For all its success in keeping the classic era of Doctor Who alive, Big Finish has faced many trials and tragedies, and none more so than Jon Pertwee. Passing away after only two audio dramas, Big Finish have found a few inventive ways to keep his era alive, but recasting the Third Doctor entirely was always going to be a gamble. Thankfully it’s one which has paid off extraordinarily well.
Covering a multitude of tales during and following his exile, The Third Doctor Adventures Vol. 1 utterly nails the strength and style of the 70s. Between Prisoners of the Lake to The Havoc of Empires, each of these short stories embodies a style and quality unique to this era; the latter example in particular retaining vibes of the Peladon tales of political manoeuvres and backstabbing. While the emphasis upon heightened tension and scares is what makes it feel like a creation of the Letts era, the return of several surviving actors has helped substantially. Jo Grant and Captain Yates serve as the primary companions in this case, a welcome return indeed, and it’s notable that Tim Treloar never sounds out of place against them. Serving as narrator as well as the Third Doctor, he manages to pull off a pitch perfect impression of the character which truly brings the stories to life.
Atop of the stories and actors, a major strength present within the tale is the soundscapes and music. Creating the sense of events on a grand scale, they accomplished a fantastic job of creating a thick atmosphere at the right moments and building upon the scares. Whereas the likes of Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge never fully conveyed the alien nature of its environment, the effects here retained a perpetual, very alien, edge worthy of such an unnatural environment. This said, if you weren’t a big fan of the Letts era music, you might not be won over so easily by some of the themes.
If there is a flaw to cite it’s that certain tales have the habit of dragging on, only really building up during the final act. The opening to Prisoners of the Lake in particular was notably drawn out, and on occasion it just seemed there to fill time. It takes time to build up a proper momentum and that can seem off-putting for those after less of a slow burning story.
If you’re a fan of Classic Who this is most certainly a collection worthy of your hard earned cash. It’s a strong return for the Third Doctor and shows great promise for an ongoing series.
THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES VOL. 1 / AUTHOR: JUSTIN RICHARDS & ANDY LANE / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW