There is a brand new range of Doctor Who audio adventures out now from BBC Audio, under the series title, Beyond the Doctor, BBC Audio is looking into the lives of the Doctor’s companions and friends after they have left the TARDIS.
You have to wonder if they’ve ever followed any of Big Finish’s output but further adventures for some of our favourite companions is never a bad thing and the series has kicked off with The Kairos Ring, following Romana’s adventures after her departure at the end of Warriors’ Gate.
Written by Stephen Gallagher, the author who gave us Warriors’ Gate and Terminus, Gallagher wastes no time in showing us what Romana and Laszlo got up to after freeing the rest of the Tharil race from enslavement. The pair are on the hunt for an item that is putting time in peril.
As is typical with Gallagher, there are some great sci-fi elements on offer and things get spread out well in the 70-ish minutes run time — surprising for what is a one-episode story. Gallagher recently said that The Kairos Ring was the germ of two separate ideas, one about what happened to Romana after she left the Doctor, the other a story set in the American Civil War.
It’s the second idea that starts the story, following a soldier called Joshua as he navigates the bloody battlefields of the Civil War while a horde of zombies tries to get him and an item currently in his possession. It’s interesting that Doctor Who hasn’t really done a story set in this time period before, and the sound design excellently gives us an idea of what it would have been like.
Indeed, the sound design throughout is excellent, from giving us an excellent idea of the American Civil War, to far flung futures, to walking the corridors of the quiet research library that Romana and Laszlo have set up to stop time interference. And that doesn’t interfere with listening to the action, which it does sometimes do in other releases.
In keeping with other releases from BBC Audio, The Kairos Ring is narrated by a single reader, in this case Blake’s 7′s Steven Pacey who does a great job of keeping us invested in the story as well as making the characters different enough to not merge into one. It could be very easy to read a story like this all in one tone; fortunately, Pacey changes the tone and pace of his reading depending on the action in the scene and he handles some of the heavier science-fiction ideas very well.
Gallagher has a great handle on the characters too. Laszlo was an obscure enough alien in his television appearance that changes could be made, but Gallagher keeps him virtually the same: an aloof attitude, thinking he’s better than most of the others in the story; luckily, this leads to some witty put-downs from Romana who hasn’t lost any of the elements that made her a great companion.
Here, Romana comes across very Doctor-like, proving how much she learnt from her time with him. She works well with Laszlo, who makes a great ‘companion’ for her, but she is still quintessentially the Romana we know and love.
It was a shame that K9 is nowhere to be seen (or heard) here, but I suppose that would have been a few too many characters to juggle in a story like this and to be honest, I’m not sure what K9 would have done. But that is only a little niggle in an otherwise excellent story.
Gallagher isn’t sure if he wants to do another story for this range, or see where the story of Romana and Laszlo goes, but following this, I’m hoping that we get another adventure from him. He likes to delve into real science and while sometimes that can be very heavy from certain writers, Gallagher’s script never feels confused, everything is easy to follow and understand, and his characterisation is excellent. The Kairos Ring is worth purchasing for that alone!
After listening to this story, I’m interested to see what’s next for the range: we know we’ve got a story about Bessie coming out soon, as well as stories presumably for Ian and Barbara as well as Ben and Polly. And if they are as good as this story, this new range of stories should be a real treat!