I actually forgot about the Eighth Doctor’s run with Mary Shelley as a companion when I announced this marathon, but I will quickly add her into it, even if she only lasts three more stories after this 30-minute one… Mary’s Story is a fun one, mind you, full of good atmosphere and two very different versions of the same incarnation of The Doctor. Intrigued? Read on!
Switzerland, 1816: at the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron’s house guests tell each other tales to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart. With a monster on the loose outside, young Mary Shelley isn’t short of inspiration.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
This is actually a fan made cover, but it’s spread like wildfire across the internet… well, the Big Finish audio drama side of the internet… which isn’t exactly massive… Anyway, it’s really good!
The Doctor (Paul McGann) – The Doctor arrives burnt and near-death, to a place he feels he’s been to before… and quite recently, too…
Mary Shelley (Julie Cox) – Mary and her husband Percy are staying in a Villa with several friends, the horrid weather infamously leading to the writing of various famous works of fiction, though how much is actually fiction is up for debate…
Percy Shelley (Anthony Glennon) – Percy ran away with Mary a few years ago, leaving behind a wife and child, but he doesn’t regret his decision. Mary on the other hand…
Lord Byron (Robert Forknall) – Lord Byron may be a great and witty playwrite, but he has also got Mary’s stepsister pregnant while also having a wife and daughter back home…
The Doctor Who Magazine illustration! I didn’t think they were still doing these at this point…
The whole story is just 30-ish minutes, but it gets a lot done. The stormy night atmosphere is layered on, Mary and companions are suitably early 1800s upper-class, and The Doctor soon arrives scarred and near-death, describing himself as Doctor Frankenstein is a confused haze after seeing Mary. He soon seemingly dies, leading to Percy to recommend trying Galvani’s experiment where he used electroshock to reanimate frogs, but with The Doctor’s body instead, which, to their surprise, works! … Sort of.
The twisted and confused “monster” Doctor runs out of the house and Mary runs after it, soon running into a younger, fresh-faced Eighth Doctor, who happens to arrive. Between the two of them they fix his future self and heal him, the two Doctors then exchange some bitter words, the older Eighth Doctor being annoyed by how chirpy and full of excitement his younger self is (which makes sense given what we know this incarnation goes through…) and that’s that! Rather than face the unpleasant bores in the villa, Mary decides to travel with the young Doctor.
It’s a good short story, full of great dialogue and sets up the following three stories well.
The only thing I don’t like is it does that classic thing of explaining how a famous writer got their ideas from, in this case Mary Shelley got her ideas for Frankenstein, right down to the name, from this incident, instead of it just being from her imagination. It sort of short-changes her ability and claims it all came from experience, rather than her own creativity.
The official cover for the collection of four stories that included this one… You can see why I went with a fan-made one, this doesn’t really say much about Mary’s Story specifically!
The biggest continuity link is now the Thirteenth Doctor TV story “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” which takes place at the same time with the same characters, and therefore “decanonises” this story. To be fair, time can be rewritten and all that, so it’s no big deal, but it is a rare instance of such a blatant re-write of The Doctor’s own timeline!
The younger Doctor says he is travelling with Samson and Gemma but left them in Vienna, the Doctor’s memories of the two companions will be wiped by Davros as revealed in “Terror Firma”.
That’s about it though. The older Eighth Doctor could presumably come from the Time War, but when this was written it wasn’t known if the Eighth even took part. It’s mentioned that his TARDIS gets regenerated, which might be from the classic TV Movie console to the one we see the War Doctor have, but again, it’s all guesswork.
Mary’s Story is a great little adventure, full of great atmosphere and fun dialogue. Paul McGann plays two very different versions of the same incarnation of The Doctor, an idea that has only gone on to make more and more sense. A good story, especially given the limitations of its length.