Doctor Who Companion Chronicles: Home Truths and The Drowned World CD audio adventures, from Big Finish Productions
“There are many sorts of ghosts, Jo. Ghosts from the past, and ghosts from the future.” – the Third Doctor, Day of the Daleks, January 1972
A spin-off series from Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio plays, the Companion Chronicles are adventures narrated by the various individuals who have traveled with the Doctor in the past. Home Truths and The Drowned World feature Sara Kingdom, who journeyed with the First Doctor.
For those who came in late… Sara Kingdom appeared in episodes four through twelve of the 1960s Doctor Who magnum opus The Daleks’ Masterplan. An agent of the Space Security Service in the year 4000 AD, Sara Kingdom was initially depicted as an icy, ruthless operative who followed orders zealously. When the Guardian of the Solar System, Mavic Chen, informed Sara that hew fellow SSS agent Bret Vyon was a traitor, she believed it. As far as she was concerned, Chen was her boss, and totally above reproach. So, confronting Bret, Sara shot him dead.
Unfortunately, what Sara did not know was that Chen was collaborating with the Daleks and a number of other aliens in a scheme to conquer the entire galaxy. Bret had learned of Chen’s treason, and so he had to be eliminated.
Soon after gunning down Bret, Sara tracked down the Doctor and Steven Taylor, ready to dispatch them in a similarly ruthless manner. Fortunately, the Doctor was able to convince Sara of the truth about Chen and his alliance with the Daleks. Sara was utterly devastated. Bret, it turns out, was her brother, and her unquestioning adherence to orders led her to kill him in cold blood.
Determined to thwart Chen, the man who manipulated her and betrayed her trust, Sara joined the Doctor and Steven on the TARDIS as they seek to stop the Daleks’ scheme.
At the conclusion of The Daleks’ Masterplan, the Doctor managed to turn the Daleks’ doomsday weapon, the time destructor, against them, destroying their invasion force. Tragically, Sara was caught in the time destructor’s field, and rapidly aged to death.
When author John Peel novelized The Daleks’ Masterplan, he inserted a six month gap between the events of episodes seven and eight. Peel liked the character of Sara Kingdom, and said this would give other writers the opportunity to tell stories of Sara’s travels with the Doctor and Steven.
The events recounted in Home Truths and The Drowned World are set during that six month period. But, if Sara is dead, how can she be narrating the stories? Well, it turns out we are listening to Sara’s ghost… sort of. Author Simon Guerrier comes up with a very unusual and inventive way to bring Sara back in these two audio adventures.
Sara Kingdom was played by Jean Marsh. As I commented in my review of Battlefield, Marsh is an amazing actress. I imagine it cannot have been easy for her to reprise a role she first played over 40 years ago. Especially since of the nine episodes she appeared in only two are still known to exist. So she really didn’t have much material to reference. Nevertheless, despite this obstacle, Marsh is positively brilliant. She does an amazing job slipping back into the character’s shoes.
William Hartnell, the actor who portrayed the First Doctor, passed away in 1975, so there was obviously no way he could have contributed to these productions. But Guerrier’s dialogue sounds exactly like what the Doctor would have said. And Jean Marsh, when speaking the Doctor’s lines, manages to capture the cadence and personality of Hartnell’s speech patterns.
Home Truths is a very introspective story. Guerrier really gets into Sara’s head, and we learn a great deal about her. The grief she feels at having killed her own brother is palpable. Marsh narration imbues Guerrier’s script with deep, moving emotion.
The setting for Home Truths is a super-advanced computerized house, one that appears to be haunted. Guerrier effectively uses Clarke’s Law, i.e. any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. He also broaches upon the theme of how our technology advances far faster than our ability to control it or use it wisely. And he focuses upon how each and every one of us has dark thoughts & urges buried in our unconscious. Home Truths reminded me a bit of the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet, with its “monsters from the id.”
The Drowned World, in contrast, is a more action based story. The Doctor, Sara, and Steven arrive on an endangered asteroid mining colony. Sara is really thrust to the forefront, as we see her steely determination that no one else dies on her watch. Confronted with almost certain death, she refuses to give in, standing her ground and holding off the alien menace until everyone else gets to safety.
The story has a very 1960s feel, reminiscent of the “base under siege” formula utilized a number of times on the show. Admittedly, the aliens in The Drowned World would probably have been impossible to achieve with Sixties special effects. But they are good creatures to use in the audio format, where all that’s required is the listener’s imagination.
The framing sequences are set on Earth in the far, far distant future, after some unnamed cataclysm has sent humanity back to a primitive technological level. Robert, who is sort of a cross between a detective and a priest, is sent to investigate Sara’s “ghost.” It is to Robert that Sara recounts her adventures. Robert is played by Niall MacGregor.
The Drowned World has a bit of a cliffhanger, with Sara offering Robert a certain choice. A decision either way will have serious repercussions for him. The story ends before we can learn his response.
Guerrier has plans for a third audio play that will conclude Sara and Robert’s story. I hope this is produced by Big Finish. I’d enjoy hearing Jean Marsh portray Sara one more time, and I want to find out the final fate of her “spirit,” as well as Robert’s decision.
Both disks include brief behind the scene interviews. I enjoyed these, as we hear Marsh’s thoughts on reprising the role of Sara. Interestingly, Marsh indicates she would be open to playing Morgaine from Battlefield in an audio story. Considering the end of Battlefield left her fate up in the air (how exactly does one “lock up” a powerful extra-dimensional sorceress?) I’d like to see her return in a Big Finish Doctor Who story.
In any case, both Home Truths and The Drowned World are very good productions. I’ve always liked the character of Sara Kingdom, based upon viewing those two episodes from The Daleks’ Masterplan and reading the novelisation. It’s great to have her appear in new stories. She was so unlike the majority of female companions from the 1960s, who would usually scream their lungs out when confronted by the monster of the week. Sara was sort of a futuristic Emma Peel, tough as nails and no nonsense, but with a caring, sensitive side buried under her harsh exterior. Sara was very much ahead of her time, and she would fit perfectly in the revived Doctor Who series. Or, better yet, in the spin-off Torchwood, where I could see her giving Jack Harkness a run for his money as the resident badass.
Actually, thinking it over, it occurred to me that Agent Johnson from the Torchwood serial Children of the Earth has certain similarities to Sara Kingdom in terms of her personality and character arc. It’d be great to see Johnson return in future Torchwood stories.
But I digress. I’m glad that Simon Guerrier brought back Sara Kingdom in these two audio plays. I am definitely anticipating Jean Marsh’s return for the proposed third installment.