|The Sirens of Time by Nicholas Briggs|
Sirens of Time was just another audio production when it was announced way back in nineteen ninety something. It wasn’t as if we had been in an audio desert. Paradise of Death and Ghosts of N Space were both within spitting distance, we’d had the McGann and Baker/Bryant short story collections, the audio books of several novels (read by actual Doctors) and so on. This just seemed like another audio release. Yes it was bigger than the others because it had three Doctors in it but it wasn’t anything really special was it? And it was by Big Finish Productions – the only thing I knew about them was a half remembered review of one of the Benny stories. SFX took them to task for using a quote from an SFX review on the cover of a CD while editing the quote so it went from negative to positive. Something along the lines of "It’s hard to imagine who thought this would be an ideal start to the range!" being cut to "An ideal start to the range! (SFX)"
But we needn’t have feared. Sirens of Time would prove to be every bit a proper Doctor Who story and it’s thanks to someone who would go on to have a much bigger role in the range. Pages and pages have been written about the story’s strengths and… what was that, Gary? Oh very well. Pages and pages have been written about the play’s strengths and weaknesses but seldom have we seen its main contribution given the credit it deserves.
Some time ago I got a tip off that Sir Nicholas Briggs and Dame Maggie Stables would be on BBC Radio London of an evening. They, it seems, are old show biz chums. Another of their mutual old show biz chums was Sadie, presenter of the show. Hence the appearance of two people that the listening several wouldn’t have known from a bald man who was on telly once and a woman who sounds as if she might have been someone’s mum in an advert. Briggs talked about Big Finish, callers and emailers praised him for the then-brand new "Creatures of Beauty" and then it happened.
I am paraphrasing slightly but Maggie Stables told an anecdote. One which, if I may borrow an expression from this site’s patron saint, was convention calibre. "Nick said he thought of Ruthley as a grotesque alien warthog and told me ‘Maggie – I thought of you!’"
Big Finish were making proper Doctor Who – they had anecdotes. I am sure (at least pleasantly confident) that this tale has been told many, many times. Big Finish has their own eye-patch story. They have nudity in front of vicars. They have "Matt finish". I like to think that Maggie Stables rarely, if ever, does a public appearance and doesn’t tell the story. It is, after all, the entry into the Big Finish family of one of its most successful creations. Only Charley can be spoken of in the same breath as Evelyn Smythe. Maggie can probably do an entire Q&A session with nothing more than the warthog anecdote and a few chocolate cake recipes.
God bless her.
Part 1 - Tracks 1-6
Part 2 - Tracks 7-11
Part 3 - Tracks 1-5
Part 4 - Tracks 6-11