Sunday 26 April 2020

Doctor Who Lockdown - More Shadows

Doctor Who alumni continue to spoil us with new stories and performed texts to accompany the watch parties that have been running throughout the lockdown. As I said before, new Doctor Who by Paul Cornell is a good thing, and he has followed up "The Shadow Passes" with two narrated stories, "Shadow of a Doubt" and "The Shadow in the Mirror", to form a "locked-in" trilogy.

When Human Nature was published back in the 1990s, it made a huge splash among fans, as did most of Cornell's New Adventures novels, and its reputation was such that it became one of the novels made available for free on the BBC website. It was no surprise when Cornell adapted his own book into the script for the episodes "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" in 2007 for the Tenth Doctor and Martha. The original got a new lease of life in the last few years with Lisa Bowerman - Bernice Summerfield in the Big Finish audio series - narrating the BBC audiobook release off the back of the 50th anniversary.

The two versions of the story, one with Ten and Martha, the other with Seven and Benny, had a lot in common but also some huge differences, being written for different central characters, different media and a different century. To those of us who like our Doctor Who to fit together into a seamless whole - which is impossible, but never mind - it was hard to see how both versions of events could have happened to the Doctor. The new stories not only follow up the Doctor's inhumanly harsh judgments in the TV version, but also nod at how both versions can still be "real" in Doctor Who's multiverse.

The Tenth Doctor's punishment of the Family of Blood was his most alien moment in the series, and the whole story saw him act both cruelly and cowardly. Perhaps, though, this wasn't his inhuman side, but his most human nature coming to the fore. It depends how you look at it. Either way, his imprisonment of Daughter/Sister-of-Mine in the realm of mirrors was both fantastically evocative and horrifying, and has inspired multiple incidences of fan fiction (all still valid in this storyline) to see the Doctor coming to terms with their actions. "Shadow of a Doubt" sees Benny encounter the alien girl in the mirror, with Bowerman performing, and "The Shadow in the Mirror" sees the Thirteenth Doctor, a more compassionate incarnation, fresh from her own isolation in "The Shadow Passes," finally take pity on the girl. Lor Wilson reprises her role as Daughter-of-Mine almost thirteen years on to read the story.

They're both excellent, and I love the little nods at other versions of the Doctor - future, past or parallel - that hint at every story being a valid as every other. The girl mentions both the Seventh and Twelfth Doctors, but also a "thin, white aristocrat" (I want to say Lance Parkin's 42nd Doctor, but it could be any number of versions, most probably the Shalka Doctor since it's Cornell); "the one who couldn't walk" (the child-like version in a wheelchair glimpsed in RTD's novelisation of Rose) and "the one with red hair who thought he was the last." That final incarnation being the Doctor who will become known as Merlin, whose presence was felt throughout the New Adventures and hinted to be the Doctor's ultimate future.

As Parkin once wrote for the Doctor to say: " of the things you'll learn is that it's all real. Every word of every novel is real, every frame of every movie, every panel of every comic strip."

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