The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 7
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tim Treloar (The Doctor), Sadie Miller (Sarah Jane Smith), Daisy Ashford (Liz Shaw), and Jon Culshaw (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart)
“The Unzal Incursion“
Leave it to the Doctor to muck up an alien invasion by accident, but while his sonic screwdriver forces the Unzals to move up the timetable for their incursion, they’re still a force to be reckoned with in this audio drama set during the Third Doctor’s first season.
That’s because the aliens in this story recognize the Doctor as their biggest foe. After all, it’s not like the Doctor’s whereabouts change much in season seven. He’s stuck on Earth for as long as the Time Lords want him exiled, but knowing the Doctor is going to be there, the Unzals are able to come up with a plan that hits right at the other mainstay of this era – UNIT – and leaves the Doctor, Liz, and the Brigadier on their own, trying to stop them.
“Primord” was Daisy Ashford’s first time voicing Liz Shaw (originally played on the series by her mother, Caroline John), but “The Unzal Incursion” is much better at introducing the companion to new fans. The story begins right as Liz, or Dr. Shaw, is coming off the success of her Hotspur network, which is going to ensure the world never gets caught off guard by an alien invasion again. What makes Liz and the Doctor so evenly matched, though, is they both share a need to keep themselves busy. It’s why the Doctor asks Liz if he can help with Hotspur, and why Liz offers to assist with the TARDIS. It’s not that either of them needs the help. It’s that they can’t turn their brains off.
“Unzal Incursion” really gives Liz a chance to show off her bravery, and the scenes where she goes head-to-head with Director Dankworth (Clare Corbett) are riveting (Dankworth being the person in charge of a new program to train UNIT soldiers). Writer Mark Wright also does a great job with the scenes between the Brigadier and the Doctor, where even their vocabulary speaks to how different they are. Wright also allows Benji Clifford’s sound design to shine, which isn’t to take any credit away from Clifford, but because Wright doesn’t describe what’s going on during some key scenes, all of the storytelling gets to come from Clifford’s contributions.
While it’s a little discombobulating going from a story where the Doctor is Earthbound to one where the Doctor has full command of his TARDIS again, Tim Foley’s “The Gulf” sees the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (voiced by Elisabeth Sladen’s daughter Sadie Miller) arrive on an ocean planet where the water’s not only purple, it’s poisonous. Not a place where you’d necessarily expect to find an artist’s commune but, given that one of the artists there recently drowned, that’s probably for good reason.
Structure-wise, “The Gulf” takes after The Poseidon Adventure and there really are no “safe” characters. Laurel, the artist who drowned (Lucy Goldie, sounding dangerously self-possessed), comes back — except she’s not herself anymore. Marta (Wendy Craig), who’s in charge of the commune, gets an amazing character arc. There’s a moment towards end where she demands to make her own decision, even though she doesn’t really have any options, and it’s incredible. There’s also a scene where they finally land on something that will detour the monsters which comes about in an organic way. Fans of the Doctor Who episode, “Vincent and the Doctor” will appreciate the final tag.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 7 is available to purchase from Big Finish.