David Bradley returns as The First Doctor. The First Doctor Adventures Volume Three from Big Finish reunites the central cast of ‘An Adventure in Space and Time‘ for two new stories.
Now we’re into the third volume of these re-cast First Doctor Adventures a pattern seems to be appearing. Each box set has included one historical and one more science-fiction story. This pairing seeks to replicate the feeling of the TV First Doctor era, further enhanced by the structure of the stories – in four parts. But unlike the TV series, which sometimes felt a bit padded to stretch the story over 4, 6 or even 12 episodes, the pace and structure of these two stories feels tight and amenable to modern ears. Big Finish have worked their magic once again in blending the tone of the original era with flourishes of modern story-telling.
The regular cast sound comfortable in their roles, bringing their own interpretations rather than doing a straight impersonation of the original cast. This can be a little jarring with Claudia Grant‘s Susan as she seems the most distant from the original. If anything she seems MORE alien than Carol Anne Ford’s portrayal.
Barbara and Ian get some nice moments together in both of these stories, developing the romance that other media have explored. There are moments of flirtation, jealously and even one supporting character asking Susan if Ian and Barbara were a couple. How important they are to each other is acknowledged throughout in many touching moments.
So let’s look at the stories on an individual basis.
The Phoenicians by Marc Platt
A historical story very much in the vein of the The Romans. In fact it shares an awful lot with that tale. A classical setting. The team getting split up with Ian once again ending up as a slave. The machinations of royal court. Assassination attempts. The Doctor playing along with mistaken identity. The general feeling of not knowing who to trust. But don’t let these similarities put you off. It may share some elements but it is a thoroughly engaging story that cuts out any excess weight that The Romans may have had and ends in a very different way.
The Sibling rivalry of King Pygmalion and Princess Elissa is thrilling to listen to and their plots against each other are at Game of Thrones levels of backstabbing. The hatred between the two is convincingly portrayed by Jo Ben Ayed and Ajjaz Awad. Both ooze their disdain for each other, especially heard in the increasing intensity of the King’s anger and venom that build throughout.
Ian is in his Swashbuckling best form here. Venturing to confront those he feels are in the wrong, attracting some romantic attention on the way. Jamie Glover has done a brilliant job at capturing the essence of the character while adding his own spin.
The essence of the 1960’s TV show is further encapsulated in this story through subtle educational elements. Susan questions if the Pygmalion they encounter is one from earth mythology and Barbara, ever the historian, gives a quick account of several Pygmalions throughout history mythology and fiction. It’s a nice moment that feels natural within the story.
Tick Tock World by Guy Adams
While The Phoenicians had elements of The Romans, Tick Tock Word has hints, at least in the first episode, of The Space Museum. A fault with the TARDIS. Jumping time-tracks. Seeing possible future versions of themselves. The similarities in this one though are mostly contained to that first part and from there it diverges to create a wonderfully thoughtful wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey concept piece. Carefully constructed by Guy Adams, the twists and turns ramp up the tension at all the right moments.
Highlights of this story are The Doctor’s conversation with several possible future versions of himself, which really highlights David Bradley’s acting chops. Also guest star Carol Anne Ford as ‘The Woman’, the original actress to portray Susan, as the Doctor’s sort of Vision guide in this episode was a fantastic choice thematically. It is lovely to hear her in this story.
The soundtrack to this story by Joe Meiners must also be complimented. The beautiful, ethereal score perfectly fits the very other-worldly nature of the tale.
The First Doctor Adventures Volume Three takes the best of the tone and feel of the 1960’s TV show and adds modern flourishes that make it feel fresh, while not out of place for the era. David Bradley continues to be a fantastic addition to the world of Doctor Who and the rest of the regular cast have really started to settle into their roles. The stories in this set are engaging throughout, knowing just when to bring in a new element to the story to ramp up the tension and pace.
3.1 The Phoenicians by Marc Platt
In ancient Tyre, the Phoenician civilisation commands the oceans. But times are turbulent – the young King’s quarrel with his sister threatens to divide the nation.
On perilous seas, Ian becomes Princess Elissa’s favourite, while Susan and Barbara face losing their freedom. In the city, the Doctor falls foul of King Pygmalion.
As they reach dangerous shores, the travellers fight to survive as legend becomes history…
3.2 Tick-Tock World by Guy Adams
When disaster befalls the TARDIS, its occupants find themselves in a bizarre location, somewhere between space and time.
Desperate survivors hide among ruins, greedy scavenging creatures hunt new prey, and ghosts scream out warnings across time.
All the while, a mysterious woman watches the TARDIS crew, knowing, as sure as tock follows tick, that a terrible fate awaits them…
Producer: David Richardson.
Script Editor: Matt Fitton.
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs.
Written By: Marc Platt and Guy Adams.
Directed By: Ken Bentley.
David Bradley (The Doctor), Claudia Grant (Susan), Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright), Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton), Carole Ann Ford (The Woman), Ajjaz Awad (Princess Elissa of Tyre), Jo Ben Ayed (King Pygmalion of Tyre), Orion Ben (Aiyaruc / Hanna), Youssef Kerkour (Bitias), Raad Rawi (Tubal / Maygo / King Hiarbas of Tunis), Mina Anwar (Horl), Susie Emmett (Katta), Belinda Lang (Nocta). Other parts played by members of the cast.