THE CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT
The “Lost” Doctor Who Christmas Special
Starring: Paul McGann, India Fisher, Louise Rolfe, Lennox Greaves, Sue Wallace, Robert Curbishley, and Juliet Warner
Written by: Robert Shearman
Directed by: Barnaby Edwards
Holly Jolly SPOILERS AHEAD
We all have a favorite Doctor Who Christmas special. Hell, I even Scientifically and Not At All Subjectively ranked them not but a few days ago! Stay tuned for that bit of written insanity. But what if I told you there is one that you might not know about? One that could arguably be counted among the very BEST Doctor Who Christmas episodes!? AH HA! Yeah! Well, refill that eggnog ya filthy Whovian because we are gonna talk The Chimes of Midnight! A lavishly entertaining audio adventure starring a man who somehow can SOUND handsome; Paul McGann as the Doctor! Alongside him is his plucky, pre-Clara Oswald paradox based companion Charley Pollard, played with panache by India Fisher and together they navigate a twisty, Upstairs/Downstairs like horrorshow where time is starting to turn inward on itself! All this on Christmas Eve no less! Join me by the fire, and let’s discuss this “lost” holiday classic.
So, The Chimes of Midnight has been around since 2002. Though released in February of that year as a part of Big Finish’s monthly range starring McGann and Fisher, it quickly gained a reputation in the Big Finish fandom as a bit of a holiday classic. SO MUCH SO that the company released a limited vinyl run of 500 copies with a brand new cover (the first CD cover being the first time an original audio range companion was seen on the cover) and audio documentary about the making of the now cult classic story. I had actually first heard about it, aside from listener’s opinions, when the Big Finish website ran a sale on audios set during Christmas, and since it was at a fairly deep discount, I snatched it up, on word of mouth alone.
And I am happy to report that it bloody well lives up to the hype! I have recently become a pretty huge believer in Big Finish as a source of consistently satisfying expanded universe content. That said, I understand that their Doctor Who line is a bit intimidating. I mean, this thing dropped in 2002 for Rassilon’s sake. On top of that, there are literally hundreds….HUNDREDS of other Doctor Who stories throughout this range. Not to mention the dozens of other spinoffs and sister series that have sprung up through the company’s offerings! COUNTER-MEASURES HAS A SHOW, Y’ALL. It is a lot.
But I am ALSO happy to report that none of that really matters for this story as well! Making it the perfect two for two in terms of accessibility just for Doctor Who in general AND a long-standing monolith of expanded universe content starring a Doctor who never even got a full TV series. Though the resolution to the story gets a bit “inside baseball” in terms of Charley’s first meeting with the Doctor (complete with a few audio cues back to the episode in question), Robert Shearman’s script delivers one cracker of a Christmas problem and uses a damn fine and wildly underrated Doctor to unravel it.
Materializing in a cupboard in the Edwardian Era on Christmas Eve, the Doctor and Charley quickly find themselves entangled in a nasty time paradox. One that is killing on the hour of midnight to sustain it’s life! But not only is it killing, but it is also staging a grand Edwardian class farce just for the sake of doing so, building up a whole cast of characters, a cook, a driver, a butler, etc. and then randomly choosing one of them to murder in some Agatha Christie-esque way in order to keep the paradox intact. Oh, and did I mention it is a HOUSE?!? Like a living house? Who wants to be a British lordly asshole? It is just…SO Doctor Who, I absolutely love it.
And not only that but the Eighth Doctor and Charley are a friggen DELIGHT! Sleuthing and snarking throughout the story and then saving the day with their big ol’ hearts, three counting Charley’s. I feel like time has been very, very kind to Paul McGann’s incarnation and we only have to listen to episodes like this one to know why. He is all the darkness of Nine with all the boyish charm of Ten! I have often maintained that if McGann had gotten but TWO years on TV, he would have been talked about as one of the greats but I am more than happy we got a bunch of audio stories just like this one in that untelevised stead.
So this season when you think about what Doctor Who Christmas thingy to turn on, you give The Chimes of Midnight a try. You will not be disappointed. Whimsical, dark, and more than a little stirring, this spooky Christmas yarn is always on some sort of sale at Big Finish.com around the holidays or could most likely be found lurking around somewhere on the internet. I truly believe it will be a new holiday tradition for me. I bought it last year, and bloody loved it. Listened to it again this year for this piece? Bloody LOVED it again! It is the gift that keeps on giving! Give yourself or the nerd you love that same gift this holiday.
Until next time, Merry Whomas, and I’ll be seeing you.