctor Who, which is perhaps why I like them so much. Frostfire sets the bar high.
I’m one of the few fans who actually likes Vicki; most could take her or leave her. I feel similarly about Steven (though with one important distinction: I fancy Steven and I identify with Vicki). Therefore, when there’s any opportunity for that group in the TARDIS, I generally rate it higher than most would. Marc Platt, whether he’s a Vicki fan or not, has given her such a delectable tale that it immediately deepens her story. Marc Platt’s other audios have been full of great stuff but have sometimes not completely pulled together; in Frostfire, he throws in the sort of Victorian menagerie that made “Ghost Light” so unusual and arresting (if sometimes incomprehensible). I had to keep grinning as I listened to it.
Atmospherically, and this is due as much to Maureen O’Brien, director Mark J. Thompson, and composer Lawrence Oakley as it is to Marc Platt, Frostfire has beautiful moments and creates a poetry seldom obvious in Doctor Who. The Doctor, Steven, and Vicki arrive during the last Frost Fair in 1814 where they are befriended by aristocratic Sir Joseph and his wife Lady Georgiana, and walk into a cave of Curios, where both Vicki and Georgiana are prey to the seductions of a mysterious frozen egg. Jane Austen next arrives and meets her greatest fan, the Doctor, punches a fire-breather, and dances the Sir Roger de Coverly with the Doctor. She also makes Steven alternately the beau of London society and a laughing-stock. She and Vicki venture to a frosty cathedral with the help of chimney-sweep Jem, and it’s Miss Austen who saves the day. (Platt boldly summarized high Victoriana, as an impression, in “Ghost Light”—he does the same for the Regency here.)
And all this relates to Vicki, now Lady Cressida, sitting in the dark of a Carthiginian temple reading her account to a sinister being known only as the Cinder. All I can say is, Steven Moffat, eat your heart out.