Doctor Who Audio Review: The Brigadier Is Back

“The Third Doctor Adventures Volume Five” is an audio play box set from Big Finish Productions the returns the fans to the era in which the late Jon Pertwee starred in “Doctor Who”.  Katy Manning reprises the role of Jo Grant.  Since Pertwee is still deceased, Tim Treloar provides the vocal performance of the Third Doctor and continues to represent the era quite nicely.  The late Nicholas Courtney was best known as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart and of course is unable to reprise his role, however Jon Culshaw, perhaps Britain’s best known impressionist, is on hand to pitch in with his talents, so the Brigadier lives again.  I love the Third Doctor, but I was never a fan of the decision to have most of his tenure grounded on Earth. Saying that, I was very impressed with the efforts to recreate the dynamic as best as possible with several major performers deceased.  The while thing works quite well.  There are two four-part stories in this set as customary with this range and both are worth the time.

John Dorney kicks off with “Primord” which follows up on the catastrophes of the television serial “Inferno”.  Daisy Ashford takes on the role of the Doctor’s former assistant Liz Shaw, which was originally portrayed by the late Caroline John.  The touching little bit is that Ashford is actually Caroline John’s daughter and was reportedly very pleased with the idea of allowing fans to revisit Liz again.  Liz Shaw was a scientist as well and often was not quite as lost as other companions when the Doctor spewed forth his overly complicated explanations.  It has been a bit since I have watched an episode with Liz, so I am not sure how close Ashford actually is to sounding like her mother, however she is good enough to make me not care that much.  I liked Liz, so it was great to have her presence represented regardless.  I was also pleased that Michael Troughton was part of the guest cast as an overly ambitious general.  He is of course the son of the great Patrick Troughton, who is best known as the Second Doctor.  The story effectively revisits elements of “Inferno” and still offers a new take on the Primords.  Also, Liz sort of ends up not being quite the woman the Doctor remembers and that adds an interesting dimension to her participation.  Finally, the fans get the pleasure of hearing two of the Doctor’s friends who never met onscreen interact finally.  If there are more adventures to represent this era, I certainly would not object to hearing more Liz Shaw, as played by the original actress’s daughter, Daisy Ashford.  I certainly don’t object to John Dorney continuing to contribute his talents as writer as well.

“The Scream of Ghosts” is the second piece brought to us by another long-time Doctor Who contributor, Guy Adams.  This one sees the return of Sergeant Benton, as played by John Levene, who is still very much alive.  Guy Adams also is part of the guest cast alongside Dominic Wood, Rosalyn Landor, and David Dobson.  This story delves into what could have been the early days if experimenting with portable communication, in other words, mobile phones.  This story is set in the 1970’s, so this would have been a revolutionary invention at the time.  The Brigadier and Jo are asked to evaluate the progress of the work being done by a scientist named Coldicott, played by Landor.  Benton comes to the Doctor asking for help when an old friends reports hearing strange voices coming through CB.  All kinds of strange voices and sounds are emerging from the radio waves, and Coldicott seems to have made extraordinary breakthroughs in her efforts to master the problem of instant communication.  The Doctor finds that there’s a dangerous intelligence behind the strange events in the English village, and the danger also ends up being rather familiar as well.  It’s a good story, but I may have to listen to it once or twice more to imagine what was intended to be conveyed.  It’s a little harder to follow than Dorney’s contribution, however I found plenty to enjoy anyway.

The release pretty much stoked my sense of nostalgia for this particular era of the series as a whole.  Even though I may have some disagreement with some of the creative decisions at the time, the Third Doctor and Jo as main protagonists are still quite compelling and charming.  Even though some of the original performers are no longer with us, Big Finish put a lot of thought on how to recreate this particular era and it shows.  Culshaw’s talents are amazing.  I enjoy listening to the cast interviews which are included in the CD releases, and Culshaw seems to enjoy showing off his vocal talents in this set, but I did not mind a bit.  I also loved Katy Manning’s reaction in the interviews when she talks about how her memories of Jon Pertwee and Nicholas Courtney are brought to the forefront.  Her affection for her cast mates and her friends is very evident and makes her all the more charming.  The chemistry among the actors and the characters is recreated very effectively as well as providing new stories for them.  I hope news of the sixth volume of Third Doctor adventures breaks very soon.

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