Third Doctor Adventures Volume 4Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton
The Third Doctor Adventures - Volume 4
Writer: Guy AdamsMarc Platt
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Featuring: Tim Treloar, Katy Manning, Rufus Hound, Mina Anwar, Joe Sims, Carolyn Pickles, Nicholas Briggs
Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)
Running Time: 5 hours

Released by Big Finish Productions - March 2018
Order from Amazon UK

Before we begin, a quick housekeeping query: is everyone sufficiently bucked up and ready for further old-school 1970s (or 1980s, depending on whom you ask) sci-fi escapades? Wonderful.

Perhaps emboldened by the success of their Dalek revival in Volume 3, Big Finish isn’t skimping in the slightest on classic villains in their newest pair of Adventures for the Third Doctor. In fact, they’ve introduced not one but two returning antagonists into the fray for Volume 4 in the forms of the Meddling Monk and – for the first time ever in a Jon Pertwee-era tale, so better late than never – the Cybermen.

Admittedly this reviewer took umbrage with how intent “The Conquest of Far” seemed with simply reliving Dalek glory days, rather than seeking to develop how we perceive Skaro’s finest in any notable way, last time around. Will Guy Adams and Marc Platt’s next efforts to immortalise the late Pertwee’s beloved Doctor – now revitalised via Tim Treloar’s loving aural homage – fall into the same traps, then, or can their connective thematic tissue surrounding the ever-complexifying concept of human nature elevate proceedings?

“The Rise of the New Humans”:

“Look, Bessie’s a lovely car Doctor, I mean a really lovely car, but have you ever thought about investing in a little roof rather than a flappy tarpaulin to keep you dry?”
“Don’t you listen, old girl – she knows you’re beautiful really!”

Had we ever told diehard fans of all things Doctor Who after watching the divisive “The Woman Who Lived” in 2015 that supporting star Rufus Hound would go on to resurrect a long-overlooked classic antagonist to tremendous acclaim, the best case scenario, most would have justifiably scoffed in our faces. Between his infrequent appearances in the Short Trips and Doom Coalition ranges along with the British comedian’s headline role in Volume 4’s opening tale, however, that’s all changed and the results could hardly feel more satisfying than in the case of “The Rise of the New Humans”.

A whirlwind four-parter that’s by parts thought-provoking, hilarious – as if we’d expect anything less of Hound – and thrilling, “Rise” fits into the mold of the Third Doctor era perfectly, posing a fascinating metaphysical concept as human test subjects find themselves transformed into supernatural beings capable of withstanding nearly any affliction. Naturally, though, Doctor Who wouldn’t be Doctor Who without an audacious experiment gone wrong, and sure enough the side effects – not to mention the technology recklessly co-opted by the Monk to achieve his not-so-altruistic goal – quickly lead listeners and the major players alike to question the limits of science’s oft-perceived god complex.

If this all sounds too grim and sombre an affair to warrant the Monk’s involvement, then rest assured that Hound alleviates any such concerns with unmistakable ease from the outset. It’s thanks to his sinister, almost sickly, charisma and brilliantly earnest haplessness in the face of just about any danger that Adams’ borderline gothic – certainly Frankenstein-esque – script never gets too bogged down in its contemplations on evolution and the increasing risks of intervention in this natural process for financial gain, with the Monk’s attempts to disguise his seemingly benevolent intentions so delightfully inept that the audience should barely mind sitting through the humour-laden first half before discovering his true ambitions.

At the same time, though, Adams thankfully also realises the supreme value and drawing power that Tim Treloar and Katy Manning both hold in the eyes of the Adventures range’s fandom, peppering in a wealth of understated conversations between the pair which perfectly encapsulate their bubbly, at times teacher-student-style dynamic. Whether they’re arguing over Bessie’s temperamentality on a rain-swept road – a subtle homage to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, perhaps? – or the Doctor’s comforting Jo upon her poignant realisation that rumours of us only accessing 10% of our brain power may have been exaggerated, every exchange that the characters share could’ve been ripped straight out of a 1970s serial, with Treloar’s righteously confident and Manning’s sweetly innocent line deliveries both as completely pitch-perfect as ever.

The only noteworthy misstep on the wright in question’s part, then, comes with Part 4. While by no means a deal-breaker, the final installment of “Rise” does succumb to an all-too-familiar virus plaguing myriad audio and TV Who adventures – hightailing it to the finish line and ditching any intriguing ideas laid along the way in the process. One can’t help but notice the superior running time afforded to the boxset’s second story – the individual episodes of which run for around 30-35 minutes each compared to this serial’s 20-25 – and wonder if Adams struggled to give ideas like humans struggling with their deadly mutations full due, hence the final 25 minutes descending into the usual catastrophic monster mash and retconning a hugely tantalising cliffhanger regarding Jo within moments of its occurrence.

Maybe Adams simply needs to keep honing his stabs at the four-part format instead, but it’s food for thought in terms of whether he might better befit a five- or six-episode serial should he contribute another script for the recently-announced Volume 5.

“The Tyrants of Logic”:

“Doctor, what are they?”
“Cybermen!”

Reading the above lines of dialogue alone will, for many fans, surely prove a cathartic experience in and of itself. After all, despite coming into contact with Daleks, Silurians, Sea Devils, Sontarans, Ice Warriors and Autons over the course of his four-year tenure, not to mention the Master on a near-weekly basis, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor never earned himself the chance to battle arguably Doctor Who’s second most iconic monster, joining Paul McGann, John Hurt and Christopher Eccleston’s as the only such incarnations faced with this unspeakable on-screen plight.

But, as Hurt’s War Doctor proclaimed in 2013’s similarly Cyber-lite 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”, no more. Setting down on an initially near-deserted human colony dubbed Burnt Salt, the now exile-free Time Lord and Jo soon discover that they’re far from alone; quite to the contrary, a nearby saloon houses a wild assortment of rogues and ex-soldiers, all of whom bear a secret inevitably doomed to surface as the Cybermen make their presence on Burnt Salt known with their destructive efforts to secure a vital hidden weapon.

Prior to us proceeding any further, though, a word of warning – with its Cybermats, Cyber Wars fallout and attempted Time Lord-Cyber conversions, Marc Platt’s latest script represents a quintessential story for everyone’s favourite Mondas residents, for better and for worse. Unless this boxset somehow marks your first encounter with Who, many of the twists in “Logic” will likely seem rather familiar; from characters mistakenly willing to sacrifice their humanity to the robotic menaces escaping supposed extinction yet again, from the Doctor needing 10 minutes to alleviate his companion’s dismay at their latest foe’s near-human nature to Part 4’s predictable final duke-out, there’s nothing particularly fresh to speak of in what’s a fairly run-of-the-mill nostalgia tour.

Nothing, that is, save for the continuing thematic strand surrounding what it truly means to call oneself a member of the human race. If “Rise” explores this existential concept through a metaphysical exploration of our species’ DNA being evolved to a supposed higher state, then “Tyrants” – as with many Cyber-tales, although to more emotional effect a la Spare Parts – does so by presenting members of our species on the brink of having every aspect of their personalities stripped away. Can we possibly still define someone as human when they’re clinging to any remains vestiges of their Id / ego / super-ego? Sure, it’s a line of inquiry also recently pursued by TV serials like “Asylum of the Daleks”, but without spoiling too much, Carolyn Pickles achieves wonders as her character Marian Shaeffer’s cold exterior peels back to reveal her heartbreaking motivations in this regard.

Indeed, even if “Logic” doesn’t exactly break a great deal of new ground compared to a recent TV Cyber-outing like “World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls”, it’s not for want of the central and supporting cast alike doing their utmost – with director Nicholas Briggs’ support and guidance, no doubt – to provide an entertaining 2-hours of pseudo-base-under-siege action. That Treloar and Manning’s insatiably endearing chemistry injects humour and charm at every turn likely goes without saying at this point, but look out too for Briggs’ finest turn yet as the ever-hauntingly impassive invaders standing in Burnt Salt’s doorway as well as a contrastingly vulnerable performance from Deli Segal’s Skippa, another innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of a seemingly unyielding, constantly destructive conflict.

The Verdict:

Above all, this stellar new boxset for Treloar’s Third Doctor marks a vast improvement on Volume 3, offering a far more consistent pair of serials that seldom cease to provide gripping listening no matter your chosen venue of aural consumption. Does “Logic” still follow the roadmap presented by Cyber-tales gone by a little too rigidly at times? Sure, but its stirring explorations of warped human psyches – combined with Adams’ own study in “Rise” of our dangerous strides towards godhood of late – ensure that it’s nonetheless a far superior beast to “Conquest of Far”, particularly with Briggs taking such unnerving pride in chronicling Pertwee / Treloar’s proper first encounter with the Cybermen.

This reviewer has spoken before on the matter of whether Big Finish’s abundant New Series productions – see Tales from New Earth, The Churchill Years Volume 2, Gallifrey: Time War and The Diary of River Song Series 3 in 2018’s opening quarter alone – threaten to overshadow their Classic Series output if they’re not careful. Provided that the studio keeps producing such captivating jaunts into the lives of Doctors past, though, then their listeners, stars, scribes and directors should have nothing to worry about in terms of the job security that Hartnell-McGann’s incarnations will maintain going forward.

And buck down…see you next year for Volume 5 at the same Bessie-time, same Bessie-place!






The Ambassadors of Death (BBC Audiobook)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 24 February 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Doctor Who: The Ambassadors Of Death (Credit: BBC Audio)
Written by Terrance Dicks
Read By Geoffrey Beevers

Released by BBC Worldwide - January 2018
Available from Amazon UK

Way back in the day, before home video, and before there were even many reruns of Doctor Who, many serials of the Classic Series were fondly remembered by fans via their novelizations printed by Target Books. There are probably still older fans who remember seeings bits of stories that never actually aired, because their memories of the Target Novelizations were so embedded into their memories of the show.  Now the BBC are taking those novelizations, and producing audiobooks of them.  So The Ambassadors of Death this is an audiobook adaptation of a novelization of a TV serial that aired in 1970.  Also, this is not to be confused with the television soundtrack of the story which was previously released, which was the soundtrack of the TV story with linking narration by Caroline John

With all that out of the way, I can say, I was not one of the fans who grew up with hte Target books.  I've never had an opportunity to read any of them, as I grew up i nthe wrong era and wrong continent for these books to be too available.  So this is really my first taste of what Target brought to the table. I can see why this line of books lasted so long, and managed to adapt nearly every serial from the classic series. The Story Editor of the Pertwee Era, Terrance Dicks, wrote this novelization (he actually wrote several and was fairly prolific in the book series), and his adaptation of the TV story he co-wrote is very detailed and captures the spirit of the original Pertwee story perfectly. I haven't watched The Ambassadors of Death in a few years, but listening to this I could just picture it all brought back to life in my head. 

Of course, an audiobook version of any book is only as good as the person reading it, and Geoffrey Beevers could read me the phonebook.  He has a great voice, actually voices as he distinguishes several characters with different tones and accents, and that voice encouraged me to zip through the audiobook.  Beavers also briefly played the Master on television against Tom Baker, and went on to reprise that character in severa Big Finish audio plays.  He was also, fact fans, the husband of Caroline John who portrayed Liz Shaw during the first season of Pertwee's tenure (including this very story).  I have all sorts of pointless trivia!

Anyhow this audiobook was quite good.  If you are on the go and want to relive the Target novels you once read (or, like me, experience them for the first time) you want be disappointed in this.  Beevers is a great narrator, and the audiobook reminded me just how entertaining the original Serial was. 





Short Trips - Landbound (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 13 January 2018 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
Landbound (Credit: Big Finish)

Producer Ian Atkins, Script Editor Ian Atkins

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

Written By: Selim Ulug, Directed By: Neil Gardner

Cast

Nicholas Briggs (Narrator)

Let me start by saying Landbound is FREE TO DOWNLOAD, via Big Finish thanks to the fantastic Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity.

 

The story is at times, quite a melancholy one about brief friendships and wings being clipped. In it we find the third Doctor in Bessie fleeing from his responsibilities at U.N.I.T. - bored with being tethered to one single planet and itching for the return of his freedom to roam the Cosmos.

 

In Whitby, the Doctor stumbles across a mugging, and steps in to save the victim, a local pub landlord called Ronald Henderson, or the Captain as he is known locally. As a reward for the Doctor's gallantry, Henderson invites him back to his pub, The Jolly Sailor for a glass or two of 'a decent vintage of Bordeaux'. The story slowly unfolds over drinks, and we find that the two of them may have a fair bit more in common that they at first thought. It is also revealed that Henderson quite possibly had an unfortunate encounter with a rather large, translucent, metal eating alien lifeform, something that, once a certain Time Lord gets his TARDIS back - he might just be able to help with a little.....

 

The story is written by Selim Ulug, the winner of this year's aforementioned Paul Spragg Short Trips Memorial Opportunity, and is narrated by Nicholas Briggs himself. The story isn't the best that the range has to offer, but is none the less very engaging and enjoyable. Nicholas Briggs does a fine job of making a very passable impression of the late, great Jon Pertwee. The story and it's sensibilities feel somewhat like a very modern take on a classic story.

 

Landbound is a solid entry to the series, and has the obvious plus in that if you haven't had a chance to sample a Short Trips story, or indeed are still yet to sample the Big Finish range, then Landbound is an enjoyable enough, free opportunity for you to do so.





Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 18 December 2017 - Reviewed by Peter Nolan
Short Trips Rarities: The Switching (Credit: Big Finish)

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Simon Guerrier
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Read By: Duncan Wisbey
)Originally Released: September 2017

 

An unapologetically slight tale, The Switching jettisons having much of a plot at all in favour of some fun character moments grounded in the UNIT family dynamic.

Though the blurb makes a half hearted attempt to play coy, and the script takes its time to say it out loud, it’s pretty clear from the off that we’re getting a classic Freaky Friday scenario with a Time Lord twist. In a way, it’s such a perfect idea it’s almost a surprise we never saw a version from Letts and Dicks on screen though I’m not sure Jon Pertwee’s pride could have taken playing across from another actor doing their best impression of him. As it is, we get Duncan Wisbey doing a remarkable job of capturing the Third Doctor’s sibilance and that slightly ragged edge to his voice. Except this isn’t the Third Doctor, of course, but the Master.

Surprisingly charming and pragmatic as he makes a nuisance of himself at UNIT HQ, it’s a reminder that, back in the day, the Master didn’t tend to kill unless it actually advanced his agenda. Instead, quickly discovering that the Doctor’s TARDIS is in parts all over the place and not fit for making an escape from Earth in, he restricts himself to having a bit of fun at his best frenemy’s expense.If there’s a flaw, it’s the Master’s surprise that the Doctor is clearly so habitually rude and disrespectful to his UNIT colleagues (everyone reacts with slight suspicion as to why ‘the Doctor’ is being so nice and pleasant to them). It feels like the Master should know the Third Doctor better than that. All the supporting characters are perfectly drawn, however, with Jo in particular note perfect.

Essentially a throwaway novelty, it’s nicely wry humour and talented and flexible reader this is well worth the handful of coins and half hour of your time it will cost you.

 





Third Doctor Vol. 1 - Heralds of DestructionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 November 2017 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Third Doctor Collection Cover.png
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Chritopher Jones
Colourist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Jimmy Betancourt
Senior Designer: Andrew Leung
Senior Editor: Andrew James
Assistant Editors: Jessica Burton, Amoona Saohin, Lauren McPhee, & Lauren Bowes
Published: 16th June 2017

Titan Comic's Five Issue mini-series starring the Third Doctor is collected together as Heralds of Destruction.  Whereas Titan's limited run of the Eighth Doctor had a different setting and story in each issue (with a running storyline throughout), the Third Doctor's run is entirely one story told over five issues. In that sense, it feels very tight and cohesive, and manages to capture the mood of the Third Doctor's wholly unique era quite nicely.

The story takes place somewhere during the Tenth Season, taking place after the Third Doctor's exile was ended by the Time Lords, but before Jo left, Sarah Jane arrived, and Mike Yates had his fall from grace. All of these little details play a role in this story, which arguably gave more real motivations and developments to these beloved characters than the actual show truly did at the time.  Yet that is not to say that this story doesn't feel like it could easily fit into that era.  In fact, it perfectly captures the tone of the UNIT days of Doctor Who. The voices of the characters are perfectly captured, and the art is great. The character likenesses are mostly spot on, though I personally felt Jo didn't always look just right.  But it is always going to be easier to draw the distinctive look of Jon Pertwee over the young and pretty face of Katy Manning.

The plot itself is rather fannish, with lots deep cut references to characters from this era (and before), but the execution feels so right, so very much of this timeframe in the show's history, that it almost doesn't matter what the story is. You've got alien invasions, UNIT shooting at it, the Third Doctor pontificating, the Master in his glorious Roger Delgado form, and even a few surprises along the way. What's not to enjoy?

I loved how this story takes little character bits, like the sometimes hinted at but never fully realized relationship between Jo and Mike, and brings it to fruition. Unfortunately, the constant interuptions of their work with UNIT become the reason they never truly made it work...and this also begins planting the seed for Mike to make the choices he made in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I also rather liked the simple but effective motivation for the Third Doctor still sticking around on Earth and with UNIT despite his despised Exile finally coming to an end. 

If you, like me, have a soft spot for the Third Doctor's era of Doctor Who, there is little doubt in my mind you will find enjoyment in this book.  It's a story that feels like it was plucked straight from that era, and gives the Doctor and his supporting cast some lovely character moments to shine. 





Doctor Who - The Thief Who Stole TimeBookmark and Share

Friday, 6 October 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Thief Who Stole Time (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana),
Joannah Tincey (Sartia), Alan Cox (Eamonn Orensky),
 Kieran Hodgson (Klick Chervain),
Des McAleer (Blujaw Skaldson),
Alex Wyndham (Linnis Skaldson), Jamie Newall (Greygul), Jane Slavin(Frithra), John Banks (The Sleek).

Romana has been cruelly abandoned by her old Time Lady friend, and the Doctor is left, to not only clear up a mess with the furious locals of the planet Funderell that concerns the 'accidental' killing of their God, but also to try to deduce what the Time Lords have done to the fascinating planet....Oh yes, and the TARDIS has been lost, absorbed by the ever moving liquid skin of the planet's surface......things are looking grim.....

 

The Thief Who Stole Time is essentially parts three and four of the previous story, The Skin of the Sleek - and starts, in true classic Doctor Who style, by quickly and efficiently resolving the cliffhanger from the previous episode. As with the the first two parts of this story, not only is the story telling first rate but the world building is fantastic and quite dazzling.

 

I felt that the only (very slight) let down is that new Time Lady Sartia (Joannah Tinceydescends into a moustachioed twirling villain far too quickly, readily explaining her dastardly plans to anyone who will listen - but this is quite fun in a way, and harks back to the time of simpler writing. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of this story as a classically staged four parter.

 

The standout performance for me was Tom Baker himself, who seems to be reaching new levels with the character through Big Finish, and is just an absolute joy to listen to for anyone who enjoyed his era, particularly the later years. I actually laughed out loud at a number of his one liners - yes they are expertly written by Marc Platt, but Tom absolutely owns every word by the manner in which he delivers them. Lalla Ward is also excellent of course and delivers some real gravitas to the scenes between her and Sartia, when she struggling to understand why someone who she thought of as a friend, should actually despise and resent her.

 

The Skin of Sleek and The Thief Who Stole Time are essential listening to any fan of the Baker era. Not to be missed.

 

Both stories are available now from Big Finish as a digital download or an audio CD. 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Oct 2017
The Fourth Doctor Adventures - The Thief Who Stole Time (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)