Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures: The Annihilators, by Big Finish

SCI-FI: There’s something in the water at Lewgate Docks. Something strange, and green, and deadly. Summoned to the North of England by a mystery informer, the Brigadier finds his investigations hampered at every turn by the local police. Just what are they trying to hide?

A rollercoaster ride of thrills and excitement that combines two Doctors, two companions and a massive threat to our planet.

Something seems to be causing great shifts in time on Earth and the Doctor, fresh from repairing his TARDIS, swears he hears an earlier version of himself making fun of him. Meanwhile, the Brigadier is dealing with a very hostile Police Chief who seems very reluctant to let UNIT help her investigate a death in a river. Before long, the Doctor, Dr Liz Shaw, and the Brigadier are facing an intergalactic threat that is determined to wipe out the Earth. That’s when an old acquaintance of the Doctor’s appears saying he came with HIS Doctor …

The Third Doctor Adventures has been a raging success for Big Finish with eight previous volumes (many of which are reviewed elsewhere on this site). This release sees a break from the traditional format of two four-parters and gives us a seven-episode epic which closely resembles the first season of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor (the only one to feature Liz as the companion). For many fans, this season is one of the best in the programme’s history despite there only being four serials and three of them seven episodes long. Writer, producer, director and music designer of this story, Nicholas Briggs, clearly has a lot of love for this era and it radiates through every minute of this lengthy story.

As usual, Tim Treloar does a wonderful job as the Third Doctor, keeping up his excellent characterisation of the dashing hero played by Jon Pertwee. Daisy Ashford continues to fill her mother’s shoes brilliantly as Liz Shaw and is really making the character her own. Jon Culshaw delivers his absolute pitch-perfect impression of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as well and this trio holds the pieces of this enormous puzzle together fantastically.

This principal cast is joined by Frazer Hines as an older Jamie McCrimmon. Michael Troughton (son of Patrick) gives us an intelligent and jovial reading of his father’s performance as the Second Doctor. Like David Bradley’s reading of the First Doctor (and indeed Treloar’s reading of the Third), Troughton tries to capture the feel and character of the Doctor and not necessarily an exact impression of the man playing him. This takes some adjustment but after a while the listener gets used to it. Their appearance is a foretaste of adventures that will be heard later in the year in a Second Doctor Adventures set where some of the questions asked in this story will be answered.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive. Karen Archer plays DCI Denise Walker, the police chief with a very dark edge. There is much menace in her reading and some very subtle changes to her voice when the truth about her comes out. Mark Elstob has an impressive run of four characters with each one sounding very different from the other. His role of Dr Daniels channels the performance of Peter Miles’ Dr Lawrence from Doctor Who and the Silurians (from the same season that this is set in) with eerie accuracy. Daon Broni (Sergeant Al Sinclair), Sam Stafford (Private Pritchard / Corporal Snell), and Bethan Walker (Greshtrenor Sub-Leader / Dr Jane Broadbelt) round out this stellar cast well. There is a lengthy set of interviews also rounding out this release that are well worth the listen.

Briggs does an exceptional job as director (and it must be said his script is very, very good with nowhere near as much padding as some of the seven-parters in Season Seven) and his music is so evocative of the era it is like he is channelling the many wonderful composers from the that time period directly. Steve Foxon’s sound design is the cherry on top of the remarkable release.

Fans of the Third Doctor era, and especially his first season, will relish this set. It is a perfect example of something great being born out of something you love.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: February 2022
Approx RRP: $38 CD, $17 Digital Download

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