Big Finish: Doctor Who THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES Vol 8 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES Vol 8 Review

Good evening Matthew Kresal, we've been expecting you...
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. Over six years and seven sets, it's a series that has now crossed the width of an era, from its earliest days with the Doctor alongside Liz Shaw and the Brigadier to its closing days with Sarah Jane Smith. With this latest entry, Big Finish offers another duo of tales from different parts of the Third Doctor's tenure, sure to delight fans of the era.

Up first is Alan Barnes' Conspiracy in Space. Or, as it might otherwise be called, On His Draconian Majesty's Secret Service, given that this story, like the TV story Frontier in Space that inspires much of it, is essentially a sci-fi take on a James Bond film. The Doctor and Jo (once more played by the ever-delightful Katy Manning) return to Draconia once more as the threat of war hangs in the air as court politics come into play and a superweapon threatens the empire. While the first episode is a tad heavy laden due to all the worldbuilding it has to do once Barnes gets the story moving, it never lets up. There are plenty of twists and turns, and those who were, like the late Jon Pertwee, fans of the Draconians as aliens, will find plenty to enjoy here. There's also, perhaps surprisingly for something without pictures, plenty of action sequences that likewise capture a particular part of this Doctor's TV era well. All of which help Conspiracy in Space launch the set in style, as well as adding a further entry into the Season 10(B) created by Big Finish, taking place between Planet of the Daleks and The Green Death

The second story of this set takes listeners to the Third Doctor's final TV season. Robert Valentine's The Devil's Hoofprints is, like Tim Foley's The Gulf in the previous set, the kind of story by and large avoided in this era on-screen. Namely, it's a pseudo-historical and one that takes place across two different periods. Indeed, the thing Valentine's script most resembles is the less than well-remembered Ghosts of N-Space radio serial written by Barry Letts for BBC Radio in the 1990s. But where Letts struggled, in part for bringing in elements that didn't fit the story he was trying to tell, Valentine succeeds with the Doctor and Sarah dealing with a real-life historical mystery playing out in 1855 Devon. Meanwhile, the Brigadier, on his own, deals with a situation in the present day, both story strands connected by events. It's an intriguing and thorny way to tell a story, but one that unquestionably works here, with Valentine and director Nicholas Briggs finding the right balance between the periods, dialogue, and the requisite action sequences.

This latest is also well served by its casting. Tim Trealor, after previous seven sets and a couple of notable appearances in the role elsewhere at Big Finish, continues to create a compelling take on an iconic Doctor on audio, capturing enough of Pertwee's voice and performances while not being a slavish (or worse flat) attempt at recreation, though there are a few instances when he sounds more like himself than Pertwee. Nor is there any doubting his chemistry with, or the enthusiasm from, Katy Manning reprising her role as Jo, who is on fire throughout Conspiracy in Space. Sadie Miller, who made a strong impression as Sarah Jane Smith in Return of the Cybermen and the previous Third Doctor set, offers up an at times uncanny take on the role that her mum made famous nearly a half-century ago. Last but not least is Jon Culshaw, who continues to provide an impeccable recreation of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, making it easy to imagine Courtney in UNIT uniform as the man of action. Surrounded by a supporting cast that includes Imogen Church, Carolyn Seymour, Barnaby Kay, and the ever-reliable Barnaby Edwards, it's easy to see why casting is such a big reason why Big Finish's stories work as well as they often do.

Another part of Big Finish's and this series success is how well put together their productions are. The scores from Nicholas Briggs (who also directs both stories) wonderfully capture the often quite different musical stylings of the Third Doctor's TV serials, bringing together the electronic with more traditional sounds neatly. There is also the sound design work of Steve Foxon and Jack Townley, which between the two stories, cover a wide range of locations from Draconia to spaceships, laboratories, and 19th-century Devon. It's another example of Big Finish's capabilities and audio drama, in general, to create entire worlds out of sound.

From a sci-fi James Bond adventure to a pseudo-historical, the Third Doctor Adventures series moves from strength to strength. Something it does with the assuredness of experience from previous sets and pastiching one of Classic Who's best eras. Not to mention that, in a year already full of fantastic releases, this is another feather in Big Finish's cap.

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 08 is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 November 2021, 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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