Books & Literature

Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Vol 5, by Big Finish

The Third Doctor and companion Jo Grant are joined by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sargent Benton and Liz Shaw across two new full-cast adventures.

Big Finish has reintroduced a couple more favourite characters from the Third Doctor era and the results are astonishing.

After four volumes of portraying the late Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor for Big Finish, Tim Treloar continues to shine in these excellent adventures alongside the ageless Katy Manning as Jo Grant. But this time, Big Finish has reintroduced a couple more favourite characters from that era and the results are astonishing.

Joining Treloar and Manning is Jon Culshaw (who does a pretty spot-on Pertwee impression himself) portraying Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (originally portrayed by Nicholas Courtney for nearly ten years on TV, and through three different Doctors). Whilst Courtney’s portrayal of the gruff Brigadier will never be fully repeated, Culshaw gives an almost pitch-perfect delivery that is so on-point at times, you would swear the Big Finish team edited in old dialogue from the original actor!

Also joining the team for the first story is original Third Doctor companion, Professor Liz Shaw. In the series she was portrayed by Caroline John and her character was deemed too smart by the producer of the day, Barry Letts, and promptly let go after one year, which was a shame. Big Finish brings her character back but this time portrayed by the late actress’ daughter, Daisy Ashford (herself a notable actress). Whilst not as definitive an interpretation as Culshaw’s Brigadier, she reflects many of the mannerisms and vocal inflections of her mother’s portrayal of the character to a high degree.

It helps that the first story, Primord, written by John Dorney, is an absolute belter of a story that plays as an excellent sequel to one of the greatest Third Doctor serials, Inferno. The pace crackles along and the many twists and turns keep the listener on their toes. The supporting cast includes Joe Jameson (Private Callahan), Rosalyn Landor (Caldicott), Michael Troughton (General Sharp), Andrew Wincott (Captain Hall), and Dominic Wood (Warren). It is a top drawer cast who all excel in their respective roles.

The second story, The Scream of Ghosts by Guy Adams (who also appears as Bob Ellis in the story), is not quite as exhilarating as the first but in this story, we are treated to another fine return of Sargent Benton (played by John Levene). The story sees an early mobile phone experiment hijacked by the Vardans in an attempt to take over the world. It is as traditional as they come and it plays the beats of these sorts of these stories perfectly, but it still feels lacking in that final polish that the first story does. The small supporting cast of Bethan Dixon Bate (Lady Madeleine Rose) and David Dobson (Armitage) perform well with their sometimes two-dimensional characters.

As usual, director Nicholas Briggs brings his love of 70’s Doctor Who to the front with snappy direction and quick-fire dialogue. He also provides the exceptional score to this set that, as in previous volumes, is a beautiful tribute to the work of Dudley Simpson who wrote most of the music for the Pertwee era. The sound design by Lee Adams and Joe Meiners is also faultless in its execution.

The set comes with a bonus disc of interviews with all the main cast and crew and gives a good insight into the wonderful relationship all the players have with one another.

This is another outstanding set from this series and future volumes cannot come soon enough. If you are a fan of this era of Doctor Who, this set is well worth the listen. Even the more casual fans of the show should find much to savour here.

Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Twitter: @Wagnerfan74

Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: May 2019
Approx. RRP: $46 CD, $20 Digital Download

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