The Chimes of Midnight was the twenty-ninth monthly Doctor Who audio story produced by Big Finish Productions. It was the second in a series of 6 audio stories featuring the Eighth Doctor. It featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charlotte Pollard.
Publisher's summary Edit
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring...
But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight.
Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where the victims don't stay dead. Time is running out.
And time itself might well be the killer...
Part 1 Edit
The Doctor and Charley step out of the TARDIS and find themselves in a dark room. The Doctor asks Charley where they are, but it is so dark that she can't tell. The Doctor says that the console's giving a blank readout.
The Doctor goes into the TARDIS to find some torches, and tells Charley to investigate, but she says she can't see. He tells her to use her other senses. She says she can't hear anything, but she can smell fruit.
She tries to feel around, but accidentally smashes a jar. The Doctor thinks she has been badly wounded, but he realises the jar was full of raspberry jam. On shining a torch around, they see that they are in a well stocked larder. On inspecting some cans of custard, the Doctor figures that they've landed in the early 20th century. They leave the larder to investigate the rest of the house.
He asks her why she is caterwauling, saying that it is so loud that even the master of the house may be able to hear it upstairs. He says that her excitement over Christmas is causing her work to suffer, and that the dust is so thick she could write her name in it.
Edith says she couldn't write her name if she wanted to, as she can't write, and Mr Shaughnessy shows her how to. He then tells her to return to work, and to remember what he always tells her, to which she says, "I'm nothing, sir. I'm nobody."
In the dark house, the Doctor and Charley find themselves in the scullery of an Edwardian house, sometime from 1901 to 1910. The Doctor lights candles instead of continuing to use the torches so as not to be anachronistic.
Charley finds that the scullery maid has left her dish washing half-done, but that the water is still warm. The Doctor walks over to the table and finds a name written in the dust, Edith Thompson. The Doctor wonders if she is the missing scullery maid.
Charley tries to write her name in the dust, but the dust spreads back over it, leaving only Edith's name intact. The Doctor remembers that he found the jar Charley had smashed intact, and Charley finds that the raspberry jam stain on her dress is gone too. They look for someone who can explain what is happening to them.
In the kitchen, Mr Shaughnessy asks the cook, Mrs Baddeley, whether everything will be ready for the Christmas feast the next day. She replies that she's got everything prepared and that the turkey's especially big this year. She says that she's made one of her famous plum puddings.
As Mr Shaughnessy complements Mrs Baddeley's plum puddings, they hear Edith singing in the scullery. Mrs Baddeley tells her to stop working in the scullery and to help her in the kitchen. She tells Edith to take the plum pudding off the stove for her.
Edith asks if they will be eating the pudding on Christmas Eve. Mrs Baddeley says that the servants are eating the smaller one. Edith asks why they don't get the bigger one, as there are more servants than people upstairs, and Mr Shaugnessy says that that's a wicked thought. Edith apologises, not meaning to be wicked on Christmas. Mrs Baddeley tells Edith to remember that "we are nothing. We are nobody."
Mr Shaugnessy hears a bell ringing, and goes off to give his master his sherry. He tells Edith to keep helping Mrs Baddeley. While they work, Frederick, the chauffeur, walks in. He asks Mrs Baddeley if he could have a private word. She sends Edith out, and tells him she knows what he wants to talk about, and that it will do him no good. He asks if they can come to an arrangement.
The Doctor and Charley walk into the kitchen, and find that there is still no one to be seen. The Doctor finds a plum pudding, and Charley finds another. Charley says that her cook always made too much plum pudding at her house.
They look for a turkey, to find whether it is before or after Christmas. Charley exclaims that she has hunted the turkey, and the Doctor says this means it's Christmas Eve. The Doctor wonders where everyone is, and wonders whether everyone else is still there, and they're the ones missing.
Charley stops and asks the Doctor if he can hear anything. He says he can't. She says she can very faintly hear someone singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", but the Doctor can't hear anything. Charley says it's probably a caroler outside, and the Doctor says he hopes so.
In the kitchen, Frederick is again complementing Mrs Baddeley on her plum pudding when Edith hears Charley's voice saying that she's hunted the turkey. Neither Frederick or Mrs Baddeley can hear it, and Mrs Baddeley tells Edith that his lordship hunts foxes, not turkeys. Frederick again asks Mrs Baddeley for a private word, and Mrs Baddeley again sends Edith out.
Mrs Baddeley says she knows what Frederick wants to ask, and that it'll do him no good. She knows what he is, a "veritable monster." Frederick begs her not to tell, or he and Mary, the lady's maid, will lose their jobs. Mrs Baddeley says that's for her lady to decide.
Frederick says it was just a bit of fun, and offers Mrs Baddeley money. She says she already has plenty saved up, and that she's richer than him. Frederick says she's not stronger than him, and, shocked at this threat, she throws him out of her kitchen.
The Doctor and Charley find the servants' lounge. They see that the fire is burning, but the flames aren't moving. The Doctor tells Charley to pull a cracker with him, as an experiment, and it flies back together.
The Doctor says that time is blocking them out, which isn't possible unless someone's doing it intentionally. He tells Charley to pull the cracker with him again. It seems to be as before, but this time the Doctor has managed to grab a joke and a paper hat which he puts on.
They read the joke. It says, "When is a door not a door?" but instead of saying, "When it's ajar," it says, "When it's a raspberry jam jar." The Doctor says that whatever is doing this, it's mocking them.
Part 2 Edit
The Doctor and Charley find themselves in the scullery, in Edith’s version of reality—but Edith is dead, drowned in the kitchen sink. The Doctor and Charley try to revive her as the servants arrive; they believe him to be from Scotland Yard, and believe Charley to be his niece. Shaughnessy believes Edith killed herself, but the Doctor explains that she would have passed out and fallen from the sink instead of drowning. Mrs. Baddeley says that Edith was too stupid to know it was impossible. The Doctor determines to question each servant individually. In the meantime, he sends the staff back to their duties.
Charley compares the situation to an Agatha Christie mystery; but in seriousness, she wonders how Edith knew her death was impending. How did she scream if she was drowning; and why was the death at precisely 10:00? The Doctor decides to play along with the roles set by the unknown intelligence for them. He questions Shaughnessy, who regrets the loss of a scullery maid, but does not care that Edith died. The butler claims to know little about the other staff, and to care even less. He refuses to discuss his masters from upstairs, and becomes uncomfortable. He suspects the cook of the murder.
Baddeley sends Mary to finish Edith’s work; Mary takes it bdly. Charley questions Mrs. Baddeley, but the woman refuses to answer; instead she dotes over Charley as over a child, and offers her plum pudding. She is offended when Charley refuses, and refuses to speak again until Charley accepts the pudding. When Charley tastes it, she begins to act like a child, but realises it and returns to normal. The cook claims she suspects Frederick, the chauffeur, of the murder.
The Doctor questions Frederick, and is surprised when Frederick believes the Doctor to be a sleuth...from an Agatha Christie story, the mystery of the Seven Dials. His story turns up anachronisms: the Christie story won’t be published for several years, and Frederick claims to drive a Chrysler, which won’t exist until 1924 (the current year being 1906). He accuses Mary of the murder. Charley also questions Mary, who is upset over her change in assignment, but not over the death. Mary accuses Edith of the murder; when Charley points out that Edith was the victim, she changes her story and accuses Shaughnessy, the butler. In every interview, the person being interviewed has indicated that their preferred suspect “has shifty eyes”. Charley suddenly finds herself back in the dark, and Edith is there; Edith is again cold toward Charley. She claims she is tired of dying, but refuses to name her killer. She says there will be another death soon, which will cause everyone to forget her. She charges Charley to remember her, and to remember that Edward Grove is alive.
At the stroke of 11:00, there is another scream. Charley finds herself back in the lit kitchen, and this time Mrs. Baddeley is dead, smothered with her plum pudding. Shaughnessy laments the loss of another servant, and the pudding as well. The staff again call it suicide; the Doctor sends them away while he confers with Charley. Charley tells him about Edith, but he has no idea who Edward Grove is. If this is a Christie-esque mystery, the killer must not be a stranger, for that would break the genre’s rules. The nature and timing of the murders lends credence to the idea that rules are at work here. However, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient time between the screams and the actual deaths—did the killer make the screams? Charley comments that time seems to be running fast—there hasn’t really been an hour between murders, despite the clock. The intelligence in charge seems to have altered the rules of time here.
Mary confronts Frederick, and each accuses the other of the murder of the cook. However, Mary admits this allows them to continue their affair; but Frederick ridicules the idea of a chauffeur engaging with a scullery maid. Mary is surprised, and says that Edith is the scullery maid; but he claims to have never heard of Edith, and after a moment, Mary admits that she hasn’t either. She remembers always being the scullery maid. She returns to work, humming the same carol as Edith; she admits that Frederick couldn’t love her, because she is nothing.
The Doctor and Charley can find no clocks, despite hearing one. Shaughnessy declines to help, claiming the staff don’t need to know the time, they only need to know how to obey. The Doctor asks to borrow Shaughnessy’s watch, and the butler becomes uncomfortable. The Doctor threatens to go upstairs, and the butler pulls a gun on him. However, the Doctor quickly asks for the watch again, and the butler hands it over—demonstrating that the intelligence in charge can only concentrate on one thing at a time.
The Doctor and Charley check the watch, and find it is 11:20; there has not been enough time for that. The second hand freezes, then starts to run increasingly fast. The Doctor fears what may happen at midnight; he tells the staff to remain in the common room, but the butler refuses to disrupt the household operations. He sends the staff back to work. They claim not to understand; they remember the cook killing herself, and they do not remember Edith at all. As they exit, the clock strikes midnight.
Part 3 Edit
At the chime of midnight, the Doctor and Charley find themselves in the darkness again, and hear a beating heart. They reappear in the lit scullery, and find Edith dead on the floor, suffocated with a sink plunger. The staff arrive, and with only minor variations, things play out much as the first time—but this time, the name “Edward Grove” is written in the dust beneath Edith’s and Charley’s. The Doctor thinks the killer is signing his name to this, his work of art. He goes to check a theory, leaving Charley to watch Mrs. Baddeley, whom they know is slated to die next.
In the common room, the Doctor tells Mary to open the door and Frederick to take him for a drive. They object, and when he presses, they apologetically threaten his life; they have been advised to do so by their master. The Doctor relents and accepts his role, and interviews them about the murder; however he is beginning to think the murder doesn’t matter. The duo accuse each other of Mrs. Baddeley’s death; however, she has not been killed yet. This confuses them, and Frederick wonders if he is the one who was killed—or perhaps that is yet to come.
Baddeley has already forgotten Edith’s death. She again offers Charley plum pudding, and Charley senses something familiar here. The cook claims that Charley was her only friend, and that Charley died, but has returned. Charley finds herself in the darkness with Edith again. Edith is tired of the deaths, and says that Charley forgot her; she says that Edward Grove is alive, and Charley must stop it.
As the clock strikes eleven, Charley returns to the kitchen. However, Mrs. Baddeley isn’t dead; a scream calls them to the common room, where Frederick has been run over by his own car. The Doctor was there, but saw nothing; the room went dark at the stroke of eleven, and when the lights returned, Frederick was dead. Mary weeps over Frederick, but the butler reminds her that she is a scullery maid, and therefore Frederick could not have loved her. He suggests that it was suicide, piquing the Doctor’s interest.
The Doctor and Charley discuss the murders, including how everyone seems to know they will die, and yet they have neither fear nor excitement. Charley feels she is failing Edith. The Doctor thinks the intelligence in charge is trying to make Charley a part of the scenario; he cautions her to resist any new memories. She returns to the scullery, but finds Edith’s name gone from the dust. Edith speaks, and asks her why she died for Charley when Charley has forgotten her? Letters appear, carved into the table, stating “Edward Grove is alive; Edith states that Edith and Charley are responsible.
The Doctor starts up the stairs; Shaughnessy holds him at gunpoint again. The Doctor didn’t actually intend to go up, but wanted to push his adversary to act. Even Shaughnessy doesn’t understand his own behaviour. The Doctor explains that all the staff have been dulled by repeated time loops, making them able to be manipulated—but who is doing the manipulating? The butler explains that the house is at 22 Edward Grove—the Doctor realises the house itself is alive. Mary and Mrs. Baddeley come to kill the Doctor, but he urges them to resist; however, they can’t kill him yet, as the hour has not yet struck. Time speeds toward midnight again, but the Doctor urges the staff to describe their masters; if they cannot, their masters are not human. Charley arrives, and is now fully under the house’s spell; she believes she is the daughter of the house’s family, and she does not know the Doctor. The Doctor tries to get through to her as midnight strikes.
When midnight arrives, time resets again; the Doctor and Charley find themselves in the scullery with Edith’s body. She has been beaten to death with a broom. Charley is herself again, but the staff hurry through the steps of the loop. The Doctor thinks Edith’s death is the key; he thinks the ghosts are traumatic emotions trapped in the house’s structure. After so many time loops, the house and its “ghosts” have developed sentience. It seems to feed on death, and every time the loop repeats, the deaths make it stronger.
Still, something has to have initiated the loop. The Doctor decides to leave, and takes Charley to the TARDIS against the protests of the staff. The Doctor dematerialises the TARDIS, but Charley hears a clock ticking. The console room disappears, and the scullery takes its place; the scenario has followed them.
Part 4 Edit
The TARDIS is inside the larder as before, but inside it is another scullery—the time loop, it seems, is now a spatial loop as well. The butler approaches and explains that the staff have all accepted their fate, and will serve Edward Grove forever. Charley disappears into the darkness. The butler tells the Doctor she will be safe, as she is the catalyst for Edward Grove’s birth. Time speeds up to reach 11:00, then slows down again; Edward Grove speaks through the butler.
In the darkness, Edith is hiding, thinking that Charley has forgotten her again. Charley promises to help, and Edith emerges; but this time, Charley recognises her as the older Edith who served as cook in the Pollard household during her childhood. By 1930, she was no longer a scullery maid, but a cook; Charley was the only one who showed her kindness. Everyone else treated her as nothing, even the chauffeur who once seduced her. Charley realises that the scenario encapsulates Edith’s life in miniature, with all her humiliations. Edith says that she died for Charley; when her diary was found in the R101 wreckage, the family mourned, but Edith, being a servant, was not allowed time to do so. Therefore, on Christmas Eve, she slit her own wrists; though she screamed, no one hears, and her death was prolonged. However, if Charley lives, then her death was for nothing. Charley is overwhelmed, and realises she did die on the R101, validating Edith’s death—and suddenly she cannot remember the Doctor.
Edward Grove speaks to the Doctor, and explains that it only feels fully alive when it hears time passing, as marked by the chiming of the hour. The Doctor accuses it of being a parasite on the lives of the servants, but it counters by saying that the human masters did the same. Grove credits the Doctor with its existence, and does not want the Doctor dead; everything here reflects the death of Edith in 1930, which became impossible when the Doctor saved Charley and came here in 1906. The Doctor realises it is the paradox which created Edward Grove.
At the Doctor’s urging, the maturing presence in the house realises that it will never have a full life—but it refuses to free the servants from the loop, as this would kill the house. Instead, it plans to crush the time loop down to the few seconds each hour that give it life, thus allowing it to live forever. The Doctor realises he must prevent this, but he must free Charley and Edith first—and they are already playing out the scenario, which will sustain the paradox. The Doctor realises the only way he can enter the scenario and intervene is if he is the next victim; he orders Shaughnessy to kill him. Shaughnessy can’t disobey an order from a gentleman, and despite Grove’s protests, he strangles the Doctor.
In the darkness, Edith gives Charley a knife and urges her to stop pretending to live. The Doctor arrives, and begs her to stop; he once chose life over death in saving Charley, and he urges her to do the same thing. He recounts some of their adventures, and says that these events allowed Charley to make a difference in the universe. She chooses to live, and drops the knife. Edith reacts badly; urged by Grove, she intends to kill herself anyway. The Doctor warns her that if she does so, she will be trapped here forever. Charley persuades her by promising to always remember her; she chooses to live, knowing she is not just nothing after all. With the paradox broken, Grove dies.
The Doctor and Charley appear in the console room. They step outside to find themselves still at Edward Grove in 1906; but the loop is broken, and the servants are free. After meeting with the servants, and praising Edith’s work, Charley forces the butler to compliment Edith as well. They return to the TARDIS and leave; however, Charley admits she still remembers dying on the R101. The Doctor promises to explain later, as they depart. Edith, meanwhile, ponders the events, and is happy; she is, after all, somebody.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Charley Pollard - India Fisher
- Edith - Louise Rolfe
- Mr Shaughnessy - Lennox Greaves
- Mrs Baddeley - Sue Wallace
- Frederick - Robert Curbishley
- Mary - Juliet Warner
Real World Edit
- Agatha Christie is mentioned for her detective mysteries.
- The Doctor mentions that Charley helped him find a first edition of Oliver Twist at Charing Cross Road.
- Charley's diary was found in the wreckage of the airship R101 after it crashed in France on 5 October 1930.
Time travel Edit
- The Doctor and Charley experience several time loops.
- The Doctor mentions travelling for centuries.
- Plum pudding has always been Charley's favourite. The Doctor also seems fond of it.
- The Chimes of Midnight was the first time that a companion created specifically for the audio range had featured on the cover.
- In 2016, this story was re-released on vinyl in a limited run of 500 copies. Tom Webster designed a new cover, and a new behind-the-scenes documentary was recorded.
- The cook, Mrs Baddeley, shares a name with actress Angela Baddeley, who played Mrs Bridges in the ITV television series Upstairs, Downstairs which is also set in a large Edwardian house. Shaughnessy is named after the show's script editor, Alfred Shaughnessy.
- This audio drama was recorded on 17 and 18 January 2001.
- By coincidence this is the second story in a row in which the Doctor impersonates a detective. (AUDIO: Invaders from Mars)
- Edith references some of the events of AUDIO: Storm Warning.
- The Doctor mentions the events of AUDIO: The Stones of Venice and AUDIO: Minuet in Hell.
- The Celestial Toymaker would later refer to Edith Thompson in a riddle while Charley was playing his games in the Celestial Toyroom. (AUDIO: Solitaire)
- Edith was the only person who knew that Charley intended to stowaway aboard the R101 and helped her prepare for the adventure. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- Charley's mother Lady Louisa Pollard discovered Edith's body. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- The Doctor is still trying to get Charley to Singapore. (AUDIO: Invaders from Mars)
- The Eighth Doctor seems to like custard much like the Eleventh Doctor. (TV: The Eleventh Hour et al)
- The Doctor previously solved the riddle "When is a door not a door?" during his second incarnation. (TV: The Mind Robber)
- Official The Chimes of Midnight page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.
- DisContinuity for The Chimes of Midnight at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide