Dr Evelyn Smythe (later Rossiter; born 1945) was an accomplished academic, rather closer to the end of her long career than the beginning. As a professor of history, she was very interested in the TARDIS' time travel capabilities. Like Barbara Wright before her, she occasionally found theories to which she had devoted much of her career proven wrong by examining events first-hand.
When Evelyn met the Sixth Doctor in 2000, she was a history lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University with a particular interest in Tudor politics. Most of her working life had been focused almost totally on academic research, so much so her marriage had broken down after a row with her husband about her attending an academic conference on their wedding anniversary. Part of her work included extensive investigation of her family tree and the life of one of her ancestors, John Whiteside-Smith, an adviser at the court of Elizabeth I.
It was the sudden disappearance of her family from history — including her Elizabethan relative — that led the Doctor to identify her as a temporal nexus point who threatened the time stream. He appeared in Sheffield in 2000 and took her to January 1555 to try to save her life by correcting the interference. This turned out to be a paradoxical result of her own actions in encouraging an attempt on the life of Elizabeth's half-sister and predecessor, Mary I. With this averted, she insisted on joining the Doctor on his travels; she would not pass up the opportunity to travel through time and explore history firsthand. (AUDIO: The Marian Conspiracy)
With the Doctor, she met Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Charles Darwin and the Silurians. (AUDIO: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, Bloodtide) She was present during the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey, where she had her eye print scanned into the Eye of Harmony. (AUDIO: The Apocalypse Element)
In London in 2001, she befriended Cassie, a young waitress turned into a vampire by Nimrod. She and the Doctor set out to find a cure. (AUDIO: Project: Twilight) By the time they returned in November 2004, Cassie had been brainwashed by the Forge. It was only through Evelyn's persuasion that she was returned to her original personality. Before Cassie could escape in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Evelyn, Nimrod killed her. This devastated Evelyn. (AUDIO: Project: Lazarus)
Cassie's death and the Doctor's inability to save her strained Evelyn's relationship with him. She needed some time away. During this time, on the planet Világ, Evelyn grew close to a man named Justice Rossiter, but felt that she could not leave the Doctor for him. (AUDIO: Arrangements for War)
They travelled to Fortune after landing on a train. Here she met a young woman, Rachel-Ann Donovan, who wanted to find her father's killer. She was forced to jump from the train to avoid being captured as an accomplice to murder. She met Sam when she entered town to find out where the Doctor had been taken. When the Doctor was rescued she used her research skills to scour the local newspapers to find information about the murderer. She was trapped in the newspaper building when it was set alight but was rescued before being kidnapped and placed in the mine which was rigged to explode. After the mayor was arrested for the attempted murder of Evelyn and the Doctor she realised that it was Sam who killed Rachel-Ann's father by accident. (AUDIO: A Town Called Fortune)
Another time, Evelyn and the Doctor travelled to Mortlake in 1568 and met Dr John Dee. Evelyn learned that at some point in the future she would write the book The Merlin of Mortlake: The Life and Talents of Dr John Dee when the Doctor asked her to sign his copy, but he refused to allow her to read it. (PROSE: Mortlake)
On a return trip to Világ, Evelyn left the Doctor to marry Rossiter. The Doctor reacted badly and refused to say goodbye properly. She had hoped the Doctor would attend her wedding and give her away, but he never turned up. She had surgery to cure her heart condition, but the surgery used Killoran blood to disguise the problem. This caused headaches and a short temper.
Two years later, the Doctor arrived with his companion Melanie Bush to visit Evelyn, who was having problems with her stepdaughter Sofia Rossiter's ideologies. Evelyn and Mel were kidnapped to become political prisoners. The activists, who had injected Evelyn with Killoran DNA, knew Sofia, but she was not involved with their plot. The Doctor and Sofia worked to save Evelyn's life and although her heart condition was not cured, Evelyn was happy. She and the Doctor made their peace at the renewing of Evelyn and Rossiter's vows. While Evelyn was being treated for the damage done by the Killoran DNA, the Seventh Doctor secretly visited her to tell her that Thomas Hector "Hex" Schofield, Cassie's son, had joined him as a travelling companion. (AUDIO: Thicker Than Water)
Ten years after Rossiter's death, Evelyn was accidentally transported to the planet Pelachan billions of years in the past by a temporal stabiliser which she had discovered in an archaeological dig. Further investigation revealed the stabiliser was from a timeship called the Pelican. It had crashed on the planet Pelachan in the distant past (hence the similar names). Evelyn lived on Pelachan for two years before suffering a fatal heart attack. It was during this time that she met Hex, who had been sent to Pelachan by the Doctor. The Seventh Doctor arrived just before her death. He asked her to help him defeat the Word Lord Nobody No-One in a complex plan involving trapping him in the Hand of All, a pocket universe composed entirely of words, sustained only by Evelyn's "narration". When Evelyn died, Nobody No-One died with her. The Doctor delivered the eulogy at her funeral. (AUDIO: A Death in the Family)
An alternative view
According to another account, Evelyn may not have ended her initial travels with the Sixth Doctor on Világ, but on Earth. In this timeline, she was returned to Earth a decade before she left, forcing her to live her life in isolation from her relations, her career and her home. She feared she would run into her younger self and suffer the cruel end afforded by the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. She was rescued from this paradox by the Sixth Doctor and Mel, whom she had never previously met. Upon the conclusion of an adventure with the pair, she asked to be taken home via the Eye of Orion. (PROSE: Instruments of Darkness)
Behind the scenes
- Evelyn is a particularly tricky character for the casual fan of Big Finish productions to follow, because her stories were released more-or-less chronologically only prior to Thicker Than Water.
- After this story, however, additional adventures have been told which are set much closer to The Marian Conspiracy than Thicker Than Water. Moreover, her appearance in the Past Doctor Adventures was part of a plan to make her a regular companion in the PDAs and predates the way her character was written out of the audio series. However, Instruments of Darkness proved to be her only appearance in the PDAs.
- However, the novel range was cancelled before additional Evelyn stories could be penned, leaving her exit and subsequent first meeting with Mel at odds with the way both events were depicted in audio. Nevertheless, it is curious that Gary Russell, who wrote Instruments of Darkness, allowed this contradiction since he was the producer of Thicker Than Water. Russell later somewhat addressed the issue in the novel Spiral Scratch, in which it is suggested, though not clearly delineated, that the novel range and the audio range occur in two separate realities.
- Along with Charlotte Pollard, Thomas Brewster and Liv Chenka, Evelyn is one of only four companions created by Big Finish who have been depicted meeting two incarnations of the Doctor, namely the Sixth Doctor and the Seventh Doctor. After serving as the former's companion for several years, she met the latter in the audio stories Thicker Than Water and A Death in the Family. Prior to these encounters, she had observed the Seventh Doctor from afar. The same is also true with respect to the Fifth and the Eighth Doctors. On that occasion, she described the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors as "lovely," seeming like "a rather jolly man" and "charming" respectively. (AUDIO: The 100 Days of the Doctor)