The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 4
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tim Treloar (The Doctor) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
The Third Doctor and Jo reunite for two very different evolution stories.
“The Rise of the New Humans”
Written by Guy Adams (who wrote my favorite Big Finish production to date, “Fiesta of the Damned”), “The Rise of the New Humans” gets off to an unusual start when the Doctor and Jo visit a morgue. The Doctor has carried out his fair share of investigations (and is all too familiar with death), but they usually don’t fall this overtly in the detective genre (and later, during a drive in Old Bessie, gothic horror). It follows suit that the first quarter is filled with lovely interactions between Jo and the Doctor. Like all the best partners, their affection pairs well with some gentle ribbing, but what really sets their conversations apart is how straight they are with each other. In a behind the scenes interview, Briggs talks about how this episode “keep[s] the Doctor and Jo together more” and their honesty is truly forthcoming.
A man has committed suicide off a car park. During the fall, his body tried to adapt for survival. His skin changed, and he began to develop wings. The Brigadier brought the case to the Doctor’s attention and it isn’t the first of its kind. The common link is an Allingham Institute and we’re already prone to dislike the place because of a scene at the very beginning. Before the man took his life, he was yelling “make it stop.” On paper, these adaptations could be a positive development, but there’s clearly something terribly wrong, and the Doctor and Jo are getting to the bottom of things.
The sound design on this Earth-bound adventure is especially strong, providing a sense of place before anyone has to say anything and also letting us know when someone’s listening (which isn’t easy to do without visuals). The other big component is the Monk (Rufus Hound), a character I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before. He’s a rather loud personality but hearing Hound talk about how joy sets the Monk apart from other villains (“there’s no point in playing the monk unless it sounds like he’s having a whale of a time”), made me appreciate the character more. Having a second Tardis around, since the Monk is a Time Lord, too, is also a nice reminder that this isn’t your 21st century Doctor.
“The Tyrants of Logic”
Never having faced them during his TV run, it’s the Third Doctor versus the cybermen in writer, Marc Platt’s, “The Tyrants of Logic.” Set after the Cyber Wars, bar owner Gusta (Linda Marlowe), and one-man band, Chad (Jeff Rawle), are two of the last people living on Burnt Salt. The supply ships are late and when they show up, it’s with a crate they didn’t order. What’s inside attracts the Cyberman (who weren’t wiped out in the wars after all) and it’s up to the Doctor and Jo to make sure the box doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. And for some reason there are lemur people.
For me, this story had a few too many disparate elements, like it’s snowing but there’s also a green house. The lemur people, led by Skippa (Deli Segal), are paired with Hollisen Grier (Ronan Summers), a Nazi hunter for Cybermen. Both voice actors successfully create their characters, but the contrast between the uber-sweet lemurs and gruff Grier is distracting, and the lemurs were getting on my nerves anyway. It turns out lemurs “meow,” so I couldn’t shake the idea that they were cats, not lemurs, and while later there’s one line that made me understand their function, their syrupy-ness is grating.
The life and death stakes actually reach the Doctor in this one, but where Jo’s belief in the Doctor protects him, others aren’t so lucky, and that disparity’s slightly bothersome, outside of how it highlights the Doctor and Jo’s strong bond. Jo rarely leaves his side, but the significant part is the Doctor concedes. He doesn’t fight her too hard and the last quarter takes guest star, Marian Schaffer (Carolyn Pickles), to the next level, as the woman whose name is on the crate that’s causing all this trouble.
“The Rise of the New Humans” is my favorite of the two stories, but after listening to both the real takeaway is what a great pairing Treloar (filling in for Jon Pertwee) and Manning make as the Third Doctor and Jo Grant. Big Finish has a winner in “The Third Doctor Adventures” and hopefully there are more in the future.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 4 is available to purchase from Big Finish.