This latest wodge of UNIT-era action comprising two 4-part stories - Rise of the New Humans by Guy Adams and The Tyrants of Logic by Marc Platt - is a bit of mixed bag. Adams’ story is the cosier of the two for those seeking some old-school ‘70s nostalgia. It sees the Doctor and Jo speeding off in Bessie to a remote Dartmoor research facility to investigate the strange case of a wannabe suicide whose carpark plunge has caused the sudden sprouting of craggy hyper-human armour and semi-wings. This fiendishness is not, as they initially suppose, the work of The Master, but that other Gallifreyan rapscallion, the Meddling Monk. Rufus Hound plays the Monk like a demented Terry Thomas and gets most of the best lines. It’s a fun performance but often tips things over the dreaded panto line (the Doctor referring to the Monk as a ‘meddlesome villain’ hammers home the point). Very much the hors-d'oeuvres of the set, but an atmospheric and sinister piece, that finds an original twist on the Frankenstein mythos.
Marc Platt is something of a Big Finish specialist when it comes to the Cybermen so it’s appropriate he gets to pitch them headlong at Third Doctor, who they fought shy of in the TV series (bar a fan-pleasing cameo with Pertwee in 1983’s The Five Doctors). The Doctor and Jo Grant (Katy Manning, dialling back a bit on the helium for a change) come to the aid of an abandoned, Wild-West-styled mining colony who have been visited by a strange crate the silver troopers want to crack open. Being Platt, there’s a thought-provoking mystery at the heart of the story and his cohort of mismatched rogues and rebels are exceptionally well-played by a cast including veterans Jeff Rawle and Carolyn Pickles. It crams a hell of a lot in and could have done with the 6-part format to let its conceptual trousers down an inch or two, but still wins big with smart character curve-balls, great performances and sound design. It’s easily the stronger story here, albeit one that breaks away from the conceit of these plays being recreations of the early-‘70s TV era - this one’s much more in 1990s New Adventures territory.
Tim Treloar continues to shine as the Third Doctor. In welcome contrast to Frazer Hines’ leaden, over-mannered take on Troughton, there’s an unselfconsciousness to Treloar’s performance that captures the sheer joie de vivre of Pertwee, summoning back an incarnation of the Doctor who’s about as far away from Jodie Whittaker as it’s ever going to get. Good news for a certain breed of fulminating old-school Who fan.
THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES: VOL 4 / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / WRITER: GUY ADAMS, MARC PLATT / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: TIM TRELOAR, KATY MANNING, RUFUS HOUND, MINA ANWAR / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 30TH