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Audio Review: Doctor Who - The Companion Chronicles: The Suffering 
30th-May-2010 12:40 pm
The Suffering (Doctor Who: The Companion Chronicles) The Suffering by Jacqueline Rayner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jacqueline Rayner has always demonstrated notable skills at both historicals and writing for the Hartnell era, and those are displayed beautifully in this story.

This is double-length Companion Chronicle, featuring the voices of two companions: Steven and Vicki. The framing device of this story is that Steven and Vicki are making a record of events in case the villain of the piece ever returns. There's some fun banter between the two of them as they try to decide how to best tell the story - like "Ringpullworld", this is a Companion Chronicle that is really having fun with its nature as a narrated story, though it's done in a bit less metafictional way than in "Ringpullworld".

The story features the TARDIS crew arriving on early twentieth century earth. Steven discovers an unusual fragment of skull that the Doctor identifies as non-human, and which seems to have a strange influence on any women nearby. Steven and the Doctor go off to track the rest of the skull, while Vicki gets involved in a suffragette protest. The two plotlines end up converging - the skull is that of an alien woman, who led a rebellion on a male-dominated planet, and created a female-dominated society. She was betrayed and killed, but her skull retained a psychic power to influence women. And when she arrives on Earth, and sees the state of women in society in the early 1900s, she's ready to lead a revolution all over again.

This is Doctor Who taking on "the battle between the sexes" in a more sophisticated way than it usually does. (Rayner points this up by including several references to "Galaxy 4", Doctor Who's first real "planet-of-the-women" story - in fact, unless we're meant to believe that the 4th Galaxy is full of bizarre sex-segregated societies, I believe that the villain's backstory is also the origin story of the Drahvin society we see in "Galaxy 4".) The story offers a genuinely affecting portrayal of the sufferings of the women involved in the suffragette movement, and while the resolution of the conflict gets a bit sentimental, it basically works.

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