With Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles range ending its seven-year run in June, and with a big sale on their first four seasons on Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take this opportunity to catch up on some of these fascinating nuggets from the Expanded Whoniverse. In this venture, I finally explored the continuing escapades of someone who is, for me anyway, a bit of a controversial character: Sara Kingdom. My personal beef with her is twofold: does she count as a companion since she was only in one story, and was she an Action Girl who got “de-fanged” after a certain point and stopped being interesting? Well, if nothing else, Simon Guerrier’s trilogy of Companion Chronicles digs deep into the cracks of The Daleks’ Master Plan and establishes Sara as one of the hidden gems of Classic Who: at once smart and capable and also mysterious and complex.
Home Truths is both an existential horror story and a murder mystery, featuring the First Doctor, Steven, and Sara investigating strange deaths at a house in Ely in the flashback story, and a traveler named Robert hearing about it from Sara later on. This opening chapter excellently sets the lonely tone of the trilogy and goes on to establish arguably the oddest post-TARDIS future of any companion. Let’s just say Clarke’s Law is here in spades. Also, you’d better warm up to cliffhangers. The Drowned World comes across as the weakest of the trilogy. Although this is primarily because Sara’s flashback story is little more than “we went from Point A to Point B and tried not to get killed” and feels more like padding to the considerably more interesting story taking place in the present between Sara and a returning Robert. Easily the strongest installment is The Guardian of the Solar System which, while it gets a little heavy-handed with its fate-as-clockwork metaphor, is the story that gives Sara the most depth. She goes from the “de-fanged action girl” of later Master Plan episodes to a complex human caught between duty and truth and trying to come to terms with the crimes of her past. Jean Marsh brings warmth and pathos to a once icy character and Niall MacGregor compliments her nicely as Robert, a man who begins as a curious outsider and ends as an almost enlightened figure.
For anyone interested in the more exploratory side of Big Finish, this trilogy is highly recommended listening: the fascinating return of a character once thought lost in 1966.