Big Finish, Companion Chronicles, Doctor Who, Frazer Hines, Frazier Hines, Jamie McCrimmon, Lisa Bowerman, Patrick Troughton, Quadrigger Stoyn, The Dying Light, third eye cinema podcast, Wendy Padbury, Zoe Herriott
“If you study it under a magnifying glass, you’ll find it’s porous.”
“Yes, like swiss cheese, and politicians.”
Ignore the current revival series (which skews the statistics a bit) and it becomes quite apparent that there have been few male companions over the years.
While female companions have appeared by the dozen, throughout a good 40 years of Who history, males have proved something of a scarcity whose numbers can almost be noted on the fingers of a single Hand of Fear (as it were).
Let’s count them off: there were Ian, Steven and Ben alongside Hartnell (the latter spilling over to Troughton’s earlier run). Unofficially, we can note Pertwee compatriots UNIT (whose regular ranks primarily consisted of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, Sgt. Benton and Captain Yates), but their actual “companion” status is disputable at best. Tom Baker briefly had Harry Sullivan. Tom Baker and Peter Davison had Adric for a bit, with Turlough taking his place thereafter.
But outside of the legion of Whovians (like myself) who hold a soft spot for the Brig and company, there’s really only one XY chromosome bearing companion everyone remembers, and that’s Frazier Hines’ Jamie McCrimmon.
Literally the only companion (bar fellow traveller Victoria) pulled from a historical period to survive more than an episode or two (sorry, Katarina), Hines’ Jamie held an easy rapport with Troughton’s saucy nutter of a Doctor both on and offscreen, notorious for their practical jokes on female cast members and so forth. At times believable and comic, Hines’ likeable portrayal raised the Walter Koenig Chekov-like Scotch caricature to a level of fleshed out realism and humanity well beyond anything Innes Lloyd and company could have imagined.
While other companions of the period (and even thereafter) have languished in relative obscurity, Jamie remains one of the most beloved and popular companions in classic Who to this very day.
There’s really not much to the plot per se, outside of its tie in to the recent Carole Ann Ford prequel to the televised series The Beginning, though it is certainly quite evocative and atmospheric thanks to the music and sound design of Richard Fox and Lauren Yason (of prior well done entries such as A Thousand Tiny Wings, Demons of Red Lodge and Spaceport Fear. This is clearly a case where the atmosphere and the pleasure of spending an hour or so in the company of Hines…as both his signature Jamie McCrimmon and the Troughton Doctor, holds primacy of sway.
The always affable Hines certainly has his old partner in crime’s speech patterns and mannerisms down pat after all these years, but isn’t exactly an impressionist. While his delivery is indisputably spot on, tonally speaking it takes a bit of imagination to see his take as anything but Jamie without the Scotch burr. If you prefer, while their speech patterns are quite distinct and easily recognizable, Hines is Hines regardless, and clearly retains the same vocal tonality throughout.
But let’s face it, if you’re looking for an impressionist, go hire Fred Travalena or something. The joy of these audio adventures is in hearing the original actors both reprise their classic roles and (in the case of the Companion Chronicles and Destiny of the Doctor lines, at least) give their knowing take on the men they should know best, the Doctors who they worked alongside and whom in at least three cases are no longer with us to portray themselves. And in this light, Hines does a damn creditable job.
Joining Hines is his latter series partner Wendy Padbury, whose cute Zoe Heriot warmed the hearts and put a twinkle in the eye of many a red blooded male during her televised run. Speaking for myself, I’ve always been a Victoria man, but you’d have to be blind not to enjoy some of her form fitting futuristic catsuits… While Padbury retains much of her youthful charm and sass, The Dying Light follows the usual Companion Chronicles format in keeping things more or less a one man show, with Terry Molloy (best known as Davros)’s Quaddriger Stoyn and Padbury’s Zoe essaying lesser support roles here.
Bernice Summerfield herself and Jago & Litefoot series director Lisa Bowerman has made a further sideline as frequent director of the Companion Chronicles as well, and that growing experience shows through in the deft pacing and what could be interpreted as a more feminine touch in the story’s strong accent on characterization (also a notable facet of her Jago & Litefoot line).
While a tad lightweight storywise (let’s face it, Stoyn is hardly a fearsome villain – more of a crabby old librarian type, really), through the efforts of Bowerman, Hines, Fox and Yason, The Dying Light proves quite enjoyable and a comfortably welcome way to spend a quiet evening in the company of old friends.