Recap / Big Finish Doctor Who 1781963 Fanfare For The Common Men

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Who is That Man ?

First part of the 1963 thematic trilogy. The Fifth Doctor takes Nyssa to 1963 to hear The Beatles. When they go to Heathrow to watch the band's famous arrival back from Stockholm, they find that instead the huge crowds are waiting for a three-piece band called the Common Men. When someone attempts to assassinate them with a suspiciously advanced gun, Nyssa tackles him to the ground and the pair of them vanish.

The Doctor quickly realizes that whoever the assassin was, he escaped by traveling through time. He is invited back to the airport VIP bar for a drink by the band and discovers that their career has seemingly followed the exact arc of the Beatles' whom nobody has ever heard of in this timeline. He recruits a fan named Rita as his temporary companion for the adventure and tries to travel to 1957, where the timeline starts to diverge. He quickly discovers that a time lock is preventing travel to that particular year, so the two of them set out to check out the Royal Command Variety Performance, at which the Common Men have been invited to play.

Meanwhile, Nyssa has arrived in Hamburg in 1960, where she is rescued from the would-be assassin by... the Common Men, who are playing the same club circuit as the Beatles (who at this point in history are still together). She watches a few shows and starts to hit it off with Korky, the drummer. Until, that is, she discovers something odd about him he's an alien.

As the Common Men perform at the Variety Performance in 1963, everybody in the audience except the Doctor is swept up by a very violent wave of Common Mania. When the Doctor intimates they may be slightly lacking compared to the Beatles, a gang of fans tries to kill him, and he and Rita only barely escape with their lives. He sets Rita to learn everything she can about them while he hops through time, trying to figure out who might be behind this strange substitution. In 1967 he has a run-in with an abrasive Brooklynite named Lenny before meeting the band again, who are meeting with an Eastern guru named Paravatar. The Doctor realizes that Paravatar is a time-sensitive alien who has retired to Earth, and together they put the band under hypnosis, discovering, as Nyssa did, that they're all aliens.

Fans outside the room, spurred by Lenny and his sidekick Sadie, assault the room, driving the Doctor and Paravatar out before they can help the band recover their locked-away memories. Lenny drives off the crowd and volunteers to be the boys' new manager.

In 1960, Nyssa and Korky have their own run-in with Lenny, who turns out to be the time-traveling assassin. He and Sadie capture the pair and Korky explains that he is from the same planet as the band, whom he kidnapped as children, wiping their memories and setting them up with families in Liverpool. They wipe Korky's memories and prepare to kill Nyssa.

The Doctor vwoorps to 1970, where he finds Rita, now a music reviewer, interviewing lead guitarist Mark at his apartment in New York. Mark has recently left the band and is incredibly bitter about the whole experience. He finds a box of photos of the band secretly dropped off by Sadie and begins to transform into something monstrous, drawing energy from the adulation of his fans around the world. Lenny arrives with bassist James and tries to talk Mark down, but Mark is having none of it and vaporizes James. Lenny time travels to escape, interrupting his younger self's attempted murder of Nyssa and telling him he needs to alter his plans.

At this point, everything goes all timey-wimey. The Doctor finally arrives in 1960 and rescues Nyssa, and the two of them use the club the Common Men were playing in actually the spaceship that brought them to Earth to evade the forces of the Triumvirate from a future in which Lenny's plan was now successful. Realizing that if the aliens are powered by adulation, the Doctor can reverse and weaponize the effect, he recruits the 1967 version of the band into a scheme that involves faking James's death at the hands of Lenny and putting the evidence in the hands of Scotland Yard. Faced with the possibility of death through ignominy, Lenny agrees to remove his time lock on 1957 and let the Doctor undo all of his tampering, leaving nobody with any memory of the altered timeline.

With history back on its correct course, the Doctor tips off the proper authorities that Lenny has been time traveling a crime on his world but allows the Common Men to remain on Earth, blissfully unaware that they are aliens. He lets them know that a particular musician now going by the name John Smith is looking for a Merseybeat backing band, and that they'd probably fit the bill. He and Nyssa then head off to enjoy a performance from the Beatles.

  • Abbey Road Crossing: The cover.
  • Continuity Nod: John Smith and the Common Men are the group Susan was listening to at the start of "An Unearthly Child" (John Smith actually being the Hon Aubery Waites). When the timeline is restored, the Doctor suggests to the now less-famous Common Men that Waites is looking for a Merseybeat backup band. One of the Common Men's songs is even based on "Guitar Moods 2", the stock music Susan was actually listening to.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Lenny keeps doing this to others.
  • Loony Fan: When the Doctor is misquoted as saying the Common Men are rubbish he almost gets killed by a crowd of fans. They are stopped when paper that is claimed to be a backstage pass is thrown out and they go after it.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name. According to Mark and James, "Chivalry" is Korky's middle name. And "Generosity" is his first name. That's why they call him Korky.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Noted Whovian and Beatles fan Mitch Benn, writer of such songs as "Be My Doctor Who Girl" and "Call Me During Doctor Who And I'll Kill You", gets to be in Doctor Who as Not-Quite-John Lennon.
  • Titled After the Song: Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Invoked; the Common Men are as close to the Beatles (without George) as possible because the Big Bad knows that's what worked.
  • Ripple Effect-Proof Memory: As a result of her TARDIS trip Rita has one; when she's interviewing Mark, she notices that his story changes as the Doctor alters time further.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Lenny ties Nyssa up and tries to throw her downstairs so it looks like she slipped and broke her neck.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: So much.
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