Peter Purves returns to the ‘Companion Chronicles’ as companion Steven. Recalling his days as a rocket pilot, he describes his encounter with an antagonist from a previous First Doctor Chronicle. This is a clever story that pitches a melancholic Steven against the evil and deadly Van Cleef (Tim Treloar), one of the Rocket Men.
Steven is reaching the end of his travels with the Doctor. He’s seen too much to unsee it. When Dodo demands to know the astral date, he is surprised to find it is his birthday and he’s had worse ones, although this day hasn’t got started yet.
Steven is a pilot long before he meets the Doctor and he has quite a run in with the Rocket Men, barely escaping with his life and so it goes that he will meet them again and have to make a terrible choice because he has seen the future and knows this will not end well.
Written by Matt Fitton, ‘Return Of The Rocket Men’ is the sequel to John Dorney’s ‘The Rocket Men’. Dorney’s original companion chronicle saw the First Doctor have a tricky encounter with a fierce warrior race and nearly resulting in the death of Barbara. The moving story is told by companion Ian in a neatly split time-line. ‘The Return’ cleverly picks up the themes and also manages to sell us a teasingly tense storyline although we already know that Steven will survive this.
With the antagonists speedily described, we get a hint of Flash Gordon and then fleshed out by the character of Van Cleef, we get some Wild West as well. There is some depth to this and the exchanges between Van Cleef and Steven are fascinating and chilling. Van Cleef also features as a narrator, adding another aspect into a thoughtful and descriptive story.
Purves also generates an amazing rendition of the First Doctor, adding more value and the sound design by Howard Carter also helps here with its well thought out and necessarily sparse additions it lifts it from mere audio book to an atmospheric presentation. All the actors make it seem easy but I imagine that director Lisa Bowerman pulled it together and helped create the polished presentation we take for granted.
(pub: Big Finish. 1 CDs 60 minute story. Price: CD: £ 8.99 (UK), Download: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-950-9)
cast: Peter Purves and Tim Treloar
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