The Seventh Doctor acquires a new companion in the form of a cat burglar and safe cracker in the 2011 audio play Crime of the Century. The second adaptation from the unproduced 1990 season of the TV show, this audio play is a well written and entertaining continuation of the saga begun in Thin Ice about the entangled interests of the Soviet Union, the Ice Warriors, and the London criminal underworld.
Andrew Cartmel, script editor for the Seventh Doctor era of Doctor Who, adapts his own teleplay for audio. Raine Creevy (Beth Chalmers), a character originally intended to replace Ace (Sophie Aldred) as the Doctor’s companion instead joins Ace as an additional companion for the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). One can easily sense where the story is divided between the original teleplay elements and the new audio elements that incorporate Ace, who was supposed to have left at the end of Thin Ice. While the Doctor’s in London getting acquainted with Raine, Ace is on a mission in a fictional Middle Eastern country where the Soviet Union are in the process of invading.
Like Thin Ice, Crime of the Century is critical of Soviet hypocrisy, somewhat ironic after Ace’s almost romance with the Soviet officer in the 1989 serial Curse of Fenric. The impression I have is that the Soviet subplots in the audios were added or expanded for the audios but, with the story elements in Fenric, it makes for a pretty good narrative, starting with the optimistic young man in the 1940s of Fenric, then the deteriorating reality in the 1960s portrayed in Thin Ice, and finally, in Crime of the Century, things have come full circle and the Soviets are called “oppressors” by the rebels in the Middle Eastern country. But there’s a third player, too, a race of intelligent insects who are attacking both Soviets and rebels, and it’s to find out about them Ace has braved the war zone. These scenes are pretty effectively written, featuring a traumatised soldier who talks of the insect “demons” and a rebel leader who’s ready to execute Ace as a spy.
This plot is interestingly contrasted with a more amusing caper plot in London where Raine is introduced delivering a narration, a diary, giving intricate details of posing as a party guest, getting upstairs in a big house, and finally cracking the safe. Everything goes according to plan until she opens the safe to find the Doctor inside, on the point of suffocation. The two escape with the loot and there’s an effective moment where the Doctor’s talent for strategy and misdirection are shown when he insists on going through the kitchen and taking some pepper.
Eventually, the two plots combine, resulting in a neat scene where Ace has to learn how to use a sword in a pinch and an amusing scene where the Doctor tampers with one alien’s translator device to make him sound like a surfer. One might expect tone to be a hopeless mishmash but it all works pretty well.