Big Finish: Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures THE ANNIHALATORS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures THE ANNIHALATORS Review

There's something in the water at Lewgate Docks. Matthew Kresal investigates.
For Doctor Who fans, 1970 will forever be remembered as the year that the series went into color and brought a new Doctor with it in the form of Jon Pertwee. Yet it was also a year that saw a series of introductions, from a new companion in the form of Liz Shaw to new iconic villains to the new Earthbound format, making possible the changes to Who the following year that took the Third Doctor era to even grander heights. The first Pertwee season has retained a following among fans, and it's perhaps no surprise that Big Finish has returned to it to relaunch their Third Doctor range with The Annihilators.

Indeed, it's a relaunch in more ways than one. Whereas previous Third Doctor releases were two four-part stories told across four discs, The Annihilators emulates the structure of the 1970 season by presenting a single seven-part story (right down to recreating the post-credits tease and sting employed in The Ambassadors of Death). It's a format that served that opening season well, and Nicholas Briggs (who also directs) puts it to good use here. Having those three extra episodes gives the plot and characterizations more breathing room, plus the chance for Briggs as a writer/director to drop in some twists for the story. In fact, this reviewer would go so far as to say that The Annihilators works so well because of the extra running time.

The biggest twist, and one kept under wraps until the start of this year, is the appearance of the Second Doctor and Jamie into the mix. Indeed, it's a shame that their presence wasn't (or perhaps couldn't) be left that way, as it's a fantastic twist in the tale. It also works in the script's favor, following the season seven tradition of the Silurian plague and Inferno's alternate universe in helping give the story the extra edge in making the most of its extended length. Briggs' characterization of them feels spot-on, too, with him both neatly dealing with continuity implications of their presence here and setting up the forthcoming Second Doctor-centric range with their appearances here, as well.

The Annihilators also builds on the earlier work of the Third Doctor Adventures with its main cast. Tim Trealor hangs in his best performance as the Third Doctor to date, capturing such an iconic Doctor on audio with unmistakable hints of Pertwee's voice and mannerisms. Daisy Ashford continues capturing the cadences of her mother's voice and the forthrightness of her delivery as Liz while also getting an at times before playful edge to play with thanks to the script, especially in her interactions with Daon Broni's Sergeant Al Sinclair. Meanwhile, Jon Culshaw provides an impeccable recreation of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, making it easy to imagine Courtney in early UNIT uniform as the man of action. Beyond them, Michael Troughton has a solid introduction in his father's role, capturing much of the cadence and mannerisms, if not being quite a vocal match, while carrying over the chemistry with Frazer Hines as Jamie. Backed by a fine supporting cast including Broni, Karen Archer, and the multi-vocal talents of Mark Elstob, there are strong performances all around.

Completing the return to 1970 is the post-production work. Steve Foxon's sound design brings forth both the grittier feel called for by the season and the story's locations but also, in its SF sound effects, more than a hint of the Radiophonic Workshop's work for the era. Briggs, meanwhile, also puts on his composer hat and delivers a score that suitably echoes Dudley Simpson's early Third Doctor work wonderfully. If this reviewer has any complaint about the release, it's the lack of a music suite to enjoy!

From its script and performances to the sound design and music, The Annihilators is nothing short of a pitch-perfect pastiche of one of Doctor Who's greatest seasons. One that offers hints of the Third Doctor's future at Big Finish and of his predecessor, as well. If this is any indication, listeners are in for some interesting adventures in the years to come.

Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures: The Annihilators is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 March 2022, 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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