I’m a Big Finish fangirl, plain and simple. So, there’s that. I imagine a lot of my posts here are going to be about the audio plays they produce, not only because I enjoy them (and it’s one way to justify the amount of money I pour into subscriptions) but also because they provide me with a lot of interesting and crunchy feminist material to chew over. Like all the awesome stories they have provided for Classic Who companions, and entire spin off series which allow those companions to shine as protagonists in their own right.
But also, very much so, with the new companions they have created to travel alongside various “classic” Doctors. Lucie Miller (Sheridan Smith), one of the audio companions created for Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, wasn’t by any means the first of these, but she was the first of the companions created after Doctor Who came back in 1995, and the “New Eighth Doctor Adventures” which featured her character were a standalone series of short, punchy stories that were designed to appeal to the fans of New Who. They were broadcast as radio plays as well as being available for purchase from the Big Finish site – and there’s a Lucie Miller sale on THIS WEEK including a free download of her first episode, which is why I wanted to get this post up today.
Lucie Miller: It’s my superpower. I am Sarcasmo, woman of sarcasm. My enemies are struck down by my barbs of steel.’
Lucie Miller appeared mysteriously in the TARDIS much as Donna did in the Runaway Bride – Big Finish are often in conversation with Cardiff to make sure coincidenced like this don’t happen, but they slipped up in this instance, as Lucie Miller’s first story, Blood of the Daleks, and The Runaway Bride, were produced concurrently and broadcast very close together. There was no copying here, just plain happenstance. But it’s fascinating to see how similar – and then how different – the characters were.
Both temps, working in dead-end admin jobs. Both mouthy, and quick-witted, and had a tendency to give the Doctor an earful when he was being pompous, or sometimes just for standing there. Both were to grow and transcend their original image of themselves, to become absolutely epic characters. Both materialised quite literally in the TARDIS, under mysterious circumstances. Both of them displayed absolutely no physical attraction to the Doctor – which was a refreshing change from their immediate predecessors!
Both were awesome.
Lucie Miller: Well, you know, there’s nothing wrong with the TARDIS…
The Doctor: No.
Lucie Miller: Apart from all the things that are wrong with the TARDIS.
The Doctor: Admittedly.
Lucie Miller: Just, it’s not so much a spaceship as…a shed.
Sheridan Smith is a major star in the UK now, through her performances in West End musicals as much as being a comedy actress, but she continued doing these audio plays for four years even as her star was rising. Her chemistry with Paul McGann is electric, you can hear how much the actors enjoy each other’s company in the various Extras documentaries that are paired with the episodes, and she brought out something marvellous in his Doctor. She’s one of those companions who completely earns the title of the Doctor’s best friend.
They were taking no chances with this series of adventures – as well as the faster paced, easy entry stories that were designed to appeal to new listeners, there’s also lots of classic monsters and characters from the old show – not just Daleks and Cybermen for Lucie in her first season, but a truly original take on Zygons in her second with a plot twist which was to resonate through her entire run. (honestly, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Tim Brooke-Taylor from the Goodies as a shy, sexually confused Zygon) We even get the return of Morbius, YES REALLY.
Bechdel-Test wise, while the main focus (as always) is the relationship between Lucie and the Doctor rather than the characters of the week, there are some interesting women in these adventures who spark well off Sheridan Smith’s performance. Particularly her Auntie Pat, the rock chick wild aunt she accidentally keeps crossing time tracks with, bumping into her in the 1970’s (in Horror of Glam Rock, a surreal semi-musical with aliens stuck in a motorway service cafe) and later in the 1980’s (in the equally brilliant The Zygon Who Fell To Earth). There’s also the Headhunter, a mysterious villain type whom we see tracking Lucie down throughout the whole first season, only to finally be revealed in the major season finale, Human Resources. There’s also Karen, Lucie’s workmate, who has a surprising role to play in that same story.
In later seasons, not only is Lucie’s relationship with her Auntie Pat explored further, but she also gets an opportunity no other companion since the 60’s has – a chance to form a friendship with the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, after she and her son Alex are reunited with the Doctor.
Lucie: But you travel in time and space. You’ve got two hearts. You live in a magic box that’s bigger on the inside. You know all about stuff. You’re the Doctor, you’re brilliant and it was great, I mean really bleeding great and, well, that’s how I want to remember it. That’s how I want to remember you.
The Doctor: So I’m just a memory now?
Lucie: Yeah. The best memory I’ve got. Yeah, I remember the Doctor. He was great. He had a great time. An amazing time. Then one night he just disappeared in his magic box. Just disappeared. I’ll never forget him. Never.
Fierce, brave, strong, loyal, hilarious, implacable, utterly self-reliant, and capable of giving her best Time Lord a good slap around the chops when he deserves it, Lucie Bleedin’ Miller deserves her place in the pantheon of Awesome Doctor Who Companions. It’s only a shame that Sheridan never got to play the part on screen, because she and Paul McGann would have kicked Doctor Who butt.
My favourite Lucie stories:
Blood of the Daleks Parts 1 & 2 – cos the first!
Horror of Glam Rock – characterific, full of banter, actual glam rock music and strange aliens
No More Lies – fascinating idea of a villain redeemed through time travel, plus banter & Nigel Havers
Human Resources Parts 1 & 2 – Lucie being epic, classic Doctor Who monsters, war and office politics plus THE HEADHUNTER REVEALED
Max Warp – a Top Gear parody with Graeme Garden, spaceships and murder.
Grand Theft Cosmos – Lucie, the Headhunter, a heist, a train, IT’S ALL GOOD
The Zygon Who Fell To Earth – angst, family drama, banter and Zygons. With Tim Brooke-Taylor and Auntie Pat!
Sisters of the Flame Part 1 & Vengeance of Morbius Part 2 – if you’re not addicted by now, you might as well give up. Lucie gets a whole episode to herself, and the Doctor gets one hell of a cliffhanger. Plus, well, the sequel to Brain of Morbius you never knew you wanted.
Okay, I don’t love this season so much but Orbis broke my heart a little, and The Eight Truths/Worldwide Web broke my brain
Gut wrenching, traumatic and yet still funny and awesome too. The Doctor & Lucie separate sadly in Death in Blackpool and he finds another companion, but their story’s not done… and Graeme Garden returns to play a recurring role as the Meddling Monk, a masterful performance that shows he’s not just about comedy, he can do drama and angst with the best of them.
Relative Dimensions – The Doctor wants to make up for the time he ruined Lucie’s Christmas. He’s invited his granddaughter and great-grandson to the TARDIS, Lucie’s cooking a turkey, and he has a Grand Plan to fix everything. But there’s a killer fish and some doors and… the TARDIS basically has other ideas about what is seasonally appropriate.
Prisoner of the Sun – one of Paul McGann’s finest moments as the Doctor, and one of Sheridan Smith’s finest moments… not playing Lucie. A brilliant standalone story about the Doctor’s ethics and why he needs a companion
Lucie Miller Part 1/To the Death Part 2 – amazing writing, amazing performances, and the Daleks are the scariest they have ever, ever been. Lucie Bleedin’ Miller comes into her own as the hero we always knew she was… and she still has a thing or two to teach the Doctor about being human.
[crossposted at my blog, tansyrr.com]