“The Chimes of Midnight”, written by Rob Shearman, is the 29th audio in Big Finish‘s main range, featuring the Eighth Doctor and Charley Pollard. I’ve been trying to skip ahead, up to the 180’s range, to keep up with the audios that are currently being released, but there’s so much to listen to – nearly two hundred in just the main range – and then I get recommendations from friends, like this one. My friend told me that he thinks Mr. Shearman’s work is brilliant and recommended “The Chimes of Midnight” to me; Mr. Shearman’s other audio, “Scherzo”, is, according to my friend, “f*cked up but fantastic”, and requires some previous audios, as it’s the first story in the Divergent arc. I also happened to already own “The Chimes of Midnight”, so I started there.
Some spoilers ahead (I won’t reveal the whole plot).
I’ve said earlier that one of the things that I like about the Big Finish audio plays is that, unlike the TV show, they are very willing to journey into the surreal, and “The Chimes of Midnight” doesn’t disappoint. It starts out very ordinary, with the TARDIS landing in the servant’s area of a manor house on Christmas Eve, 1906; there’s nothing strange about that. The Doctor and Charley realize pretty quickly that something is odd, and they start exploring and meeting the staff, and this is where it starts getting strange. Everyone is nice and helpful, and everyone is so excited about the cook’s plum pudding, because “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding!” The phrase is repeated by all of the staff, and it seems to focus the surrealism, just that phrase by itself. You start to cringe when you hear it.
Of course, more strange things start to happen, starting with the scullery maid, Edith, telling Charley very matter-of-factly that she’s going to die tonight, which she does, drowned leaning over her tub with her head submerged. The rest of the staff are happy to attribute this to suicide, and when the Doctor says that it’s impossible to kill yourself that way, they claim that Edith was too stupid to know it was impossible. And then the lady’s maid, Mary, begins to realize that she’s the scullery maid, because there never was an Edith. But, an hour later, there’s Edith again, working in the scullery.
I can’t really do this storyline justice, trying to summarize it. Suffice it to say that the weird things continue to compound themselves, and they are intricately wrought to have you going in circles until the Doctor figures out what is really going on. The plot is riveting, and the performances are fantastic. I definitely would recommend this audio as a great one. It does refer back to Charley’s origin audio, “Storm Warning,” but the reference is explained well enough in the audio that I don’t feel you have to have heard it.