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The Marian Conspiracy was the sixth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Jacqueline Rayner and featured Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and introduced Maggie Stables as the new companion Evelyn Smythe.

Evelyn was the first companion original to audio to be created by Big Finish.

Publisher's summary[]

Tracking a nexus point in time, the Doctor meets Dr Evelyn Smythe, a history lecturer whose own history seems to be rapidly vanishing.

The Doctor must travel back to Tudor times to stabilise the nexus and save Evelyn's life. But there he meets the Queen of England and must use all his skills of diplomacy to avoid ending up on the headman's block...


Dr Evelyn Smythe's lecture on Tudor history is disrupted by the Sixth Doctor, whose noisy device reveals that she is part of a "temporal nexus point" — a potentially catastrophic change in established history. This is evidenced by the fact that Evelyn claims descent from John Whiteside-Smith, a man who served Queen Elizabeth I and whose father was executed by Queen Mary for treason — and whom the Doctor insists never existed. Dr Smythe is forced to take the Doctor seriously when he comes to her home and they discover that half her family tree is vanishing from her records, and she may very well cease to exist. When the Doctor says he will travel back in time to the court of Queen Elizabeth to fix the problem, Evelyn insists on accompanying him.

The TARDIS traces the origin of the nexus point and lands in 16th century London. The Doctor goes to court, while Evelyn — wearing a device of the Doctor's making to prevent her from fading in and out of existence — heads to the local alehouse, hoping to learn about history first hand. Both time travellers assume Elizabeth is on the throne, but they're wrong — it's 1555, Mary is still on the throne, and Elizabeth is still imprisoned. Evelyn gets herself in trouble loudly toasting Elizabeth by mistake, while the Doctor — using his usual John Smith alias — finds himself brought by Queen Mary's handmaiden, Lady Sarah, to attend to the Queen's health.

Luckily for Evelyn the men she is drinking with — George Crow and young William Leaf — are Protestants, unhappy about Mary's heresy laws, and take her outside the pub to safety. They meet with the Reverend Thomas, who reprimands Crow and Leaf for revealing themselves to Evelyn, whom he believes may be a Catholic spy.

At court, the Doctor converses with Queen Mary, finding favour by offering an independent opinion — something she regrets is lacking in the courtiers who surround her. He tries to explain how history will see her for her brutal treatment of Protestants, but Mary will not be swayed, as she believes she is doing what is right. She keeps him around as she speaks with Francois de Noallies, Bishop of Aix, who tries to persuade Mary to reconcile with Elizabeth — which, as the Doctor helps Mary see, is clearly a ploy to help prevent England siding with Spain in war against the French. The Queen rejects his idea, and the Doctor escorts him out, telling him he wastes his time with plots to put Elizabeth on the throne. He then speaks with Sarah, asking her to send a messenger to find Evelyn.

Evelyn has been questioned by the Reverend Thomas, and she realises he is plotting against Mary. She tries to dissuade him, knowing that no rebellion succeeds and that Mary will die of natural causes, but he is resolute, and will not flee the country leaving other Protestants of lesser means to die. Evelyn tries to convince him to bide his time, explaining that Mary will die and that she is not truly pregnant — something of great interest to the Reverend.

When Leaf and Crow return from scouting confirming that no-one is watching them, Evelyn makes cocoa for her new Protestant friends. This leads to questions about the content of her bag, including a bottle of prescription analgesics which she cautions them not to take, as they could prove fatal in too high a dose. Crow, disliking the cocoa, heads to the alehouse for beer — but soon returns claiming an urgent message has arrived from court for Evelyn. Assuming the Doctor is in peril, Evelyn rushes off, accompanied by Leaf. After she's gone, de Noallies arrives to speak with Reverend Thomas — they are in league against Mary. The Bishop tells the Reverend about the Doctor, who seems set against their plot, and the Reverend sees this as proof that Evelyn is a traitor — and realises how he can discredit her.

On her way to court, Evelyn begins once more to fade in and out of existence — she left the Doctor's stabilisation device behind in her bag. The Reverend soon appears, with Evelyn's bag, and she returns it stability, but the Reverend's motives are not pure: he wants her to be carrying her bag when she meets with Mary, who is so afraid of plots against her life.

While Queen Mary rests, the Doctor muses that she is not what he expected, and discusses public opinion of her with Sarah. Sarah thinks the public are indifferent, but she herself is passionate about one thing: Mary repealed laws that allowed Protestant clergymen to marry. They also discuss whether doing what you feel is right makes you a good person, even if it means the deaths of others. Evelyn arrives, and she and the Doctor visit the Queen, but almost immediately de Noallies bursts in to accuse Evelyn of plotting to kill Mary with the "poison" in her bag — the analgesics. Evelyn realises Reverend Thomas has betrayed her, but the Doctor explains that the pills are medicine and quite safe in small doses, and gives some to Mary, which help with her pains. de Noallies returns to the Reverend and berates him for the failure of his plan, but this only spurs Thomas to take more direct action. He meets with a conspirator, supplying a potion and insisting only a few drops of it are used, but has to flee when Mary's guards arrive to arrest him — she heard Evelyn mention his name. He seeks refuge with de Noallies, but the Bishop refuses to help him.

Meanwhile the Doctor is dismayed that Evelyn has given too many hints to the Reverend Thomas; she is horrified to realise that Thomas would have never tried to murder a pregnant woman — but thanks to her, he knows Mary isn't truly pregnant! Crow arrives and confirms their fears, too frightened to take part in a plot to murder the Queen, but uncertain how Thomas intends to carry out his scheme, except that he has an ally at court. They suspect de Noallies, but have no idea what the plan is. One other thing may have become clear, though: the Queen has decided to reward the Doctor by marrying him to Lady Sarah, who Leaf and Crow reveal is Sarah Whiteside. If the Doctor marries her, then surely their child will be Evelyn's ancestor, John Whiteside-Smith — making the Doctor the father who will be executed by Mary!

This seems to be coming true when Mary's guards arrive and arrest the company, who have been named as co-conspirators by the captured Reverend Thomas. Imprisoned in the Tower, the Doctor and Evelyn realise they must escape and prevent the plot against Mary, or history will be altered. Trying to work out Thomas' plot from what they know about him, they guess that de Noallies will poison the sacraments at the Queen's next Mass. They manage to escape from the Tower, mostly thanks to Evelyn, and travel down the Thames to the Palace. There they are prevented from entering the Queen's presence during her Mass by Sarah Whiteside, since such sacrilege would lead to excommunication, and the Doctor realises no holy man of any faith would poison the sacraments. As de Noallies and Mary emerge, the Doctor realises that Sarah is Thomas' co-conspirator: Thomas' last name is Smith, and Sarah was upset at Mary's changes to the laws because it discredited her marriage to him. She was to feed drops of poison to the Queen, though Thomas told her it was a potion that would give her dreams to show her the error of her ways. Playing on Sarah's duty to her husband, and also deducing the Lady is pregnant with Evelyn's ancestor, the Doctor dissuades Mary from executing Sarah, and she is sent into Elizabeth's service instead; she thanks the Doctor by saying she will name her son after him. Thomas, however, is not so lucky; the Queen offers to spare him if he will recant his Protestant faith, but he refuses, and so goes to the stake to be burned.

History appears to be back on track, even as the Doctor laments Mary's lot, but Evelyn insists that they at least save Leaf and Crow, who are still stuck in the tower awaiting execution. They use the TARDIS to fetch them, and to transport them — and Crow's family — to a safe Protestant city. Afterwards, as they discuss their adventure, the Doctor is surprised by Evelyn, who insists she will continue to travel with him — after all, she can hardly turn down the opportunity to see history firsthand, even if she has discovered her ancestors were a bit of a disappointment.



Illustrated preview by Lee Sullivan from DWM 289.


  • Evelyn hums The Blue Danube.

Foods and beverages[]

The Doctor[]


  • Evelyn has a pathological love of cocoa and cakes.
  • Evelyn tells the Doctor that the class of 1974 were "particularly unattractive."


Original cover art


External links[]