Doctor Who Audio Review: The Daleks and Churchill Are Back

The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 6 resurrects the Third Doctor with this recent offering from Big Finish Productions. Two new audio plays are featured in this set with Tim Treloar reprising his improving impression of the late Jon Pertwee’s version of the Doctor’s third incarnation. Katy Manning returns as Jo Grant. Nicholas Briggs returns o the director’s set as well as voicing the Daleks in one of the episodes once again. Fans of this era of Doctor Who should be quite satisfied with the tropes and traditions peppered throughout this set. Although Jon Pertwee made for a great Doctor, this was not really my favorite era of the show since I did not care for the decision to have the Doctor stuck on Earth in exile. The whole UNIT family thing was not something that revved my enthusiasm all that much. There were some decent stories, and Pertwee’s elegant bombast was entertaining enough for me to find quite a bit of enjoyment in spite of my reservations about some of the writing and production decisions of the time. Of course, Big Finish contributions even when revisiting some of the more problematic eras of the television series are almost always welcome.

The first of the two adventures here is Poison of the Daleks by Guy Adams. This is the real treat for the more avid fans of the era. John Levene returns to the role of Sergeant Benton of UNIT. Jon Culshaw returns to the mic, channeling the late, great Nicholas Courtney, as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Abigail McKern, Elli Garnett, Clive Hayward, Alexandria Riley, and Nicholas Briggs make up the guest cast. So this is another story where the audience is somewhat bludgeoned with dire warnings of the dangers of pollution. I am not for pollution, but sometimes in entertainment, a little more subtlety when addressing these social issues would be appreciated. So an air filtration company s hiding a secret portal to another world in which the Doctor, Jo, Benton, and the Brigadier are whisked off and find the Daleks waiting for them. The Doctor meets another genius scientist on this planet and immediately lets his ego overcome his manners. Actually, the barbs traded between him and Abigail McKern’s Skwoj are actually pretty amusing. In spite of my exasperation over the environmental hazard warning elements to the story, it turned out to be a pretty decent episode. It did represent the era well enough and added some freshness to the old characters. We got to see….or rather hear a bit more of Benton being a competent and heroic soldier here. Benton had some fine moments on the television series, but it was nice to have that explored further by Big Finish. The performances were all quite strong. I’m not necessarily a fan of the Daleks, but Briggs does a great job voicing them, and his enthusiasm can be rather infectious. There was plenty of satisfaction to be found here, but I preferred the second story a bit more.

Operation: Hellfire is written by Jonathan Barnes and takes this specific Doctor into a realm that was not really explored in the television series. The Third Doctor rarely went back into Earth’s past during the television years. I can only recall one story where he did that. Also, this story did not have the usual alien menace lurking in the shadows. There was an alien artifact from the Doctor’s home planet he had to find during the height of the Second World War. By the way, Ian McNeice reprises his role of a certain Prime Minister who led Britain through that particular kerfuffle. Mark Elstob, Terry Molloy, Samuel Clemens, Jeany Spark, and Beth Goddard join Treloar and Manning in this one. The Doctor is actually still serving his exile on Earth during this time, but a Time Lady enlists him to find a missing relic from Gallifrey. The Doctor and Jo are allowed to travek back in time to 1943 where spies are aplenty, and there is some subsect of Nazi occultists lurking in the shadows. Actually , they may not have been lurking in the shadows so much, but they certainly filled in quite nicely for the alien menace who is usually there in Doctor Who episodes. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one more than expected.

Overall, I think this one of the better sets in the Third Doctor Adventures range. Treloar does manage to pull off an impression of Jon Pertwee, that is convincing enough to serve the nostalgia fans have for this era. Even though Pertwee can no longer participate in these episodes, Treloar does him a great honor in the efforts to recreate the era with brand new adventures. Manning’s talent has yet to diminish in spite of her age. I can sometimes almost forget the woman is in her 70’s now. She may not sound exactly the same as she did in the 1970’s obviously, but her enthusiasm and affection for her time on the show makes up for it. Culshaw’s impression of the great Nicholas Courtney is a welcome addition since the Third Doctor and the Brigadier together is about as iconic as any other pairing in all of comic and sci-fi lore. In spite of my frowning on some aspects of the Third Doctor era, still enjoy revisiting it, especially when Big Finish continues to find a way to tell new stories. I have enjoyed all of the sets in The Third Doctor Adventures rage, but Volume Six turned out to be one of the better ones.

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