It’s a new set of The Third Doctor Adventures from Big Finish! Previously the series exclusively included Jo Grant, played adoringly, as always, by the one and only Katy Manning. Now, after four wonderful box sets, Big Finish are expanding the team to include some more old favourites.
Sadly, most of the original actors from the Third Doctor era have passed away. Thankfully, however, their characters are being played by talented actors who each do loving justice to their original roles. While everyone has had the time to appreciate Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor, recasting two new characters could be difficult. Thankfully Big Finish are adoring fans as well and understand fan concerns.
New to the Team
This is why casting the versatile voice of Jon Culshaw as the Brigadier is clever. Fans know him to be a fan himself. Just as importantly he is so convincing as the Brigadier that it’s almost haunting. The best piece of casting, in many ways, is having the daughter of Caroline John, Daisy Ashford, play Liz Shaw. Naturally she does a splendid job and if this allows more stories with Liz, then it’s a definite win. Happily the splendid voice of Sgt. Benton is back with the Third Doctor! John Levene returns to the role and having him with Katy Manning once again is simply wonderful!
With a truly fantastic cast of actors, both supportive and main, doing outstanding work, the only thing left to do is take a closer look at the stories themselves.
A large part of this reviewer would like to put a simple line of text to say something bold and definitively positive about this story. It’s that good. From top to bottom there’s not a lost or wasted moment. John Dorney delivers a masterpiece. If you’re a Third Doctor fan then this is exactly the story you never knew you had been waiting for. It has the Brigadier, Jo Grant and Liz Shaw, what more is there to want? Oh, and it’s a follow up to ‘Inferno‘ and sounds exactly like it was lifted out of the BBC archives.
The story is very much of the period. You can see in your mind’s eye the 1970’s in all of its glory. It’s a follow up to the fantastic ‘Inferno‘, so much of the set up is done for us. ‘Primord‘ is more about character interaction with that classic slow build up than it is throwing everything at the listener.
The Doctor and Jo take a break from UNIT and are going to meet Liz Shaw who is working on a secret project. Liz wants the Doctor to take a look at her work. Meanwhile The Brigadier has a side project of his own that he’s working on which will come to play in the grand scheme of things. It’s simple enough. The plot expands upon the Primords of ‘Inferno‘ but the real joy is in the character building. The Third Doctor could be abrupt and sometimes, in the 21st century, we wonder how anyone could have put up with that. Especially the female characters. Thankfully Treloar’s Third Doctor is a bit more gentle and encouraging and Jo is less of a child and more of an equal.
This is supremely well paced and atmospheric story, with a lot of that down to the sound design and music. Nicholas Briggs is on music duty here and WOW! The music is perfectly of the era and everything, right down to the transitions are impeccable. The sound design feels authentic and is used sparingly but effectively. It sounds older, not overly polished or of this decade and goes a long way to creating the sound of the 1970’s. ‘Primord’ is a loving tribute that doesn’t necessarily tackle any new ground but may challenge some listeners as Liz Shaw is used as an antagonist. That said, it’s handled with such care and is used to propel the story that it only helps make this adventure all the more engaging.
The Scream of Ghosts
The second story in this volume is written by the great Guy Adams. Unlike the stories from The Third Doctor Volume 4 which were complimentary contrasts, these two stories feel very closer in tone. Perhaps it’s because they take place back to back but even though they’re facing different problems both share a certain air.
In ‘The Screams of Ghosts‘ Sgt. Benton joins in the action and brings the Doctor some knowledge on the unusual sounds being heard. It’s always fun to revisit villains who use audio as a weapon with Big Finish. Unfortunately this story almost suffers from having too much sound, largely because the premise of this story deals with an over indulgence of sound. It’s hard to mark that as a negative, but this reviewer listened to the story a couple of times and still felt like I’d missed important elements. The combination of Briggs’ fantastic music and the excellent sound design with the white noise sees all the sounds seemingly bleed together. With these competing elements the dialogue and plot become harder to focus upon.
All is not lost
This is not to say that the story doesn’t work. It is another top quality addition to the Big Finish catalogue. I would imagine most listeners won’t have my issue but if I were in this situation helping the Doctor, the world would have been lost. The parts that I did catch time and again were fun and Dominic Wood was a lovely addition. His voice always rang through and he seemed to be the type of character that could be reused again.
Both stories are very effective (perhaps too much in my case). It’s absolutely wonderful to hear an audio drama with so many classic characters. Although a shame we can’t have the original actors take part, wonderful substitutions are used with love and care. The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 5 is gorgeously retro 1970’s. Despite my frustrations with ‘The Scream of Ghosts‘, it’s evident that Nicholas Briggs and his team put a lot of heart and time into making two exciting adventures.
Both stories are worth experiencing with ‘Primords‘ being an absolute instant classic! In fact, now that this is published, I’m going to go listen to it once again!
5.1 Primord by John Dorney
Prisoners are escaping from incarceration all around the country and UNIT have been called in to aid in the search. But the Doctor is unwilling to agree to the Brigadier’s request for help as he and Jo have opted to take a holiday – they’re going to visit his old assistant Liz Shaw, now working in Cambridge University.
But, unfortunately for Jo, the Doctor can’t relax for very long. Soon the Time Lord and his friends are facing an old enemy – creatures they’d long since thought they’d put to ground.
The Primords have returned – and this time the danger may strike very close to home.
5.2 The Scream of Ghosts by Guy Adams
When the Brigadier and Jo are called in to look into a breakthrough in the field of portable communication, the Doctor has to stay behind with communications problems of his own – a strange signal coming through the TARDIS console that’s burned out its circuits.
When Benton approaches the Doctor with an odd story about an old friend, the Time Lord realises his troubles and the Brigadier’s investigations may be connected, and hot-foots it in pursuit.
Soon they discover that terrifying sounds are walking in the woods of the English countryside… but what lurks behind those sounds may be even more dangerous…
Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart © Haisman & Lincoln and used under licence.
With thanks to Hannah Haisman and Candy Jar
- Tim Treloar (The Doctor)
- Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
- Jon Culshaw (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart)
- Daisy Ashford (Liz Shaw)
- John Levene (Sergeant Benton)
- Guy Adams (Bob Ellis / The Vardans)
- Bethan Dixon Bate (Lady Madeleine Rose)
- David Dobson (Armitage)
- Joe Jameson (Private Callahan)
- Rosalyn Landor (Caldicott)
- Michael Troughton (General Sharp)
- Andrew Wincott (Captain Hall)
- Dominic Wood (Warren)