Jubilee was written to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2003. Writer Robert Shearman wanted to explore how the once iconic Daleks had become over-merchandised and, frankly, unthreatening over the years. So the basic premise is the public’s perception of Doctor Who (pre-2005) and his most famous nemesis.
Essentially a prototype of Shearman’s 2005 Dalek TV script, Jubilee has some good ideas and is well acted by its small cast. It’s good to hear Colin Baker reprising his role and the fact we can’t see his garish costume makes his portrayal all the more credible (a fact not lost on an in-joke). Maggie Stables provides a welcome change from the usual companion. Her mature academic Evelyn Smythe spars well with The Doctor, enjoying something approaching intellectual parity.
Martin Jarvis’ character Rochester is reminiscent of his role in the Colin Baker TV serial Vengeance On Varos. Jarvis plays a weak leader compromised in trying to satisfy two difficult factions. Jarvis’ real-life wife Rosalind Ayres plays Rochester’s wife Miriam. Shearman somewhat overstates Miriam’s love of bunting to emphasise her eccentricity, but in turn renders the character a bit one-dimensional.
Perhaps the best scene is the imprisoned single Dalek – all the more chilling without the visuals! Unlike the tauter TV version, this is a meandering tale which to be frank can be hard-going. Whole scenes are performed by Daleks. When not demanding or receiving orders, the Daleks sing and talk in faux cockney accents. Though amusing this soon becomes tiresome.
To be fair the first two episodes are very good and an enjoyable listen. Setting the story in two time zones – 1903 and 2003 – allows for some clever moments. The concept of the TARDIS splitting apart and The Doctor existing in two places at once is well handled. Underlying the story are some neat references to the reign of Queen Mary I, such as the prisoner in The Bloody Tower and executions on Tower Hill. The names of the protagonists Farrow and Rochester are in keeping with the Tudor period. The name Farrow was used by Blackadder II if memory serves.
A curate’s egg, then. Entertaining and clever in places, ultimately the story is overwhelmed by silliness. It evokes the Colin Baker era well in this respect. Probably a bit OTT for fans of the current version of the series. Nevertheless it’s interesting to see how a script for audio evolved into one for televison.
Big Finish Productions 2003. Release no. 40Running Time: 100 mins approx. (4 x 25 minute episodes)