Arrangements for War
Big Finish Productions
Thicker Than Water

Written by Edward Salt Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2005
Continuity Between The Trial of a Time Lord and
Time and the Rani

Starring Colin Baker, Maggie Stables and Bonnie Langford

Synopsis: Three years after Világ was all but laid waste by the Killorans, the Doctor is back alongside a different companion. And a lot has changed. Friendships bind people close, but they say that blood is...


Finally, A Happy Ending by Mekel Rogers 11/11/05

The Colin Baker/Evelyn Smythe story arc has been packed with tragic events and bitter-sweet experiences which is also reflected in the TARDIS team's personal strife. So it comes as a great relief that Thicker Than Water is about resolutions, and finally concludes the emotional roller-coaster we've all been on for the past four or five Evelyn adventures.

Strictly speaking, Thicker Than Water is a sequel to Arrangements for War. Set on Vilag several years after the Doctor's first visit. Evelyn's departure from the TARDIS and subsequent marriage to Sutekh (oops, I mean Rossiter) has already happened and is explained in several very good flashback scenes. The Doctor visits with his now-companion, Mel, and gets embroiled in yet another political crisis.

Colin Baker comes off so well in this audio, being sarcastic and harsh one minute, compassionate and darn near cuddly the next. His scenes with Gabriel Woolf and Maggie Stables are wonderful character moments that really illustrate just how special Evelyn is to both men. As one might expect, Mel gets rather sidelined in this story. Bonnie Langford has a good go at it but apart from her falling down a lift shaft and getting slapped twice there's not much there on the page for her to do. On the other hand, Sylvester McCoy turns up in a surprise cameo during part four and in a brilliant scene, makes peace with Evelyn and resolves a conflict stemming all the way back from the events in Project: Lazarus. Marvelous.

Bottom Line: After all Evelyn has been through, thank goodness she's finally happy, because my nerves couldn't take anymore.

Thicker than pigshit by Phil Ince 17/11/05

I believe that I may have finished this story at about 6 o'clock on Wednesday morning and in my sleep. Having heard the first episode some days before, the supremely anodyne script and consequently limping performances didn't spur me to persist at any pace.

Having finished the thing, I turned as usual to the glorious timelash site to see what others made of it. And at the time of writing, there were 6 votes up yielding an average rating of 7.

Seven? Seven!!!??? SE-VEN?????????!!!!!!!!!!

#~$!*%£ *%$!

Oh, good God above! Oh, Christ almighty! Oh, merciful saviour and redeemer... you get the idea... is it awful?

What *$!# could possibly devote above average ratings for this crud? How could anyone listen with pleasure to this timid, painful, humourless cheese? Written by and produced for the children of parents exposed to dangerous doses of radiation during pregnancy, I presume, the audience can be supposed only to comprise freaks with brains 1/10th the normal size in nevertheless grotesquely-enlarged crania. The children of Chernobyl. In short, Ukranians and the Welsh.

One can only guess at the sense of shame and failure which overwhelms the performers as they make the first, sickened read through of the script. For poor Colin Baker, it must be quite like old times.

Apparantly, Bonnie Langford and Colin Baker are "two of the best things to ever happen to Doctor Who". If the producer sincerely believes that to be the case, why would he then continue to insult them with this trash?

Happy goodbyes! by Joe Ford 20/1/06

I want to thank Big Finish. They have offered me the perfect jumping off point for their Doctor Who range. I have long been disillusioned about the quality of their adventures for a good few years now and have always been on the precipice of deciding that 14.99 is just too much to spend every month on a range of such variable quality. However there was one character who kept me coming back, who made sure I at least kept eye on what was going on with Colin Baker's Doctor, who made the series genuinely worth listening to.

Doctor Evelyn Smythe. Played by the wonderful Maggie Stables, she has taken the character and the series to unexpected places and proven to us that there is still so much more for Doctor Who to explore. Here is a woman who genuinely complements the sixth Doctor, primarily because she is as dotty and as brusque as he is and as such she has positively humanise the leas likable Doctor and turned him into someone far more accessible, likable and charming. With Evelyn by his side the sixth Doctor is the best Doctor, bar none. Not only that, but the writers have always been kept on their toes with this character and the level of quality in the sixth Doctor/Evelyn stories is unrivalled in Big Finish's catalogue. Just look at some of those titles: The Marian Conspiracy, Bloodtide, Project: Twilight, Jubilee, Doctor Who and the Pirates, Arrangements for War... quality stuff and no mistake.

Thicker than Water is the end of an era. But it's a satisfying one. It pulls Evelyn's adventures together into one self-contained story, one that it will be my pleasure to dip into again and again. Would there ever have been a story good enough to push Evelyn out of the TARDIS in? I doubt it so Paul Sutton doesn't even bother. Instead he sets Thicker than Water after she has already departed and now the Doctor has the unforgettable Melanie Bush by his side. However Sutton realises we can't just hop from Medicinal Purposes where Evelyn is perfectly content travelling by the Doctor's side to this without any kind of explanation as to why she left so he includes a number of Buffy/Angel style flashbacks throughout the narrative to chronicle her decision to leave and her building of a new life in the country Vilag.

Arrangements for Water was a pretty stunning audio, all told. It featured some fantastic sound design and music, a rock solid plot, which kept throwing up surprises and a heartbreaking examination of the Doctor/Evelyn relationship. If anyone was going to write this story it had to be the man who wrote that. Step forward Paul Sutton, who provided one more surprise in his debut audio and that was the burgeoning relationship between Evelyn and Rossiter, a politician who was trying to secure peace between two states. It could have been awful, a stodgy romance between two old dears sounds like the recipe for melodramatic mush but thanks to some great dialogue and the fantastic chemistry between Maggie Stables and Gabriel Woolf it turned out to be the best thing about the story. Their relationship opens up some surprising information about Evelyn and allows us to see her in a softer light. The scene where she breaks down, tired of her heart condition, running away from the Doctor and thinking about her dead mother, is a real grab-the-hankies moment.

So here we are, three years later and Evelyn has settled with Rossiter on Vilag. The flashback to her departure with the Doctor is brief but speaks volumes, his childish dismissal of their time together and wish to run off back out into the universe says so much without having to say anything. The emotions brewed between them in this story are very potent, especially when we discover that Evelyn married Rossiter and was eager for the Doctor, her best friend, to return and give her away. This sounds terrible, faux-soap operish nonsense but it is a testament to the relationship Colin Baker and Maggie Stables have built up over these years that this material is heartbreaking. The Doctor has never had a friend like Evelyn before, someone who in all practical sense plays the role of his wife. She was his confidante and his friend and they were more than intellectually matched. When she walked out of his life he felt hurt and alone, further reason to love this tempestuous incarnation. Her delightful reaction when he pops back with Mel is wonderful.

Talking of which, this is another great audio for Bonnie Langford who is notching up a fair few classics of her own. Her chemistry with Colin Baker is as frisky as ever and their first scene together is a particular highlight. Whilst Evelyn will always be the sixth Doctor's ultimate companion in my eyes, Mel would come a close second; it is astonishing how well the two of them work together in this story. That was the moment I really wanted to get to in this story, when Mel and Evelyn get to be a companion duo. I mean honestly, would you take these two on?

Could the plot possibly match up to all the heavy character work going on? Not really, but it has a bloody good go anyway. There is an interesting back-story running through concerning the Killoran invasion in Arrangements and the desire of the academics (including Evelyn) to study the devices they left behind. This sets Evelyn up against Rossiter's daughter who is widely opposed to the idea. Cue: assassination attempts, kidnaps, horrid experiments, torture and mother in law/daughter in law arguments. There's a lot packed in, the lighter, character-based first episodes leading into a complex plot of intrigue, highlighted by some smashing twists later on. Why is Evelyn so grumpy of late? What happened to those Killorans who were injured but not killed during the invasion? And who (and why) would anyone want to kidnap Rossiter's new wife?

The Doctor and Rossiter get to spend a lot more time together in this story than they did in the former and it is quite fascinating to compare Evelyn's old suitor to her new one. There is none of the embarrassing "she's mine!" you might expect; Sutton is too disciplined a writer to insult us is with that. instead, both share a strong affection and concern for Evelyn that is a delight to see. When Rossiter turns on the Doctor and gives him the slap in the face he needs (not literally, he tells him how heartbroken Evelyn was when he did not turn up at the wedding) the Doctor's pained, quiet reaction is a revelation. The race against time conclusion to save her life is every bit as exciting as a climax should be and with both the Doctor and Rossiter desperate to see Evelyn survive the stakes seem higher than ever.

All of the juiciest stuff comes in the last episode including a well-timed and surprising visit by the seventh Doctor, making one of his briefest and yet best appearances in any Big Finish audio. There is a twist here that will leave regular Big Finish listeners reeling and to give it up during a sixth Doctor adventure when it concerns somebody who has no relevance on his life whatsoever is daring in a way this company hasn't been in a long while. I loved it, and I hope the information can be used effectively in the seventh Doctor's adventures now.

It's another atmospheric production but I expect nothing less these days. Big Finish have been churning out these CDs for years now and their behind the scenes crew know exactly what they are doing. Everything sounds authentic: gunfire, rebuilding, parties, tortured victims (I'd love to see them recording that!) and I was once again planted right in the story. It was Ed Salt's first Doctor Who story after directing a ton of Bernice Summerfield audios and he does a fine job. With material this good it would be hard to get it wrong but he utilises some techniques that work a charm, especially during the flashbacks, which I fear would not have been as effective in the hands of some other directors. He certainly gets the emotional content spot on and again you may find yourself reaching for the hankies before the end.

The final scene is a perfect conclusion to the Doctor and Evelyn's relationship. If they had no further material together after this I would be more than happy to leave their relationship here. When she tells him the she loves him it is the climax of a relationship that has been exquisitely nurtured and rather than reaching for the sick bucket I could barely hold back the tears.

A wonderful partnership comes to an end in real style.

Goodbye Evelyn by Noe Geric 11/8/19

After five years as the Doctor's companion, it was time for Evelyn Smythe to leave the Doctor's company and to live happily ever after. This story sees Evelyn meet Mel and is a sequel to the excellent Arrangements for War. But is it better than the former story?

Evelyn's departure is presented only in flashback, as we find out she decided to finally live with Rossiter on the planet Vilag. Once they've saved a planet from destruction, the Doctor asks Mel if she would want to meet Evelyn. And of course she accepts or there will be no story at all. But Vilag is, once more, in trouble. Two political factions are fighting about the use of the Killoran technology from the previous invasion that took place. Evelyn is fighting Rossiter's daughter, Sofia, in a political duel. Daughter and step-mother fighting each other with words. But Evelyn is ill, she has headache and no one know why.

The Doctor finds out the terrible secret about all this while Mel and Evelyn are kidnapped by a doctor who's quite disturbed. Of course, as it is a story written by Paul Sutton, there's the necessary love-plot, and all the plot revolves around another love story. The villain isn't who you think it is, and there's a sweet cameo from Sylvester McCoy. Evelyn's last scene is particularly touching. Of course, she'll meet the Doctor once again, but there's a feeling of happy ending here. The Doctor and Evelyn are happy, and everybody is happy in the best of worlds. Nobody could've known the tragic events that will occure in A Death in the Family.

I liked Thicker more than Arrangements. The plot isn't too complicated, there's some sense of mystery and Mel gets a lot to do. While Arrangements tried to focus on the love between two characters and the invasion of the planet, Thicker tries to do something more interesting with the characters, not just doing a Romeo and Juliet drama in space. Of course, the villain is a bit dull, but his fate reveals that, technically, the Doctor hasn't won this time and that he can't always win over the villain. The acting is fine, the sound design is excellent, and the planet Vilag really lives around you. It's a bit weird that Vilag seems to have the same technology as actual Earth. The story is about Evelyn and the Doctor, but I still don't get why it's called Thicker than Water!

Vilag seems to be the planet that work perfectly on audio; nothing is too visual, and the descriptive dialogues are funny enough not to look forced. Sutton understands how to describe the surroundings without it sounding ridiculous. And that's a real problem in audio form.

A perfect 'ending' for Evelyn's adventure, and perhaps one of my favorite story of Evelyn's run. The story tries to focus as much on Evelyn as on the legacy of the Killoran invasion; the Seventh Doctor cameo came for me as a surprise, and it prepares you for the next adventures with Hex and the arc around his mother's identity. A great success: 10/10.

Blood in the Water by Jacob Licklider 11/10/20

Writing a companion departure halfway through their run as companion to the Doctor seems much like an odd thing to do, but perhaps fearing they would lose their license to produce Doctor Who related audio dramas, Big Finish decided that now was the time to write the departure for Dr. Evelyn Smythe into a story. They made it even more unconventional, as Thicker than Water, while dealing with the departure of Evelyn Smythe, does it in flashbacks while the main story involves the Doctor and Mel revisiting Evelyn who has married Rossiter from Arrangements for War. The plot of the actual story is not nearly as good as the original Arrangements for War, as it becomes a much less meaningful plot about what is right to do with prisoners of war after the war is over. Sutton doesn't handle it nearly as well as he handles the characters going through the war, which made that plot work much better. That isn't to say Sutton isn't good at his characters, which he is brilliantly here, and his characterization allows for the two-hour piece to feel like it's only about one hour in length, which is done very well.

Let's talk about those characters, starting with Evelyn and Rossiter, who share a much more intimate relationship than in the previous story. Maggie Stables' Evelyn has been advocating for research into the Killorans' DNA and is happy to have her heart condition taken care of, but the price is that she has become more aggressive of a person. These headaches have been making her act out against people, and that plays into some of the mystery of the story. Evelyn is still the character we know and love, but she has started to change and become almost hardened, and Stables is able to pull it off.

Of course by the end there is a return to the status quo, and you get a cameo from Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor where we get to resolve the plotlines from some earlier releases which is extremely well done. I won't go into spoiling what exactly will be revealed, but it serves as a set up to another one of Seven's masterplans in a very clever way. The story makes it very subtle, but there can be no denial that it is there and something special is coming for the Seventh Doctor. Gabriel Woolf as Rossiter shows a lot of the same chemistry with Evelyn that was seen in Arrangements for War, not because of the writing but because of Woolf's inflection in every line. Each delivery directed towards Evelyn has a sense of love put behind each line. Woolf isn't being the villain here but being a genuinely caring husband and father to his own daughter.

Yes, Rossiter has a daughter from his previous marriage, a doctor called Sophia who is a well-developed character. She is only trying her hardest to help people while the villains are working under her nose to experiment with Killoran DNA, which leads to her almost breaking down. This is a great scene to listen to, as it really works. Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford are also giving some great performances as the Doctor and Mel. Mel's dialogue with Evelyn is School Reunion but before School Reunion and done in a much less catty way. The two women get on immediately, and both of them make fun of the Doctor and the crazy adventures they get up to. The opening scene of the story with the Doctor and Mel allows for a lot of these jokes to be set up, with Colin Baker on top form throughout.

To summarize, Thicker than Water is a great story, even though it isn't nearly as good as the preceding story Arrangements for War, as it doesn't allow itself to be as emotional, and the plot is a rather weak one. It is nice to see how Evelyn leaves the TARDIS, which is the most emotional piece in the story, as she gets a happy ending of her own. 82/100