Review: The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles – All of Time and Space

Review by Jacob Licklider

The second installment in The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles final hurrah for Jacob Dudman’s time portraying the character, All of Time and Space, continues the generic titling while the sets themselves are anything but generic.  This marks the halfway point for the series, with the final two sets coming in late 2023 and early 2024 respectively, and if you’re going in expecting some big revelation as to where the arc is going you may be disappointed.  All of Time and Space instead focuses on exploring the character dynamics between the Eleventh Doctor and Valarie as they continue their travels and come across something that will break that relationship down to an interesting point.  While I will be avoiding larger plot spoilers for this review, as much of the set works if you go in knowing little of the big character defining moments, All of Time and Space is a set that will work at its best if you are listening to it without preconceptions and having heard Geronimo! recently.  If you’ve come to this review to know if it is worth it, it is definitely worth it, it is one of the few recent releases from Big Finish to genuinely return to experimental storytelling with its heaviest focus on character development.

The set opens with All of Time and Space by Ellery Quest.  The first thing you hear when listening to the set is the reprise of the cliffhanger of The End with the TARDIS going haywire, but before it can be resolved there is a smash cut to the office of theatre manager Mr. Darling, played by Richard Hope, while hopeful young playwright Ellery Quest, played by Leroy Bonsu, pitches Doctor Who as a play in 1956.  He even has an idea for a theme to rise from the orchestra pit which he hums enthusiastically despite a generally nervous nature for the pitch.  Yes, this is an episode that immediately takes a right turn into the surreal and never gets back to reality, though there is a very good reason for that.  Part of the illusion is hinted at by crediting the episode to Ellery Quest, though in actuality it is Tim Foley who penned this episode.  If this were a typical television series of Doctor Who, All of Time and Space would be the Doctor-lite episode with the Doctor and Valarie only turning up at points to communicate with Quest through in universe media once his pitch is outright rejected.  Quest is responsible for getting the Doctor and Valarie out of the cliffhanger, albeit accidentally, trapping them in a state so they can only communicate through the stories people tell instead of existing in time or space.  Foley’s script is one that forces the listener to contend with a setting that is set outside of the normal plane of existence, almost deliberately placing the listener in the uncanny valley.  Richard Hope’s Darling is the villain of the piece and his performance is delightfully confused as this is a situation where while there’s a revelry in playing a villain as any actor does, there’s also these lucid moments of utter confusion where the actor and characters don’t understand why they are doing what they are doing.  It’s one of Foley’s best scripts although tonally distinct from everything I’ve heard from him.  10/10

The Yearn is the episode of the set that perhaps is sadly the weakest link, mainly because it acts as more of a breather (almost filler in terms of the arc) instead of furthering forward the relationship between the Doctor and Valarie which is the heart of this set.  Angus Dunican’s script is a classic base under siege style story, set on an underground research base where three people are stuck due to the titular Yearn keeping them there.  Astute listeners should pick up from the title the premise of the Yearn, they are creatures that wish for connection and as such have been dragging the people on this base inside of them to fulfill that connection.  This does mean that they aren’t so much as villains but antagonists and there is a potentially peaceful solution.  It’s clear that the characters who commune with the Yearn aren’t dead, just part of the gestalt once characters are restored with no memories of becoming part of the Yearn.  It just means the Doctor and Valarie have to find the right solution for this problem.  Valarie does get some very nice character development as a romantic partnership with Mia Tomlinson’s Roanna, even lampshading the idea of Valarie leaving the Doctor as companions like Susan, Vicki, and Leela have done in the past.  Ingar and Tomlinson have wonderful chemistry with Roanna having the potential to return and the decision on the production side of things to move this set from the second slot in Geronimo! to the second slot in All of Time and Space helps the romantic feelings feel more natural.  This episode honestly wouldn’t have worked so well if it was only Valarie’s first adventure, although I imagine it would have been quite different based on Dunican’s contributions to the behind the scenes interviews.  It’s a strong base under siege story that does well at giving Valarie connections outside of the Doctor which only serves to make the emotional impact of this set’s finale work even better.  8/10.

The Eleventh Doctor as a character on television is one whom readers will know that I have had large issues with.  Throughout Series 5-7 there was a tendency to have the character often bring other characters in for a kiss without consent, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and The Crimson Horror being the most obvious examples of this, which were often moments improvised by Matt Smith to be played for comedy when really they shouldn’t be.  Steven Moffat also leaned in heavily into the idea of the Doctor as an entity from a fairy tale, sweeping his companions off on adventures, but never on television had to examine the damage to his companion’s mental health and well being or a general disregard for their autonomy.  The Doctor treats Clara throughout Series 7B as a mystery to solve and not a person, and he doesn’t really apologize for not being able to meet Amy immediately after he leaves her in the first act of The Eleventh Hour.  James Goss has set out in Curiosity Shop to actually explore this aspect of the character in detail and rock the Doctor/companion relationship which has been incredibly strong to this point.  The premise is that in the far future, on a distant planet, the Doctor has lost his sense of self.  He owns a junkyard and is going by the name of Mr. Foreman, while keeping Barbara, his police box, close to him.  Valarie has been exchanging parts of herself for money, money which is rapidly decreasing in value as inflation skyrockets, and the man she is selling herself to really doesn’t care.  This episode is a three hander with Derek Griffiths joining Dudman and Ingar as Golas the merchant who acts not as a villain, but a man just trying to sell his wares.  The tone of the episode is bleak: Valarie’s slowly losing her ability to simply exist, the government of the planet is a dictatorship, and the Doctor doesn’t know who he is.  Goss really uses this script to explore the fact that the Doctor is treating Valarie not as a person, but as an object, and while she is restored in the end, he actually has to apologize for what he has done as the Doctor.  Safiyya Ingar gives her best performance here as the desperation grows and grows, Valarie trying to keep herself put together.  Their performance is nuanced and their final monologue leaves the relationship on rocky ground.  Jacob Dudman also gives a powerhouse performance, his impression of the Eleventh Doctor always being a highlight, but here he is playing the Eleventh Doctor not knowing he’s the Doctor with flashes of other Doctors coming to the surface.  Dudman manages to keep his impression of Matt Smith key to almost all of the different Doctors, with only the Tenth occasionally slipping into just being Dudman’s impression of David Tennant.  Dudman and Ingar together are also perfect with Griffiths providing moments of levity that still aren’t too light as the situation on this planet worsens and worsens for everyone before the episode ends in a way that has to be heard.  10/10.

All of Time and Space is a set that manages to continue the arc that Geronimo! really laid the groundwork for without giving away exactly what the game is.  The three stories thrive on being small cast affairs as to avoid issues of having too many ideas and characters confined to an hour long story, so each episode feels more intimate.  The chemistry between Jacob Dudman and Safiyya Ingar is brilliant as the Doctor and Valarie’s friendship is tested and the Doctor’s character is deconstructed, but only in retrospect once you listen to the set a second time, something that I wholeheartedly recommend people do.  9/10.

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 The Eleventh Doctor Chronicles

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