As I continue to play “main range catch up”, let’s take a look at Quicksilver. The story is significant for two reasons: 1. it settles the mystery of Constance’s husband that has followed her around since her debut story, and 2. it sees the return of Flip, the Sixth Doctor’s earlier companion, who thankfully has been toned down a bit here…
It’s the telegram Constance never wanted to read:
DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU LT-CMDR H CLARKE LOST IN ACTION. CLASSIFIED OPERATIONS.
Those classified operations concerned a top-secret military project code-named ‘Quicksilver’. A project based in Vienna. A project with alien connections.
But bombed-out Vienna is not what it was before the war – with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm. It’s not the time nor the place for a happy reunion. As Constance Clarke is about to discover…
And as the Doctor is about to discover, too!
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Colin Baker) – The sixth incarnation of the Doctor is under the impression that Constance has finished her travels with him, and he hates goodbyes. He soon leaves her, knowing that once again he’ll be companionless… Luckily for him, by the end of the story it’s quite the opposite!
Constance Clarke (Miranda Raison) – A WREN who was working at Bletchley Park until The Doctor came along, but has now returned home to find her husband killed in action… then to find her husband alive and having an affair, a couple of years into the future. Long story…
Flip (Lisa Greenwood) – Philippa “Flip” Jackson left The Doctor behind and got married, though on the night of her wedding she finds herself rocketed towards the past and a fateful re-encounter with The Doctor…
Henry Clarke (Matthew Cottle) – A special agent during the war, where he met and fell in love with a Russian named Ana. He faked his death to spend his life with her, though the fact he has a wife named Constance back at home is something he keeps to himself…
The Vilal and The Zerith – Two warring races from the same solar system, the Vilal are losing the war and are in need of their strategy computer, which sadly for them gained sentence and went on the run…
The Doctor is on fine form, being caring, and then angry, and then back to caring again, sometimes in the same episode. Constance is the same stiff-upper-lip 40s woman and has some great, and realistic, scenes with her husband, even among the chaos of alien invasion. Most importantly Flip is actually bearable here. In the past she was a literal walking cultural reference machine and nothing more, even when facing death she’d make some jokey reference to a modern TV show. Thankfully she’s presented here as a little more level headed and not quite as obnoxiously “hey, I’m from the modern times everybody!” as she was in the past, though still gets in a few references. I guess her new role as the funny one with Constance playing the straight man role is what really works, complimenting each character and making them stronger as a result.
This story is the opposite of Absolute Power when it comes to characters. Henry Clarke is really well developed, he did cheat on his wife, which I’m in no way defending, but you do get a real sense that he and Constance married young and now he’s met someone he actually fell in love with proper and found himself unable to pull away from her. He does some bad things that might endanger human lives towards the end, but he does it because Ana, his Russian lover, is pregnant and he wants to get her over the border to safety. Protecting your family is a believable reason to do something bad, and it lead to some good drama.
Funny to think the CG creation of a Vilal was probably 90% of the time and effort it took to make this striking cover…
Kinvar, the Vilal’s battle computer that went array and tried to avoid war was an interesting idea, and he worked well teaming with the Doctor while the girls were away together. You got a legit sense of fear from him, and even the moody and shouty Sixth Doctor soon stopped reprimanding him about his interference with human technology and felt sorry for him.
While it was sometimes hard to visualise a battle between bulky trolls in heavy armour (The Vilal) and beings described as resembling six-foot tall glass praying mantises (The Zerith), I do appreciate the “unlimited budget on audio” approach to their creation. I liked how most of the story is set in 1948 Vienna, when it was divided into four zones patrolled by America, Great Britain, France, and Russia. It was a good setting given the bulk of the plot revolved around a retired/into hiding British secret agent.
There isn’t much to dislike. The ending, which saw the Doctor mentally project a 20-foot tall image of himself declaring he and his people would wipe out both sides of the Vilal / Zerith war if they didn’t create peace, was a little… I don’t know, silly, I guess. I didn’t hate it, if there was a “The Average” section in these reviews this would go there, but there you go. I mean if the Zerith were so close to winning the war overall, I at least like that they were far more reluctant to go along with the treaty than the Vilal.
Not much, beyond plenty of nods to Constance’s intro story (“Criss-Cross”), Flip’s first and last stories (“The Curse of Davros” and “Scavenger”, respectively) and this following on from Constance’s decision to leave the TARDIS and return home from “Absolute Power”, the previous release.
This is everything Absolute Power wasn’t. All the characters are well fleshed out, even the generic alien races are given more personality and backstory that we saw in the previous story. The Doctor and Constance were on fine form, the plot was continually interesting, and even Flip was more than bearable. If this is an indication of things to come with the new trio of Doctor/Constance/Flip, then I’m looking forward to their next set of three stories towards the Autumn…