by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Sylvester McCoy and Katy Manning
All the team at UNIT Headquarters are being evacuated to a secure location, but that’s not all that’s out of place, she’s got the wrong Doctor. But there’s no time to worry about it, as she and her misplaced Time Lord friend are whisked to the mysterious Delphin Isle on a matter of national security. There, they encounter a disturbingly odd form of local hospitality and learn of a highly classified incident that took place during the Cold War.
Just when you think it’s impossible for Big Finish to come up with another great new idea, there’s The Defectors. It’s always seemed a shame that only companions of the actors that have played the Time Lord who are living get to be a part of the main range Doctor Who series, whilst the others are relegated to playing other characters or ending up in spin-off series. The Defectors is the first part of a trilogy where we’ll hear companions from Doctors one to three matched up with the Fifth to Seventh Doctors. In story terms how and why is this happening? Is the wrong Doctor here to help, make a different choice, was he brought here by a friend or foe? You’ll have to listen to the whole trilogy for an answer to these questions.
It’s fascinating to hear how The Seventh Doctor would operate in a Third Doctor world and, narratively speaking, Nick Briggs has nailed his observations of the different styles. Where Pertwee was confident and all knowing, McCoy is more cautious and machiavellian, but this style of operating doesn’t work so well in a different Doctor’s world. Briggs also finds a strong natural style where the listener discovers what is happening as do The Doctor and Jo that feels just right.
Pairing Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor and Katy Manning’s Jo Grant just feels right somehow, and both actors bring their eccentric bests to this outing. Poor Richard Franklin seems a little underused, but the guest performances from Neil Roberts, Barnaby Edwards, and David Graham flesh out the story well. The music is particularly effective at ramping up the tension and setting the listener on edge at all the right points.
The polysemic and aptly named The Defectors is a strong and enjoyable story, its mystery style and unanswered questions keep the listener guessing all the way to end. It does fall victim to the classic Doctor Who trap of “would-have-made-a-better-3-parter-syndrome” and the two middle cliffhangers are a little similar but, those small critiques aside, I enjoyed the story and the structure idea is intriguing and brilliant.
Thanks to Big Finish