Sympathy for the Devil is the second adventure in Big Finish‘s Doctor Who Unbound range. This range poses a number of “What if..?” scenarios on Doctor Who, such as What if… the Doctor and Susan had never left Gallifrey? or What if… the Doctor had not been UNIT’s scientific advisor? Sympathy for the Devil answers that second question.
I’ve just started listening to this adventure right now, having hesitated to do so as I would much rather listen to “real” Doctor Who adventures that recapture the memories of the TV series. However, the ongoing modern TV series and some of Big Finish‘s own adventures that deviate from those memories has made me more accustomed to “alternatives”, which seems to lead me into finding time for Doctor Who Unbound. The two adventures I currently have available feature David Warner as an alternative Doctor, ably aided by the late Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.
Sympathy for the Devil opens in Hong Kong, in 1997, the evening before sovreignty was handed back from that of the United Kingdom. The setting is a pub in the “little England” area, frequented by what can only be described as bigoted yobs, but a pub that’s run by the Brigadier. The TARDIS arrives and a confused Doctor steps out, presumably having recently regenerated. He finds the pub, and hence the Brigadier, and tries to convince him that he is the Doctor.
It turns out that the Doctor didn’t arrive in the 80s (remember that the UNIT stories were set in the 80s, even though the series was in the 70s) during the business with the Autons. As such, the Doctor didn’t become UNIT’s scientific advisor and wasn’t there to aid the Brigadier and UNIT during times of alien encounters. This ultimately led to the Brigadier leaving his commission under less than positive circumstances, hence seeing him in his current position.
So far, Sympathy for the Devil is interesting me far more than I thought it would. Nicholas Courtney provides a familiar link back to the series we know and love, while David Warner does an excellent job of presenting us with a confused Doctor who feels something isn’t right but can’t work out what it is. The story definitely benefits from the fact that both Courteny and Warner have distinctive voices that you never tire of listening to. You simply can’t get better than two superb actors subtly playing off each other.
I’m not sure I really care what happens in the rest of the adventure. I just want to keep listening to Nicholas Courtney and David Warner.