Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES Vol 6 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES Vol 6 Review

Matthew Kresal is successfully taken back in time to a golden era.

In 2015, Big Finish Productions released the first set of Third Doctor Adventures with actor Tim Trealor stepping into the sizable shoes of Jon Pertwee's legendary incarnation of the Time Lord, alongside Katy Manning reprising her role of companion Jo Grant from the early 1970s. The series has gone from strength to strength ever since, with last year's fifth set bringing Jon Culshaw in to play the Brigadier, and John Levene reprising his 1970s role of UNIT's Sargent Benton, further recreating this era on audio. The latest set offers up two more tales for the Third Doctor, but with some nice twists.

First up in the set is Guy Adams' Poison of the Daleks. On the surface, this would seem to be a traditional Dalek story, like Nicholas Briggs' The Conquest of Far from Volume Three, combined with UNIT. Indeed, there are plenty of tropes of both types of Third Doctor tale present in Adams' script, including plenty of callbacks to Dalek tales of years past in proper Terry Nation fashion. What Adams does, though, is a mash-up that brings elements of both together. Indeed, it might also be channeling the sort of ideas that this era's TV producer Barry Letts wrote into his own Third Doctor audio drama The Paradise of Death back in 1993. Adams, though, realizes those ideas far better here, with his bringing together elements from Nation's Daleks adventures and the more socially conscious Letts penned stories, creating a fascinating hybrid tale that offers something new for this Doctor's encounters with the Daleks.

Following it up is Jonathan Barnes' Operation Hellfire. The Third Doctor era on TV saw him largely either an anchor to the "present-day" of the UNIT stories or adrift in the future. That's been the case with the audios in this range, as well, until now. Barnes' script is a pulp infused take on the pure historical format we're more familiar with from the show's black and white days, set in a period that feels utterly right for this Doctor: the Second World War. It's an adventure that involves a much sought after ancient artifact, British spies, Nazi sympathizers, and the potential power of the occult to change history. It's also a chance for Classic and Modern Who to have a bit of a crossover, with the Third Doctor and Jo encountering wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, played with great presence by the one and only Ian McNiece. As both the sort of story we never got on-screen with this Doctor and as an adventure/thriller in its own right, Operation Hellfire is cracking good fun, especially for those listeners with a bent toward the kind of pulpy storytelling it evokes.

It also helps that these are well-told tales. The casting remains impeccable, particularly from Trealor and Culshaw stepping into some big shoes, and doing so splendidly. It's easy to close one's eyes and see Pertwee's Doctor with his cape and Courtney's Brigadier, decked out in 1970s UNIT uniform, performing again. Manning and Levene, too, help evoke that early seventies feel, with both getting to do some neat expanding upon what they did on the screen back in the day. They're ably given backing by strong supporting casts, including Elli Garnett as the politician Davis-Hunt in the opening Dalek story. It's especially true of Operation Hellfire where the likes of Mark Elstob (Big Finish's very own Number Six from The Prisoner), Jeany Spark, and a non-Davros playing Terry Molloy sink their teeth into some juicy roles.

As with the previous releases in the Third Doctor Adventures (and much of Big Finish's output in general), it would be remiss not to speak to the quality of the music and sound design. The scores from Nicholas Briggs (who also directed both stories) wonderfully captures Dudley Simpson's scores for the era, while also evoking in places the more experimental electronic music found in it as well. Steve Foxon and Scott Ampleford's sound design likewise proves essential, creating soundscapes ranging from a seventies (or is it eighties?) industrial complex to an alien planet and, latterly, wartime Britain. It's a showcase, if one was needed, for Big Finish's skills at creating worlds out of sound and the listeners' minds.

For five releases, Big Finish have been successfully recreating an era with these Third Doctor Adventures releases. With this sixth volume, they not only do that but go a step farther, both hybridizing across this Doctor's era and also breaking new ground in what they can do with it. For those reasons alone, it's worth a listen. The set, though, is proof of the strengths of this range, and why these Third Doctor tales remain an annual highlight of their Doctor Who output.

The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 6 is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until June 30th 2020, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places. 

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