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Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles: The Invasion of E-Space Review

The Doctor, Romana and Adric return to E-Space in this Companion Chronicle, only to find there are those who wish to break into this new universe...

By Joseph A. MorrisonPublished 7 months ago 6 min read
The CD cover for "The Invasion of E-Space", designed by Simon Holub.

Season 18 of Doctor Who was one of the most groundbreaking and experimental in the show's history. To this day, it remains one of the most thematically consistent seasons of the classic series, and, while it isn't one that has been revisited that often in the years since, it is one that is still held in huge regard by Doctor Who fans. So, when, in 2010, Big Finish released "The Invasion of E-Space", there was a lot of anticipation for this story. Added to that was the fact that this would be the first story written by Andrew Smith since his debut, "Full Circle" (the first part of the E-Space trilogy from Season 18), back in 1980. As such, there was a lot of anticipation for this story, and it is a shame that it isn't quite as strong as a lot of Doctor Who fans were hoping for. Don't get me wrong - "The Invasion of E-Space" is a perfectly serviceable, decent Doctor Who story. However, this doesn't really have a lot of the heart the Companion Chronicles traditionally employ, and there's nothing here that makes this standout from most other Doctor Who stories: something that, at its best, Season 18 did in spades.

From left to right: Suanne Braun (Marni Tellis), writer Andrew Smith and Lalla Ward (Romana), pictured during the recording of "The Invasion of E-Space".

Focusing on Lalla Ward's Romana, we hear her recount this adventure on the eve of the final effort to free the Tharils from slavery. (which was why she left the TARDIS in "Warriors' Gate",) When the TARDIS comes across a CVE in space, the Doctor, Romana and Adric find themselves caught up in a invasion plot. People are dying, and a huge battleship has emerged from the CVE, carrying a warlike race called the Farrian. Can the three travellers stand against this new and terrifying treat? As you can imagine from the synopsis above, this sounds like a rather generic tale, and you would be absolutely right. Picture any Doctor Who story, and chances are you'll get something close to this. So, while "Invasion of E-Space" is competent and well-written, I wouldn't go into this expecting anything ground-breaking. I mentioned above how this series had a particular tone, and particular themes, perhaps more so than any previous season in the show's history. The themes of decay and entropy run through the seven stories that make up this season, and yet there is no attempt by writer Andrew Smith to engage with this in any way. This is straight up pulp-action, and, as a result, feels very strange sitting where it does in Doctor Who canon. This heavy pulp sci-fi approach also sits at odds with the Companion Chronicles range that this release is a part of. The best Companion Chronicles develop the characters that tell the story, we get insights into their thought processes, and we get an adventure that is unique to them. "The Invasion of E-Space", sadly, doesn't really offer anything in the way of development for its leading lady. Sure, Romana does get to play a Doctor-like role in the story, but it doesn't really give us any other insights into her character, except ones we've already seen before. This all sounds overly negative about this story, so I just want to reiterate: this is by no means a bad story. The Farrian are an interesting villain, and the plot is competent and well-told. But anyone with more than a passing interest in Doctor Who will find this contains nothing really new or interesting, and, as such, I kind of wonder what was the point, beyond trying to artificially extend the E-Space trilogy.

A promotional picture of Lalla Ward as Romana, designed by Tom Webster for the official Doctor Who website.

As I mentioned above, the characters are fairly thinly-sketched by Andrew Smith, but there are moments where he does attempt to flesh them out beyond being two-dimensional cyphers. One way is through a rather touching scene between Romana and Adric, where the pair actually talk about their past, and come to develop an understanding. Due to the short nature of their time in the TARDIS, it was rare to see them interact, save in order to explain the plot or argue. Here, however, we get a touching moment that sees the characters actually bond while locked in a Farrian prison cell, and it makes a sharp contrast with the hard sci-fi trappings of the rest of the story. The other major example is in the story's use of the character of Marni Tellis. Unlike a lot of Companion Chronicles, Tellis isn't just a second voice adding in someone for our main narrator to play off, but actually narrating large chunks of the story, and, even, for a time, becoming the Doctor's de-facto companion. While I think there's not as much justification for this in the story as I think there could have been (in many ways, taking the Doctor more substantially out of the narrative could have been even more interesting), it at least offers a different perspective on events, and adds more of a personal touch to events. It helps that Tellis is played brilliantly by Suanne Braun, who manages to expose the vulnerability of a character like Tellis, despite her uber-cool exterior. She makes for a somewhat effective contrast with Lalla Ward, who is now such a pro at playing Romana, she could probably do it in her sleep. She can recapture the effortless ease her version of the character had, and it doesn't sound like a day has gone by since she left the show in 1981. Once again, Lisa Bowerman directs, and she brings out two superb performances from her cast. While it may be on a slightly larger scale than the Companion Chronicles normally are, Bowerman's direction remains focused on the performers and the characters at the heart of the story. Finally, Howard Carter's music and sound design brings the worlds of the story to life with style: his music, especially, has a grandiose scope that is befitting the story being told. It all amounts to another hugely confident Big Finish production, and lifts the story somewhat from the mediocre script.

A promotional picture taken during location recording on the 1980 story "State of Decay", featuring Lalla Ward and Tom Baker as the Doctor.

In conclusion, then, "The Invasion of E-Space" is far from a stone cold classic. While there is nothing wrong with this story, if you are familiar with the Classic Series in any way, then there's not really a lot here that hasn't been done before, and in better places than this. It's a shame it doesn't really fit in with the season it belongs with, or with the range that this is a part of, because there was the potential for something interesting here with an underexplored area of Doctor Who history. However, if you want a slice of classic pulp sci-fi action that features two strong female characters, then "The Invasion of E-Space" will be right down your street. It isn't a terrible story by any means, and Andrew Smith has ended up becoming a key Big Finish writer because of it, so there's a positive. "The Invasion of E-Space" is ok, but that's really damming with faint praise, to be honest. It's a shame, because it could have been so much more.

You can purchase "The Invasion of E-Space" as a digital download from the Big Finish website (see below). Just type "E Space" into the search bar at the top of the page.

All pictures copyright to Big Finish Productions/the BBC. Thank you very much for reading.

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About the Creator

Joseph A. Morrison

25. Fan of Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner and more old-fashioned TV. Reviewer, wannabe writer and general twit.

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