As we speed into the month of January, there are a lot of wonderful Doctor Who characters getting stories in expanded media. And one of these – courtesy of Big Finish – is yet another story for the last of the Rhodians, Charlie Smith. With Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince upcoming, and taking fans through the history of his school-life, we thought there’d be no better time to refresh people’s mind on Charlie himself.
Charles Smith, better known as Charlie to his friends, seems like an innocent schoolboy at first. But in-fact, he has a far more interesting origin.
Charlie’s Royal Upbringing
Born to his parents under another name on the far-flung planet of Rhodia, Charlie was destined to one kind of life. A royal upbringing as son to the Queen of Rhodia. He was kept distant from almost all fellow Rhodians, as a result of the need for his safety. This sparked a loneliness that was only slightly softened by the time spent with his speechwriter – though even that was not a friendship as such.
With his father absent from the picture(an unbroadcast but recorded scene for Nightvisiting indicated that Charlie’s father wished not to be involved with royal life & wanted to be a fisherman – but did not elaborate further on this or his ultimate fate), Charlie took up royal duties alongside his mother as heir to the throne. Though it did not keep him happy. Not least because royal succession would have dictated a female partner to him.
Amidst Charlie’s discontent, conflict broke out between the Rhodians and the other main species of the planet – the Quill. Charlie was taught that the war was righteous. He came to believe that the Rhodians were trying to help the Quill and that the Quill were fighting out of resentment for the Rhodians’ financial successes. (Andra’ath/Andrea Quill would beg to differ, and noted her reasoning as being that the Rhodians were overexpanding across the planet & overusing resources. It is not clear exactly how true either of these perspectives of the war were.)
Regardless of the accuracy of Charlie’s perspective, his people continued their war with the Quill. The conflict would escalate with the Quill fighters broadcasting footage after battles of the fallen Rhodians & the Rhodians constricting resources to a point that Quill civilians were starving. Charlie, however, was unaware of this as his mother handled this information herself.
Charlie Smith and the Leader of the Quill
The civil war on Rhodia would come to a conclusion when – after a bombing of a Rhodian building -Andra’ath, leader of the Quill resistance, was arrested. Put on trial in-front of Charlie, Rhodian punishment decreed that Andra’ath would be telepathically bound to Charlie via an Arn.
This left Charlie with the uncomfortable situation of having Andra’ath as effectively a servant-bodyguard, despite his wish for it to not be the case. She would have to protect his life and follow his orders thereafter, otherwise the Arn would kill her. With reluctance on Charlie’s part to order her & reluctance on Andra’ath’s part to have to protect the son of her greatest enemy – it was not an easy pairing.
The End of Rhodia
In the aftermath of the war, however, the Rhodians and the Quill found themselves attacked by the Shadow Kin. Charlie and Andra’ath fled towards a vault in the palace as their peoples were massacred. Though they each saved the other from death during this, Charlie’s mother would meet a grisly fate. And then, trapped alone in the vault with Shadow Kin trying to break in – the two last survivors of their respective species – they would find themselves confronted by the sudden appearance of a certain blue box…
Off to School
Taken by the Doctor to 2016 Earth, the pair would be assigned new names – in his case, Charles Smith… and put in undercover refuge at Coal Hill Academy to protect them from the Shadow Kin. Though Charlie would attempt to make friends in his early days at school, he would struggle initially due to his lack of familiarity with social situations. (And also school-life in general, as the audio story Mock would reveal: being royalty had granted him certain exemptions in his studying on Rhodia, including not having to sit exams.)
He would come to form a romantic interest in fellow student Matteusz Andrzejewski, and invite him as his prom date – which got complicated. You see, April MacLean got attacked by the king of the Shadow Kin, Corakinus. Andra’ath – now known as Miss Andrea Quill – almost had her killed via a special displacement gun. And Charlie’s interference in this left April and Corakinus sharing a heart.
The Shadow Kin had tracked Charlie to the school (presumably because the school had become a weak point in spacetime because of many incidents there and nearby, including the previous usage of a Dalek transmat corridor in Remembrance of the Daleks & the attempts of the Twelfth Doctor to use chronodyne generators to propel a Skovox Blitzer far into the future…), and would return soon after to attack the school on prom night. (Prom at the start of the year? It was April’s idea!) All to try and get their hands on a Rhodian artefact – the Cabinet of Souls. Believed to hold the souls of all dead Rhodians, it could also be used as a weapon. Though, Charlie swore it was empty.
The Doctor’s Call
Just as all might seem lost, with Charlie and several others alone in the gym hall against the Shadow Kin, the Twelfth Doctor arrived (having been called by Miss Quill) to assist. Deflecting the army and closing the spacetime tear through which they’d come to Earth, Charlie was safe. Kinda. Because there were spacetime tears. And plenty that could come through them – good or bad.
With the Doctor unable to stay in one place, he charged Charlie and Miss Quill with the duty of keeping an eye on Earth for him. Oh, and Matteusz too. Plus April. Also Tanya, a local girl who knew April and had been caught up in events. And Ram, also in their class. Sadly, Ram’s girlfriend, Rachel, hadn’t survived the night.
A World Of Terrors
The six weren’t exactly a good fit with each other and did not all want to be involved with each other. But Charlie made his best attempts to become friends with Ram. Ram was a bit busy trying to deal with the loss of Rachel though. (And also, that an alien dragon was slaughtering people around the school – which only Ram was witness to.) And then, Charlie got caught up in Miss Quill’s suspicions about the school inspector, Paul Smith.
Initially skeptical about both situations, Charlie would be rather surprised when – in trying to ask headmaster Mr. Armitage for help – April, Tanya and himself would see the Leaf Dragon too. As it murdered Mr. Armitage. (People have no luck in Shoreditch, do they?) This turned out to be part of the dragon’s bargaining with the school coach Carroll; who was stuck with the dragon’s partner embedded in his skin as a tattoo. Busy day for Charlie and company. And then he was further surprised when it turned out that Paul Smith was in-fact a mysterious robot creation planted in the school. Very busy day.
Following that, Charlie would… ahem… get more closer with Matteusz, after Matteusz had been kicked out by his parents for being gay. Both deciding to become boyfriends. Their timing could’ve been a little bit better, though. Most of Shoreditch were getting confronted by spectres of their past. People long dead. Turned out it was the Lankin. A creature using the memories of dead loved ones to steal people away and feed on them & their loss. It could’ve taken over the whole world if it had nabbed Tanya with the memory of her dad. Fortunately, the gang were all able to lend a hand (or in Quill’s case, a bus) in saving the day.
Further Events For Charlie
Charlie would also have to help April save Miss Quill and Matteusz on Halloween night; after Quill had located an alien signal in a bordered-up house. Turns out the alien, called The Creeper, wasn’t the most hospitable to guests. A otherwise simple double-date between Charlie and Matteusz & April and Ram (who’d both fallen in together after the Lankin incident) became nightmare. As they found themselves escaping from beings called Soers in an alternate ‘aspect’ of reality – lest they be killed by their wolves.
And after Ram ended up in a different person’s body; Charlie and the gang found themselves caught up in dealing with a company that was covertly allowing rich people to swap into teenagers’ bodies and – among other things – use them to test-trial death & murder. All at the expense of the lives of the teenagers.
Even something as simple as a mock examination quickly turned into Quill and him having to fight for their lives whilst the rest of the school year were left en-tranced. Though, this situation did help shed more light on the Rhodian civil war for Charlie and the experiences of the Quill people.
Though, despite his best intentions to make amends with Miss Quill (since he could not remove the Arn – as it would kill her), his idea to create her a psychically manifested partner in Sweet Nothings to keep her company in a way he could not… well, you’d be annoyed too if your new boyfriend wasn’t real, wouldn’t you?
Who Remembers The Remembrance?
Charlie would also land slap-bang in the middle of Whoniverse history… falling through a tear to 1963 caused by an Imperial Dalek. Whilst the Dalek roamed 2016 Coal Hill, trying to exterminate Miss Quill and the newly arrived Ace & gather information about the outcome of the ‘Shoreditch Incident of 1963’… Charlie encountered the past Ace, entered 1963 Coal Hill and was chased by Imperial Dalek forces amidst the events of Remembrance of the Daleks. Thankfully, no alterations occurred to the timeline. Well, no major ones. But Ace’s memories are always a complicated subject, anyway…
Shadows and Souls
Tensions would rise soon after when it turned out that the Cabinet of Souls did in-fact contain the souls of his people & could be used as a weapon. As April and Ram ended up on the Shadow Kin planet (a realm known only as The Underneath) trying to confront Corakinus, Charlie would find himself put in a terrible dilemma.
Another space-time tear had brought alien petals to London. Petals that feed on blood and multiply. Unable to control the situation otherwise, the new headmistress Dorothea Ames (working for the mysterious Governors of the school) insisted that Charlie should use the cabinet to destroy the petals.
Held at gunpoint by Dorothea, and angrily confronted about the Cabinet by Quill; Charlie almost reluctantly utilised the Cabinet for their destruction. Thankfully, in the meantime, April had defeated Corakinus in combat (Thanks to some crafty shadow-swords she’d gained. Long story. Perks of Corakinus’ plans going wrong.) and was able to use her newfound shadow powers to destroy the petals instead.
The Cabinet remained unused, but the tensions also remained. Not just between Charlie and Quill, but also between him and Matteusz. A stern pacifist, Matteusz was not pleased that Charlie effectively had a weapon lying around in his bedroom. And he was incredibly worried about how Charlie might change if he came to use the Cabinet.
Having made a bargain with Dorothea to get herself free of the Arn, Miss Quill gave Charlie and the others detention – locking them inside her class whilst she went to attend to that. (By travelling through literal heavens and hells, including the inside-world of the Cabinet!) Problem was, another tear opened up scattering a small fragment of a meteor into the classroom.
This asteroid, as it turned out, contained a imprisoned alien entity who had been locked away in space. And its arrival trapped the classroom in a nothing-space, outside usual space and time. Also, its prison made people confess things. To the point that they’d kill each other. The entity was the last of the prisoners left alive, having killed the others. Charming.
As confessions were made (really big confessions) by the rest of the gang. tensions began to mount. The reluctant Charlie accepted that he would have to make a confession to the asteroid. A confession like none of the others. Admitting his wish to use the Cabinet to destroy the Shadow Kin for what they’d done to his people. That only Matteusz’s gentleness was holding him back from doing so. And that if the gang had to fight to death, he would be the one that would survive.
Grappling with the asteroid, and bleeding from the strain of confessing to the alien prison… He forced the prisoner to make a confession. That it wanted someone guiltier than it to destroy it. Accepting the fate, Charlie admitted that he would be its destruction & the asteroid shattered into pieces.
Aftermath for Charlie
Returned with the classroom to normal spacetime, the asteroid fragments almost took Charlie as their next prisoner. Though, it was destroyed just in time by the returned Miss Quill. Having lived a significant amount of time across various manifested realities, she had come back Arn-less.
Most of the gang, now shaken by the confessions of the day, rapidly left the classroom. Leaving only Charlie, Matteusz and Quill. (Funnily enough, as Tell Me You Love Me showed, the three of them had already previously gotten caught among a situation that refused to let them not speak truthfully.) With Quill ready to kill Charlie… until she collapsed. Because as it happens, she’d gotten pregnant along the way. (It’s a long story. No, really, a whole episode worth.)
Charlie would take the gun from her and hide it in the Cabinet… But ultimately would resolve to look after her during the following week – whilst she was in effectively a comatose state. (There’s more to this, but we couldn’t possibly spoil the surprise!)
Return Of Shadows
Corakinus would free himself from Shadow Kin captivity in April’s absence from the Underneath. Taking command again as King: he would return to Earth, murdering both Tanya’s mother & Ram’s father. April’s mother would be threatened… Tanya’s brothers would almost be murdered… And Charlie would be given a small sliver of shadow on his heart by Corakinus – making him partially Shadow Kin, just like April.
Tensions rapidly escalated, with both Tanya and Ram determined that Charlie would use the Cabinet to avenge their losses. Meanwhile, Charlie would force answers from Dorothea at gunpoint. Discovering that the mysterious Governors and herself had been investigating the tears in preparation for a mysterious Arrival. Unfortunately, their preparation work had opened up a massive amount of tiny space-time tears. Not big enough for a typical physical being to pass through, but enough for shadows.
As Corakinus readied his army in Shoreditch, most of the gang found themselves once again in the gym hall for a confrontation. (With Tanya and Quill having brought the Cabinet, and Charlie in possession of Quill’s displacement gun.)
The Final Battle
People in the surrounding area found themselves being attacked by Shadow Kin. April in the hands of Corakinus. Matteusz alive but almost killed. Quill and Tanya ready to fight. Ram outside, rushing to find them. And Charlie found himself left with an monumental choice: destroy the Shadow Kin planet by using the Cabinet or see the Earth destroyed by not using the Cabinet.
With April’s urging, Charlie regretfully shot her – the shared heart connection toppling both her and Corakinus… And then made to use the Cabinet, having in cruel twist of fate, become the King of the Shadow Kin through the gunshot. (Ram arrived just in time for this, but not with any context to the act.) Though, the Shadow Kin didn’t take it easily.
Fighting the army as they gathered, Tanya and Quill were able to buy enough time that – despite Matteusz’s frantic pleading otherwise – Charlie could use the Cabinet. The Rhodian souls scattered from the Cabinet, decimating the Shadow Kin on Earth… And then went through a tear, and to the Underneath where they destroyed their planet.
In the explosive aftermath, only one soul remained. One that could kill the final remnant of shadow. The one in Charlie. But at the last moment, Quill pulled him away, saving him… And leaving that final Rhodian soul to zoom across to the bodies of Corakinus and April.
Suffering great losses: the Rhodian Prince was left with no souls of people, broken friends and a heavy guilt about his actions. And then, the body of Corakinus sprung back up from the floor – surprising everyone. But it wasn’t Corakinus. It was April, now stuck in Corakinus’ body.
Where life could go from there is hard to imagine. Charlie certainly has a lot to deal with. April’s new form… the destruction of the Underneath & how that affects his relationship with Matteusz… Quill’s moment of kindness despite their past history, Ram’s anger at Charlie shooting April… Oh, and the Governors have plans for him. And the rest of the gang. As they prepare for The Arrival, working for none other than the Weeping Angels.
One day, we’re sure to get more answers on that future – but for now, we get to revisit some of the past.
Class: Secret Diary of a Rhodian Prince takes us back into the history of Charlie… Charting his past and perhaps just a little of his future. It is available to pre-order now from Big Finish, £8.99 as a digital download & £10.99 for CD/Download combo. CDs are a limited run of 1000. The sixty-minute audio release comes out on January 24th.