Not quite a sequel to Out of Time, the previous Big Finish audio drama with the same title. There’s no continuation of the plot from that story, but the idea is the same–a matchup of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) with one of his predecessors. And since I never can resist Doctors meeting Doctors, here we are again.
Paris 1809. The story begins with the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) on a tour of the Barrière d’Enfer (that is, the Gates of Hell), the catacombs under the city where the bones of the dead are stored. He was aiming at London 1851, but some kind of time anomaly bumped the Tardis and he ended up here instead. The tour guide, Joseph Delonne, is an aged man who has lived above the subterranean catacombs all his life and claims to know more about them than anyone else. His own father, he says, was killed when their family home collapsed into the vaults beneath in the late 1700s.
Also on the tour is a 51st-century Time Agent, Tina Drake, who seems to know exactly who the Doctor is without being introduced. “Blue box, robot dog.” She’s tracing the same paradoxical time anomaly that disrupted the Tardis back to its source in this particular time and place.
The two break away from the tour group to do a little exploring on their own. Their attention is drawn by an anachronistic flashing red light at the end of tunnel which turns out to be a button to open a secret door.
Inside, they find a troop of about 100 Cybermen in suspended animation. One who seems to be the leader immediately awakes and tells the Doctor that they have been expecting him for some time.
Tina escapes by jumping out with her vortex manipulator, but the Doctor ends in a vault where he is frozen in time. As he sums up the adventure later:
“Catacombs, Cybermen, trapped in a stasis cage for 135 years, this.”
Paris 1944. The 10th Doctor was aiming at 1922, but ran into that same anomaly “bump” and ended up in the midst of the Nazi Occupation. Fleeing the Gestapo, he seeks a hiding place in the French Resistance underground HQ in the catacombs. As he later describes it:
“Nazis, Josephine Baker, catacombs, this.”
Once in the catacombs, Doctor 10 experiences a weird sense of deja vu. He remembers his 1809 visit, the flashing red button, and the Cybermen. This leads him to the stasis cage. He lets his previous self out.
In a charming bit, the two Doctors recognize each other from the last time they met in the mini-episode Time Crash.
The Cybermen are no longer stored in the catacombs. When the Doctors return to the streets, they find that things have changed for the worse.
What could be worse than Nazis occupying Paris? Cybermen destroying most of the city and killing nearly everyone. And it’s probably not just Paris that’s been overrun.
The Doctors make their way to the National Archives, which are still standing, in quest of information. They find no living people, but someone else has already been there and assembled the clues they need to put everything together:
- The medieval tale of Mad King Charles and the Silver Demon. A woodcut illustration of the demon looks extremely familiar. The “demon” is holding a golden orb; legend claims that he gave this orb to Charles, who buried it somewhere in what was at that time the outskirts of the city.
- A newspaper article from 1882, which tells the story of how the Cybermen first emerged and began slaughtering people.
- Property records from the 1700s show that a brewery owned by a M. Delonne in the Rue Lucifer over the catacombs. This same location was later the site of a mysterious manufacturing company; Joseph Delonne, manager of this company was questioned during the Reign of Terror about the disappearance of approximately 100 aristocrats. It’s not clear if Delonne was suspected of killing the aristocrats or of helping them to escape… but Doctor 10 notes that the number of missing people corresponds with the number of Cybermen in the crypt in 1809. “I think we know what he was manufacturing.”
With this information, they head back to 1769 to stop young Joseph Delonne from starting down the path that begins with his father’s death and ends with his alliance with the Cyber-leader. Tina Drake returns to assist them. She wasn’t able to join them in “Crazy parallel universe Cyber-Paris,” but she knows that the golden orb is central to the puzzle.
I suppose that it’s generally known, at least in Doctor Who fan circles, that these two actors who play the Doctor are related: David Tennant is married to Peter Davison’s daughter, and they appear to have a close and friendly family relationship. So it’s not surprising that there’s little bitchiness in their interactions with each other–which is something I normally enjoy but didn’t feel was the right tone here. It was nice to see the Doctors working so well together. My favorite parts of this story are when the two are in mental synch with each other, or when they share memories of their previous adventures in Paris. “We had ice cream with Romana just over there.” (They don’t mention that they were here during the Reign of Terror before, though.)
They save their snark for other Doctors. For example, this amusing exchange when they’re hunting for the Tardis, which Doctor 5 has hidden in the cemetery; he observes that a 20th-century British police box is a conspicuous object in Paris.
Dr. 10: “We parked that thing in the Louvre and no one batted an eyelid.”
Dr. 5: “That was You Know Who and he was more reckless. I mean, that scarf was a trip hazard if ever I saw one.”
Sweetest of all, when the adventure is at an end, the Doctors actually consider traveling together. For Doctor 10, this is during that period after Donna Noble was brain-wiped and before he got all Time Lord Victorious in The Waters of Mars, where he’s going around with no companion. I’m not sure where we are in Doctor 5’s personal timeline, but he’s also alone. Both reluctantly agree that this would be more of a time paradox than the universe could stand.
Next up from the Out of Time series: The 10th Doctor, the 6th Doctor, and the Weeping Angels! Stay tuned…