Although utterly fantastic and probably the best Third Doctor outing BigFinish had made so far, they can be said to have played a little bit safe with the Third Doctor Adventures Volume 1. Tim Treloar’s performance as the third Doctor was exemplary, and yet not 100% Pertwee – I said at the time that he was playing the Doctor, not impersonating Pertwee playing the Doctor. And that fitted in perfectly with BF’s own, slightly tentative approach to this untouched territory – they openly stated that they took the (largely disliked, okay, only by me) part-drama/part-prose route for the audio plays so that they’d be more acceptable to anyone offended by the replacement of Pertwee.
However, with this second Pertwee boxset, no such shrinking violetage has occurred. Explicitly asking the question of its audiences at various conventions as to whether the part-prose interpretation worked, Big Finish has taken their feedback on board and bravely – but rightly – decided this time to go down the full-dramatisation route. Similarly, Treloar has obviously been doing his homework in the intervening months, meticulously observing and learning the various tics and nuances of the actor whose performance he is reinterpreting here. I still maintain that he is playing the third Doctor rather than impersonating the actor who played the third Doctor; but bloody hell, he doesn’t half sound like him. While listening to the first box set there were moments I forgot that this wasn’t Pertwee’s own interpretation; with this new set, there was hardly a moment when I didn’t feel that.
The non-prose, all-drama audio plays in question are Guy Adams’s The Transcendence of Ephros and David Llewellyn’s The Hidden Realm. In the former, the Doctor and Jo land on Ephros, where a galactic British Gas-alike are looking to exploit – or worse – a planet in the last days of its life, while a religious mob led by a lovely blind nun – or worse – are determined to go with a bang. Llewellyn’s story has the pair visiting Jo’s cousin, whose husband has mysteriously disappeared. What is the significance of the magpies? Is there a terrifying alien plot? (Answer: yes, according to the BF website, so that’s not spoiling anything.)
The scripts are great: both utterly appropriate to the Pertwee era and simultaneously right up to date. Llewellyn’s story, especially, is compelling, can’t-put-down stuff. As ever, it all sounds great. Sound design makes for completely believable environs, while the incidental music feels absolutely correct for the period.
Fundamentally, Jo and Three were always one of the iconic Tardis pairings, and that absolutely continues here. Treloar’s performance is astoundingly good, and of course Manning’s Jo is a delight to once again have back in the thick of things. It’s another thoroughly professional and utterly enjoyable job from Big Finish, and I can’t recommend it enough. The question comes – and I am in no way trying to do Ms Manning out of work here – will BF ever consider an original companion for Treloar’s Three? But whether they do or don’t, the next box set can’t come soon enough for me.
The Third Doctor Adventures volume II is available from BigFinish.com.
Written By: Guy Adams, David Llewellyn
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Simon Bubb (Temper/Follower 1), Richenda Carey (Mother Finsey), Bernard Holley (Karswell), Nigel Peever(Quail/Deputy), Karen Henson (Bartram/Follower 2), Clare Buckfield (Stephanie Andrews), Robert Whitelock (Peter Andrews), Sandra Voe (Miss Barnett), Richard Earl (DCI Finch), Alex Lanipekun (DS Joseph), George Asprey (Overseer Zim )
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs