Audio Drama Review: No Place Like Home

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! Today we’re following up Monday’s review of The Eye of the Scorpion, which introduced new companion Erimem. In No Place Like Home, we find the Fifth Doctor showing her around the TARDIS. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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Recently arrived in the TARDIS, uncrowned pharaoh Erimem and her cat Antranak are touring the ship with the Doctor while Peri remains in her room.  He chides Erimem for the messes the cat has made, earning an apology from her.  They visit the wardrobe, where Erimem finds the Fourth Doctor’s scarf and hat, and the Second Doctor’s (faux) fur coat.  She also finds clothing worn by past companions Victoria Waterfield, Sarah Jane Smith, and Leela, and comments on her own most recent adventure with the Doctor.  The Doctor reminisces about past travels with many other companions, and comments on his age.  They move on to other rooms: a cricket pitch, and the cloister room—or rather, a rainforest where the cloister room used to be.  The Doctor admits that the TARDIS has been moving rooms without his knowledge again.  As he actually locates the cloister room, he is being observed—and the TARDIS is under the control of the observer…

Finding a room of terra-cotta soldiers—which he dropped off several regenerations ago—the Doctor realizes something is wrong.  They unexpectedly arrive back in the wardrobe amid the Third Doctor’s ruffled shirts, and the Doctor remarks on how the TARDIS is more his home than Gallifrey is.  Sometimes he wishes to settle down…but not yet.  There is evil to be fought, and work to be done.  Erimem reminisces about her own family, and the Doctor about his.

The rooms continue to change, leading them back again to the wardrobe (this time finding Jamie McCrimmon’s kilt).  The power fails, and a rack falls on Erimem; the Doctor uses a pack of everlasting matches to provide light.  They realize the shadows are moving unnaturally.  Erimem dresses for the cold as the temperature drops (wearing Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket), and they head for the console room.  The temperature drops more drastically, frosting the walls and floors.  Suddenly the hidden observer’s surveillance system fails.  The observer wanted the Doctor to open the next door; but a voice warns the Doctor not to open it.  It becomes transparent, revealing the unobstructed Time Vortex on the other side, which would have killed them by rapid aging.  A figure appears from the shadows; he introduces himself as Shayde, “a friend of sorts”, who is the corporeal manifestation of the will of the Time Lords.  The Doctor remarks that on one of the many occasions that the Fifth Doctor allowed damage to the TARDIS, a creature got in, which will use the TARDIS to conquer time and space if unchecked.  Shayde insists that only he can resolve the problem, but the Doctor insists on taking responsibility, and takes Erimem with Shayde to deal with the situation.

The Doctor and Erimem find the TARDIS’s dimensional induction chamber as the observer recovers surveillance.  The creature traps Shayde in a force field.  Erimem finds the observer in a nest of controls; the Doctor is shocked to see that it is a Rovie—a Gallifreyan mouse.  This one is ten times the usual size, with a massively overgrown brainpan.  They find the situation humorous, but their laughter insults the Rovie.  The creature explains how it was once normal, until it got into the TARDIS by chance during one of the Doctor’s visits to Gallifrey.  The ship took responsibility for it, as with all passengers, feeding and watering it.  However, Shayde, at the orders of the Time Lords, had placed a remote control module in the TARDIS, so that they could subtly control the Doctor’s actions without his knowledge.  The module caused a leak in the temporal relays, which led to a forced, rapid mutation in the Rovie, creating its current condition.  With its new intelligence, it used the TARDIS data banks to learn to speak, and gain other skills.  It then became ambitious.  Jealous of the Doctor and his companions, it became angry at the Doctor’s reckless behavior—which unintentionally puts the Rovie at risk with the TARDIS—and therefore it began taking over control of the TARDIS.  Now, it intends to take the TARDIS to Gallifrey and blast the capital with the same temporal energy, killing the Time Lords and mutating the other Rovies in the same way.  The evolved Rovies will then use the Time Lords’ technology to conquer everything.

The cat, Antranak, arrives, having followed Erimem, and she tries to use it to kill the Rovie.  The attempt is unsuccessful, and the Rovie grows enraged, considering it an insult to be thought of as a common mouse.  The Doctor plays on this, taunting the Rovie with more mouse-based jokes.  Erimem adds to the taunting, and the Rovie moves toward them, threatening them—but when it steps out of its forcefields, Erimem strikes, destroying its control panel.  Shayde, now freed, absorbs the Rovie into himself; he says he will take it to Gallifrey, where it can be re-educated and made into a civilized being.  The Doctor insists that Shayde remove the control unit as well.  When Shayde leaves, the power returns, and the tour continues—with the occasional cat mess.

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Big Finish maintains a series of free audios, available as samples for new listeners, most of which (at least those in the Doctor Who ranges) have appeared previously as extras in Doctor Who Magazine. This is the first such story that I’ve reviewed; this entry was packaged with magazine issue #326, and also comes bundled with a preview episode of Dalek War, which I’m not covering here at the moment. Notations are strangely lacking as to where exactly this story falls in the Fifth Doctor/Erimem timeline; it references at least one previous adventure, but that adventure has not been documented anywhere. One audio, The Church and the Crown, is stated to be Erimem’s first journey in the TARDIS (NOT the story mentioned above); this story would have to take place after that, if so. However, the Doctor is here giving Erimem a tour of the TARDIS—something the Fifth Doctor seems to do with all of his companions—implying that it’s fairly early in their travels together. Therefore, until otherwise indicated, I’m going to assume that it’s the next story available after The Church and the Crown.

The story is a bottle episode, taking place entirely inside the TARDIS, something we’ve seen as far back as Edge of Destruction, but don’t get very often. It pulls in a character, Shayde, from the comics, who thus far does not appear in any other audio dramas. Shayde is implied to have been hiding out in the TARDIS since the Doctor’s last meeting with him, but he departs here; however, he will have further dealings with the Eighth Doctor, beginning in comic story The Final Chapter. I have not yet had any experience with the comics, so I can’t comment further on the character’s other appearances. Adding to the story’s distinctives, this is the only audio drama to include Erimem, but not Peri; while Peri is present, she remains in her room for the duration, and Nicola Bryant did not act in this audio. It’s a short, cozy story, running only about thirty-three minutes; it has little effect on the greater story arc surrounding it, which is appropriate for a special (and by special I mean free) release.

The story doesn’t add much to Erimem’s character, although she does give a poignant monologue about her family and how she feels about them; even the Doctor is moved by it, and comments on it. It does add a little to her relationship with the cat, Antranak (as well as the Doctor’s dislike of the cat); also the Doctor and Erimem find themselves to be kindred spirits of a sort, as both are displaced from home, but choose not to return. I can’t comment as to what it may add to Shayde’s character; but he seems to be a reasonable character so far, and I’m interested to see how he develops in the comics.

There are far more continuity references here than one would expect from such a short entry. The Doctor mentions several past incarnations, as Erimem stumbles across their clothing: the Fourth Doctor’s scarf and hat (last seen in Logopolis, if we exclude The Five Doctors), the Third Doctor’s ruffled shirts (Planet of the Spiders), and the second Doctor’s fur coat (Not sure about last appearance, but notably worn in The Abominable Snowmen). He does the same for a few companions: Victoria Waterfield’s dress, which was also worn by Sarah Jane Smith (Pyramids of Mars, in Sarah’s case; it’s uncertain when exactly Victoria wore this particular dress); Leela’s leather outfit; and Jamie McCrimmon’s kilt. When the TARDIS reconfigures, he comments that “The TARDIS has redecorated! …I don’t like it”, echoing the Second Doctor (The Three Doctors) and, later, the Tenth Doctor (Day of the Doctor). He mentions K9 (Warrior’s Gate) and the cloister room (Logopolis, among others). Shayde’s warning about a conquering race echoes Genesis of the Daleks, where it referred to the Daleks. Architectural reconfiguration has been hinted at often (Castrovalva, et al), especially in the VNAs (Nightshade, et al), but was clarified and explained on the television series in Journey to the Center of the TARDIS. The Doctor mentions his family, notably Susan (last seen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth or, alternately, The Five Doctors); his discussion of them echoes his conversation with Victoria in The Tomb of the Cybermen. He mentions the first Emperor of China, Qin Chi Huangdi (although not by name) and his terra cotta army; he met this emperor in his second incarnation in The Emperor of Eternity, which admittedly had not been released at the time this story was released (as well, the encounter portrayed there is not the one mentioned here). He mentions the Library of St. John the Beheaded, which first appeared in All-Consuming Fire before being mentioned in other VNAs. Shayde refers to the Doctor as “Lord President”, which may refer to either The Invasion of Time or The Five Doctors. A similar mouselike creature was a villain in the novel Heart of the TARDIS, against the Second Doctor (giving the lie to his claim here that he had never seen such a thing—there’s really no excuse, as the book predates this story in both timeline and release date). Everlasting matches come from an unusual source: The Daleks–not the television episode, but its novelization. Shayde first appeared, as mentioned, in The Tides of Time.

Overall: The Discontinuity Guide describes this entry as “a nice laid back interlude in the Big Finish range”. I can’t think of a better description of it; it’s simply fun, and not too serious, while not really degrading into parody. As it will be awhile before we get back to Erimem (her next appearance, The Church and the Crown, is about fourteen Main Range entries away), it’s a nice tidbit to hold us over. As well, it was my first encounter with Big Finish’s audios, as I checked out the free selections (in the dim, dead days of a year or two ago, before Spotify picked up the audios) before buying anything. As introductions go, it’s not bad; it requires little to no knowledge of continuity to appreciate, even while it’s laden with references for those who will catch them. This is a story that children would appreciate, but that by no means makes it bad. Check it out if you haven’t; with no cost involved, it’s worth a half hour of your time.

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Next time: Setting aside Erimem for a few months, we’ll continue tomorrow with another interlude: we’ll visit the Doctor Who Unbound range and check in with one of my favorite villains, the Valeyard, in He Jests at Scars! Then, next week, we’ll be listening to Main Range #25, Colditz, on Monday, before beginning the Eighth Doctor Adventures, series two, on Thursday! See you there.

All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this audio drama’s purchase page is linked below.  Please note that this story is available for free!

No Place Like Home

Please note that, although I have categorized this story as Free and Special Releases, it does not connect adequately with any released range.  Therefore the “Previous” and “Next” buttons will take you to the preceding and following entries in the story arc of companion character Erimem, when those posts become available.

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