The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 6
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tim Treloar (The Doctor) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
‘Poison of the Daleks’
Even in the 70’s, the Third Doctor era was always environmentally conscious (with the series famously addressing global warming in Jo Grant’s farewell serial, ‘The Green Death’). It’s also an era responsible for one of my favorite Dalek storylines, ‘Planet of the Daleks’. While ‘Invisible Daleks’ was always going to be a tough act to follow, the main problem with Guy Adams‘ ‘Poison of the Daleks’ is the Doctor himself.
Breathe Industries has created a filtration system that supposed to end air pollution. The Doctor is convinced the system won’t work. Why he’s so convinced is the part that’s hard to figure. While it’s one thing to see the system and decide it’s a scam (which is what the Doctor’s off to do, however begrudgingly) it’s another to decide it’s not going to work before he’s even seen it in action. There’s no place for the story to go because he’s already made up his mind and, of course, he’s right in the end.
While it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for the Brigadier and the Doctor not seeing eye to eye, the Doctor is especially unwilling to entertain anyone else’s opinion in this story. He’s even mean to Jo. It’s not to her face but at one point there’s a character who says, “I suppose there’s no accounting for her taste,” and the Doctor says, “I might agree if you were referring to her clothes.” It’s just uncalled for and this is a guy who wears capes. Capes are cool, but he has no room to talk.
Jon Culshaw does an amazing job embodying Nicholas Courtney’s voice as the Brigadier and it’s always wonderful to hear John Levene’s Sergeant Benton. As the face of Breathe Industries, Elli Garnett’s Davis-Hunt doesn’t initially stand out but then gets an awesome monologue in part four. Part four is when the story hits its stride overall. Briggs has the Daleks talk in unison and it’s legitimately scary. It’s just too late in the game to turn the story around.
While I wouldn’t have realized this before, Jon Pertwee’s Doctor was Earth-bound for most of his run. With that in mind, I’m glad I went into Jonathan Barnes’ “Operation Hellfire” with Series Ten under my belt because it made me appreciate that Barnes was able come up with a way to send the Doctor and Jo back in time for this story. Otherwise I would’ve enjoyed this audio drama but not realized the hoops Barnes had to jump to make it happen.
Their destination: war-torn London, 1942. Their enemy: the Nazis. Their mission: to retrieve an amulet that’s wound up there because other Time Lords dropped the ball.
‘Operation Hellfire’ is a great historical adventure. Before this audio drama I knew nothing about the London Controlling Section. It’s not like WWII is an unusual backdrop but Barnes found a new story to tell there, and it’s exciting and makes you want to do your own research on the period.
Ian McNeice’s Winston Churchill only appears sparingly, which might be disappointing for those who saw him on the cover. Having forgotten he was supposed to appear in this story, it just felt like a nice piece of continuity with the television series, where McNeice has appeared as Churchill multiple times.
Barnes packs this audio drama with a lot of cool callbacks, whether it’s the Doctor’s relationship with Harry Houdini (as seen in the audio drama, ‘Harry Houdini’s War‘) or the Doctor and Jo getting locked in a cell (as happens multiple times in “Frontier in Space”). Most of all, though, “Operation Hellfire” is a story about Jo and the Doctor and their wonderfully fond relationship. The way Jo act firsts first and leads with emotion is so beautiful and trusting. She never gives herself time to be afraid.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 6 is available to purchase from Big Finish.