And so begins the endgame of an era, in which I traditionally wander around a bit and look at other things before actually resolving the era. We’ve two more Capaldi-era stories and five entries to cover them with. And today we dip into the BBC Books line for the fourth time this era because I want to talk a little more about Missy, and the alternative is Big Finish’s box set and, well, we don’t do that anymore. So instead we get BBC Books’ anthology of Missy-centric short stories.
Like most BBC Books products, it suffers from the obvious problem of dead weight writers. I’m sure Peter Anghelides is a lovely person (although really you’d think I’d have been burned enough times by the BBC-sanctioned pro-fan class to just stop with that assumption), but there’s simply no reason why one of the writers of The Ancestor Cell should be writing new release Doctor Who material in 2018 except for the fact that they haven’t actually changed editors since the book after that. And yes, there’s also an inevitable firmly adequate story by James Goss and an effort by Cavan Scott that includes metaphors like “a look that would wither Krynoids” and “I’ll gut you like a gumblejack if you use that tone again,” both of which are, charitably, about as well crafted as a Bandrill ambassador.
But sometimes Richards’ EDA-era rolodex makes good, and this time it offers the delightful double dose of Paul Magrs and Jacqueline Rayner. Magrs is in particular a self-evidently brilliant choice for this—his brand of campy and postmodernist wackiness is an utterly delicious fit for Missy. His story features Missy as a 1920s governess with a bafflingly elaborate plan involving a sentient wish-granting teddy bear named Teddy Sparkles. It’s insane and at one point features a failed attempt to alter timelines that results in 1925 London being attacked by dinosaur skeletons. (“I’ve done it all wrong! I’ve mixed up plain reality with awful whimsy… and now there’s chaos everywhere!,” Teddy says, in the greatest Second Doctor line ever written for another character.)
Rayner’s inclusion, meanwhile, both avoids the deeply embarrassing goof Big Finish managed of having no female writers on Missy (although in this instance the TV series is just as bad—if we continue the assumption that the last scene of Eaters of Light was Moffat, Rayner is presently the only woman to have written Missy) and results in one of the most hilarious and delightful stories in the anthology. It’s an epistolary story taking the form of messages between the Doctor and Nardole coordinating Missy’s shopping lists while she’s in the vault, some automated e-mails from an Amazon-equivalent, a couple of news articles from the St. Luke’s Gazette about a robotic chicken attack, and a series of messages sent by Missy through the two-way space-time telegraph with time-scoop facility she builds with a helmic regulator, azimuth sprockets, sulphuric acid, mercury, and some sugar in which she attempts to incite various historical women into mass androcide.…