As the old poem goes “Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.He wasn’t there again today,I wish, I wish he’d go away…” It conjures images of a creepy supernatural story, probably reinforced by memories of Sapphire and Steel – but this story is altogether a different kettle of fish, completely different – almost cruel in its construction but with a glimmer of good from all the heartache and circular chasing of tails – because this is the story of Charlotte Pollard (India Fisher) companion to the eighth Doctor and self styled Edwardian Adventuress and her quest to meet her hero Pieter Monmarche, Victorian explorer, pioneer and inspiration to generations. Charley is a devotee of his diaries and read them cover to cover time and again when she was a child, so she KNOWS where he will be at a particular point in time and The Doctor very obligingly takes al downwards to her to meet him – but like Godot, he doesn’t turn up. Neither does he show when he was meant to be lecturing in Khartoum, or in New York or well, anywhere – in fact he has gone completely missing from time and space and his disappearance has caused a fundamental change in the future history of the Earth causing the Time Lords to get involved.
So where is Monmarche? will Charley ever meet her idol? The trail to find him seems to be a wild goose chase, they meet people who have met him, or claim to have met him – a lecturer trading off Monmarche’s legacy, his secretary who is making a living selling Monmarche memorabilia but never the genuine article. The whole story in fact is a gigantic puzzle box – remember the film The Usual Suspects? its that level of intrigue to find a missing link that hold the story together, and then when they find that link and work it out and finally find Monmarche……
A giant puzzle, a spiral to an inevitability that we almost know from the beginning and don’t want to admit to ourselves, a sadness of a hero with feet of clay based on foundations of smoke – and a future saved by belief in the same.
India Fisher is an engaging narrator – from the “jolly hockey sticks” portrayal at the beginning to the sad and dawning realisation at the end this is her journey down the spiral in pursuit of an impossible ideal.
Another strong entry in to the Short Trips canon, a story that will stay with the listener long after the end credits have rolled and a story that demands multiple listens to appreciate the subtlety of the story telling – a pioneering 9/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Doctor Who: Short Trips Monthly is a series of new short stories read by an original cast member.
Release #23 is an Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard story.
Charley Pollard’s innocent request to meet a historical hero seems the easiest thing for a friend with a time and space machine to make happen. But as Charley and the Doctor seek out the Victorian explorer, they uncover a sinister scheme to unravel Earth’s future by affecting its past. But where in its history was the deed done? And is it already too late to put right?
Producer Michael Stevens
Script Editor Jacqueline Rayner
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Ian Atkins
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman