Doctor Who – “The Last Day at Work”

Doctor Who: Short Trips
Paul Spragg Memorial Short Trips Opportunity 2018
Written by: Harry Draper
Directed by: Alfie Shaw
Performed by: Nicholas Briggs
Duration: 40 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-78703-708-3
Chronology Placement: Set after “Fury of the Deep” and before “The Wheel in Space”

Synopsis: Constable Bernard Whittam is in for a special evening. Finally retiring from a lifetime in the police force, he’s celebrating with friends, family and the woman he loves. It’s all perfect. Apart from the noise in his head, the wheezing, groaning noise that has haunted his entire life. That and the unusual gatecrashers. It’s going to be a night to remember…

As a memorial and tribute to their colleague Paul Spragg, Big Finish holds a competition each year for new writers to pitch ideas for a Short Trips story – roughly half hour in length and read by a single actor. Winning scripts are developed with Big Finish and eventually produced as a free audio release to commemorate Paul Spragg’s life. “The Last Day at Work”, released in December 2018, is the third audiobook in this series and it features my all-time favourite TARDIS partnership, The Doctor and Jamie McCrimmon.

Writer Harry Draper weaves an intriguing adventure that reaches far back to that very first shot of “An Unearthly Child” to cement itself into Doctor Who mythology, and adds further detail to the event that caused the TARDIS Chameleon Circuit to lock onto the iconic police box design. The Short Trips format affords writers the opportunity to create a slower-paced adventure that focuses more on character than action, and Draper manages to craft compelling supporting characters and a poignant ending within the space of forty minutes. His interpretation of the Second Doctor and Jamie is spot-on, highlighting the bickering friendship between the pair as they stumble upon mystery in a pub in Barnes Common. I also liked the brief moment where Jamie addresses his feelings about Victoria’s recent absence in “Fury of the Deep”, and the way she would help him adjust to the modern world.

Nicholas Briggs continues to demonstrate his extensive range as a voice actor with this tale, managing to create distinctive voices for each of the characters. His interpretation of the Second Doctor is amazing, capturing the vocal mannerisms of the character perfectly, and he also manages to recreate Jamie’s naivety. I was shocked by the amount of emotion that Briggs brought to his performance, managing to make the listener care about the fate of a character that they had only been introduced to less than an hour ago. As with “Landbound”, this story is rich with character and Briggs manages to imbue each of his supporting characters with a great sense of realism, which is ironic considering the outcome of the story itself.

The Last Day at Work” takes the familiar concept of the TARDIS Chameleon Circuit and explores it in a fresh way, adding plenty to the series’ mythology whilst creating a solid character-driven denouement that will linger in the listener’s memory. While it might be a slow-burn of an episode, it demonstrates the emotional impact that Big Finish audiobooks can have as it transcends the typical “monster of the week” format of the series during the Second Doctor era. I am utterly shocked that this is a free download as the benchmark of quality is so high – Big Finish could easily charge a nominal fee for these annual releases and I think fans would still download them in their droves to support the company and honour Paul Spragg’s memory. Rich in both continuity and character, “The Last Day at Work” represents everything I love about Big Finish, and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Score – ★★★★★

Doctor Who: The Last Day at Work is available direct from Big Finish as a free digital download.

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