❉ Join us as we check out the long-awaited, limited edition, vinyl release of a Doctor Who fan favourite.
When Big Finish did their Main Range poll last year, it was a bit daunting. How do you whittle down fifteen years of quality stories? However, when the results were announced, it all became blindingly obvious what would be on top of the pile: ‘The Chimes of Midnight’.
The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann, who else?) and Charley (India Fisher) land in a dark, Edwardian house on Christmas Eve. Soon after, deaths occur on the hour, every hour, in a manner of bizarre ways. And then the same deaths start to happen for a second time just for good measure. It’s the first story to really tackle the consequences of Charley not dying on the R101. But in actuality this is the scullery maid Edith’s (played to a T by Louise Rolfe) story. It’s heartbreaking when you think about it. Because there must’ve been hundreds and hundreds of Ediths in real life all getting told “You are nothing. You are nobody.” The combination of Charley’s kindness to her when she was a child and the paradox of her still being alive end up creating the circumstances in which the characters end up in. Only on Doctor Who. Trust me. That’s a compliment.
It’s a firecracker of a story and you can see why it is so beloved. Essentially it is a chamber piece with a tight ensemble. The deaths are all wonderfully macabre and there’s a real mystery to solve. And it’s wickedly funny. I love a rich vein of dark humour. The music by Russell Stone and Andy Hardwick permeates the story like brandy in Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding. Plot wise it’s like if Agatha Christie and Julian Fellowes teamed up to write an episode of ‘Sapphire and Steel’. Plus, it’s during Christmas!
Just before I started re-listening to this, I had finished the latest ‘Doom Coalition’ box set. Jumping from that to this story was quite interesting. The Eighth Doctor has come so far through Big Finish’s guidance. Going back to this point in the Doctor’s life where he’s so innocent pre-‘Zagreus’ and full of adventure and romance really put that into perspective. ‘Chimes’ comes in at the start of McGann’s second series as the character. And he’s firmly settled into the role. His chemistry with India Fisher is palpable. They were doing the ‘Will They/Won’t They’ game long before Tennant and Piper got into the Blue Box.
“And you need me. Without me you would never tread upon the beaches of alien worlds or marvel at the eclipse of new suns, the birth of new stars. You have seen the universe, Charley. And you have made a difference to it.”
But the true star of the piece is Rob Shearman. His writing is superb. He makes it seem effortless, and the retrospective on this release really showed how much work he did put into it. The story features all his trademarks. I found it quite endearing that he based Edward Grove on his own house.
Speaking of the retrospective, it was a nice touch from Big Finish to add this. The early BF releases didn’t have the special features that we are all now accustomed to, so it was nice to hear some creatives from BF’s early days gab on for a bit.
The vinyl set has a whopping price but could you imagine playing this record on Christmas Eve? The fire is lit, the sky is dark, and the snow is falling. You’re nuzzled into your favourite chair…
How could put a price on that aesthetic? Buy it if you can.
The real question is… When in the hell is Rob Shearman going to write another one?
❉ ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ Limited Vinyl Edition is exclusive to the Big Finish website and strictly limited to 500 copies.