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Catch-1782 was the sixty-eighth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Alison Lawson and featured Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Melanie Bush.

It was the third team-up between the the Sixth Doctor and Mel characters since their turn on television. It was notable for providing the first substantial details about Mel's family and general back story in performed Doctor Who. It was also unusual for not having a "villain" per se, and no real alien presence at all. Because of this, and its setting in 2003 and 1782, it was a "pure historical", even at the time of its release. The main "enemy" in the piece is actually the concept of the Grandfather Paradox, and the Doctor's efforts to retrieve Mel from her family's past history without causing damage to Mel's personal timeline.

Publisher's summary[]

When the Doctor and Mel visit the National Foundation for Scientific Research as it celebrates its centenary, Mel expects only to be able to catch up with her uncle. She doesn't expect to meet her own ancestors...

What is buried in the grounds of the Foundation?

What secret has Henry Hallam kept from his descendants for three hundred years?

Can Mel escape her own past?

Visiting your relatives can sometimes be trying, but surely it should never be this difficult?


Part one[]

Mel has been invited by her uncle, Dr. John Hallam, to the National Foundation for Scientific Research centenary celebration in Berkshire and the Doctor insists they go. Just as Mel leaves to get changed, the Doctor hears a strange voice coming from the TARDIS console but it disappears when Mel returns, dubbing it to himself a "kink in time". He assures her it was nothing, although still suspicious himself, and they go on their way. They arrive in John's house where he is happy to see Mel as they are reunited. He gives Mel and the Doctor a tour of the old house that belongs to the Foundation and now him, which is also incidentally where he is working on what Mel claims is a "carbon dating" project but she doesn't know much about it since it's top secret. He takes them to the library and when they comment on feeling at ease, John explains about the various ghost stories surrounding the house but the odd thing is, the victims all described seeing a similar ghost. He further talks about Eleanor Hallam and the Hallam family history and how the house was passed through the generations as well as an unknown figure in one of the portraits of Henry Hallam, next to him. The Doctor suspects it to be the "kink in time" but they depart before he can investigate as the reception is about to start.

The Doctor bumps into Professor David Munro and they get into deep conversation so Mel and her uncle head off to chat and he explains to her the purpose of the event, to bury a "time capsule" made from a newly discovered alloy to celebrate the centenary. Mel asks if she can sneak off back to John's studies to read up on their family history from the notes John had been making and had showed them earlier and bemused, gives her the room key and tells her to have fun, as well as to check out the proto-type alloy he has on the study desk. Mel sneaks off while the Doctor and John watch the burial but are surprised when a capsule buried there is already discovered while digging. The Doctor and John decide to take it back to his carbon dating machine to investigate. The noise from the machine makes it difficult to hear Mel scream, as she hears a voice and suddenly disappears, but they manage to hear the last few moments. They then discover that inside the unearthed capsule is the proto-type alloy canister, which John claims is impossible as it is sitting on the desk in his studies. They search for Mel but she is nowhere to be find. The Doctor goes inside the TARDIS only to find it filled with smoke, and a bewildered John demands to know who the Doctor is and his relation to Melanie....

Part two[]

Mel awakens with a groggy head and is discovered by Mrs McGregor where she finds out she has landed in 1781 and decides to take advantage and speak with her ancestor, Henry Hallam, before she reckons the Doctor turns up to save her. The Doctor, meanwhile, explains to John that they're time-travelers and what he suspects is going on as well as the "kink in time" he is trying to investigate (which he didn't tell Mel about in order to not ruin her reunion with her uncle). He realises the canister has chrono capabilities and the TARDIS tried to reach out and warn Melanie through its telepathic circuits but ended up interacting with the canister causing Mel to travel back in time to the time period and person (Eleanor Hallam) she was thinking about, which they discover through the notes Mel was looking at is 1782, although oddly enough, the pages corresponding to that year have been ripped out of Henry Hallam's journal. They set off in the TARDIS. Mel meets Henry but begins losing her memories. He begins to suspect her over the course of their conversation as she seems to know private thoughts and details about Henry that nobody knows except him and what he wrote in his journals. She collapses and Henry orders McGregor to fetch a doctor for her, saying that she reminds him of his late wife Jane. Doctor Michael Wallace arrives and a delirious Mel asks to be taken to the study but when she sees that the TARDIS is missing she realises she's trapped in 1781...

Part three[]

Mel becomes hysterical and is sedated by Michael after rejecting Henry's offer to stay in the hall as a guest since she doesn't know where she is. The Doctor and John land and go searching for her. Some time has passed since Mel's arrival and it is now June 1782, and Dr Michael comes frequently to check on her. He and Henry have a chat in which he suggests he have her committed to an asylum as he suspects that someone "dumped" her on Henry and she is taking advantage of his kind nature but he refuses, saying that in her moments of lucidity she is a clam and charming woman. They go to check on her. The Doctor and John, meanwhile, arrive and are greeted by McGregor who takes them to meet Henry. The two discover the Doctor has medical expertise and ask him for a second opinion of their "patient". John and McGregor chat over a cup of tea and she explains that she lost her husband and the death of her mistress, Henry's wife, brought the two closer, perhaps more than appropriate for a master and servant. McGregor explains that their relationship was disrupted six months ago with the arrival of a certain "Eleanor". The Doctor meanwhile goes to see the patient "Nel" (Henry believes this to be Mel's name after a misunderstanding) and discovers it is Mel. He "plays along" pretending not to know her, deeply upsetting her and meets with Henry and Dr Wallace afterwards, explaining that he thinks he can help, but discovers they have been giving Mel laudanum to sedate her.

He requests a private audience which they grant. Once alone with Mel, the Doctor profusely apologises, explaining that the alloy canister had damaged the TARDIS console and was interfering with the navigation. He further explains that before he can remove her from the premises, he first has to find and destroy the alloy canister as it is extremely dangerous and asks her to just hold on a bit longer, although he notices that Mel seems to be slightly disoriented and occasionally slips into calling herself "Eleanor". The Doctor discusses the possibility of taking Mel away for treatment (under the guise of getting her out of Hallam hall carefully so as not to damage Mel's personal time-line as they do not know what happens in 1782 due to the missing diary page) with Henry and Dr. Wallace but over the course of the conversation it is revealed that Henry has fallen in love with Mel, which worries the Doctor and disgusts Dr. Wallace, as Henry begins acting irrationally, suspecting them of staging the whole visit so that they can have Mel committed to an asylum, and swiftly kicks them out. While leaving they are rejoined by John and the Doctor makes a plan to try and get Mel out. Mel is visited by McGregor and she asks her to stay and talk. She seems sane at first to McGregor but when she tries to explain that she is a time traveler and has been displaced through time, McGregor laughs and claims that they have been through this before and Mel must be in one of her strange fits again. Henry then enters and when Mel asks about the Doctor, Henry explains he has banished him and Dr. Wallace both from the hall suspecting them of wanting to have her committed. Mel is distraught and is not sure which memories she can trust anymore. The Doctor and John explain the situation to Dr. Wallace, surprising John himself, but the Doctor then reveals that they may have to leave Mel here to live out the rest of her life less they interfere and damage her personal timeline as she has now become part of the history...

Part four[]

Mel inquires about Eleanor Hallam and discovers she might be the very one. Henry proposes marriage to her and she tries to turn him down but he seems to be slightly unhinged and threatens her under the guise of telling her to think it over. The Doctor theorises that Henry, having not taken the time to heal after losing his wife and suddenly devoting his efforts and energy to helping Mel, has become unhinged under the stress and would explain his current behaviour. The three of them hatch a plan, both to rescue Mel and to bury the unstable canister that brought Mel back in time. McGregor is summoned by Henry and asked to deliver a letter to Dr. Wallace relieving him of duty to Mel but over the course of their conversation learns he is to marry Mel, making her distraught, and politely expresses her concern to Henry who tells her it's unfounded and calming down from his rage asks her to go about her duties.

The Doctor and John sneak inside Hallam hall and find McGregor crying, explaining she had hoped to marry Henry and they assure her that they have come to take Mel/ Eleanor home so that she can and she gladly agrees to help them. The Doctor detours to Henry's studies where they find the canister but he is met by Henry and thrown out with a final warning. John meanwhile gets Mel out with the help of McGregor. As they are fleeing, McGregor tries to give Melanie a dress but Mel refuses, saying McGregor should have it and wear it to confess to Henry. McGregor then offers Mel a sewing box that belonged to the previous mistress. They find the Doctor who is with Wallace as he has just dug the hole to bury the canister. The Doctor realises they need a box and John recognises that the sewing box McGregor gave Melanie is the one they need to use to bury the canister. They prepare to, however, Mel points out a problem, since if she leaves Eleanor Hallam will cease to exist and so she won't be recorded in the notes of her uncle John so that on reading the notes she won't be thinking about Eleanor Hallam when the TARDIS ends up interacting with the canister sending her back in the first place, but she doesn't want to stay and live out the remainder of Eleanor Hallam's life until her recorded death in 1811. The Doctor discovers a loop-hole, realising that Eleanor Hallam's "life", as recorded by Henry, is a fiction and her "death" is merely symbolic since no proper record of her death, or a body, was ever recorded. Thus Mel can return to the present. Doctor Wallace says he will go visit Henry as they are friends and Mel reminds him that he has an ally in McGregor. They take off, with Mel still weary about where she belongs but relieved to be leaving. McGregor confesses to Henry and explains that the people who visited earlier were Mel's "family" here to take her home. Henry is distraught and refuses to believe her, going so far as to attack her but is found in time by Dr. Wallace who reels him off her. Henry breaks down as he cries Jane's name over and over as Wallace realises the Doctor was right and he still hasn't recovered from the death of wife. Dr. Wallace and McGregor agree to take care of him as per the Doctor's instructions to help him get better.

The Doctor, Mel and John arrive back in the house in 2003 and the Doctor instructs John to dismantle the capsule lest it cause any more harm. They realise that the woman in the painting they saw earlier, the "Eleanor" there was actually McGregor and reckon that they had a happy ending after all, and Henry must have removed the pages of 1782 from his diary lest anyone find out about him suffering his mental instability at that time. Then, reluctantly, but at Mel's behest, the Doctor joins Mel and John back downstairs to attend the remainder of the celebration.



  • The Doctor has a pill he picked up as a hangover cure from Zanthas IV which successfully counteracts the effects of laudanum.
  • Royal mail doesn't deliver to "out here" (implied to be outer space or wherever the TARDIS is when the Doctor reveals he has Mel's uncle John's letter and invitation).
  • The Doctor mentions being friends with Richard Dawkins and David Munro.
  • Doctor Hallam's cat Jupiter is named after the planet Jupiter.
  • Doctor Hallam is a historian but has an interest in chemistry and dabbles in it.
  • David Munro and the Doctor worked on a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance imaging project together many years ago for the Foundation. It investigated the course of disease evolution. (14:30)
  • John mentions electron microscopes.
  • John refers to the TARDIS as a police box.
  • John mentions the secret project of the Foundation involves particle physics and unstable chrono atoms.
  • Mel drinks some brandy.
  • The Doctor claims to be an expert on diseases of the mind, including mania, schizophrenia, hysteria, delusions, neurosis, dimentia.
  • Mel has an eidetic memory.


  • The name is an obvious pun on Catch-22, a book published in 1961. When explaining the apparent dichotomy of leaving Hallam hall, Mel comments that she's stuck in a "Catch-22". This is a phrase used to describe a paradoxical situation
  • The implication of the initial interior TARDIS scene is that Mel insisted that the Doctor change his outfit to attend the centenary celebration at the National Foundation for Scientific Research, and that he testily obeyed. Thus he likely was not wearing his traditional multi-coloured outfit for this adventure. However, the audio never makes clear exactly what he changed into, though the celebration was described as a "black tie affair."
  • This audio drama was recorded on 25 and 26 October 2004 at The Moat Studios.


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