Many will remember the excitement experienced when Big Finish revealed their first full-cast Third Doctor box set about two years ago, and when it came, it did not disappoint. Tim Treloar received a warm welcome as the new Third Doctor (of course first played by Jon Pertwee) and we at the Doctor Who Companion gave Prisoners of the Lake and The Havoc Empires a pretty heavy tongue bath in the form of Peter Shaw’s review. With the fanbase pretty much falling in love with the set, the second volume had a lot to live up to. The question is, was it a success?
The plots of The Transcendence of Ephros and The Hidden Realm feel like they leaped straight out of ’70s Doctor Who. Much like with the first set, we have one story that takes place in outer space, and one that takes place on Earth. Speaking as someone who thought the stories in the first volume felt more like tales you’d find in the Tom Baker era, I’m proud to say that the two stories in this volume actually get the Pertwee atmosphere right. The Transcendence of Ephros is a nice, simple little story about a religion with a solid twist towards the middle, while The Hidden Realm deals with the mystery of a town where people go missing, but when they return, they’re not quite the same as they were before…
The characters in this set are very enjoyable to be around. It’s a bit of a shame that we don’t get to see anybody from UNIT around, but that’s just me nitpicking really. In The Transcendence of Ephros, we meet Temper (Simon Bubb) and Bartram (Karen Henson) who become the main supporting characters of this story. Temper goes off with the Doctor while Jo accidentally gets involved with Bartram and both characters have very good chemistry with their respective leads. We also get a very interesting villain in the form of Mother Finsey (Richenda Carey) who has a pretty unique and interesting backstory. The story leaves her character’s ending open so it’ll be a shame if she doesn’t come back as there is so much more the writers can do with her.
In The Hidden Realm, we get to meet Jo’s cousin, Stephanie Andrews (Clare Buckfield). After Stephanie’s husband, Peter (Robert Whitelock) goes missing, we are introduced to a couple of cops whose characters sort of mesh together into one, the key difference between them being one gets himself possessed. The cast are enjoyable to listen to, as with those in The Transcendence of Ephros, but aren’t as memorable, as a lot of them are stock characters. The villain of this story, Overseer Zim (George Asprey), isn’t particularly interesting either, which is a bit disappointing since the villain in the last story really was.
The acting in these stories hit all the right marks. Tim Treloar really shines in this volume as he begins to feel more like the Third Doctor we know and love. Katy Manning also does a superb job with what she’s been given and her chemistry with the new Third Doctor is just as good here as it was when Jon Pertwee was initially playing the character. Quite a remarkable achievement! All the supporting cast do really well too; they come across as believable and it really does make you care for them. The actors slide into the roles they’ve been given so easily and it just makes both these stories a joy to listen to.
Now comes the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this review. Did Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 2 live up to expectations? The answer is yes. While the structure of the set is a bit flawed (it’s actually the weaker of the two stories that finishes the set and not the strongest), they’re both good stories that are well worth paying for. Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 2 is a set that keeps its stories simple and enjoyable, and offers a bit of a breather from the other more complex and continuity-heavy releases Big Finish tends to do.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 2 is available now from Big Finish, priced £30 on CD or £25 as a download.