With four great stories spread across two box sets, Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures series’ future was looking bright, and it still is. After the second volume of stories in this range, Tim Treloar had truly established himself as someone who could carry on Jon Pertwee’s legacy as Doctor number three. The key word here is “could.” Tim Treloar’s iteration of the Third Doctor has faced the closest thing to the Master that we’re going to get at the moment, he’s done a couple stories with Mike Yates, but before August 2017 he still had yet to face the Doctor’s deadliest enemies.
Treloar still had to face the Daleks – and he did so in the third volume of The Third Doctor Adventures. In the hands of writer and director, Nicholas Briggs, the man who possibly understands the Daleks best out of anyone on the planet, and the brilliant Andrew Smith, how could this third volume go wrong?
The Conquest of Far
Starting off the Third Doctor Adventures Volume 3 is Briggs’ The Conquest of Far. Tim’s first outing against the Daleks. This story has the interesting concept of being a sort of epilogue to Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks that has roots which also go back to the Earth Alliance stuff from the Virgin New Adventures and the Dalek Empire series. Though the concept does sound pretty great, sadly it isn’t executed as well as one might hope mainly because of the characters.
In this story, they simply aren’t exactly enjoyable to be around. The only enjoyable character in this story is Jickster (John Banks) who is very relatable and has some great chemistry with the Doctor. The rest of the supporting characters are either bland or just annoying, such as Delralis and Naltrox (George Watkins). The Daleks are the real problem though, at a time where they should be the centrepiece. They aren’t actually in the story that much and they really don’t do anything other than sit around and occasionally come out to shout at Jo (Katy Manning) while she’s their prisoner. They don’t even have a face to face confrontation with the Doctor which is a damn shame. The enemies don’t actually have a reason to be the Daleks either: you could replace them with almost anything else. Here, it feels like the Daleks have been put in a Third Doctor story simply because Big Finish thought it was time for a Third Doctor and Dalek story, and that’s all.
Looking at the acting in The Conquest of Far, again this story is pretty weak compared to the rest of the stories in this range. Tim Treloar and Katy Manning aren’t bad by any means, but it feels as if they aren’t particularly enthusiastic about this one. Treloar seems to have temporarily lost some of his magic – more like someone impersonating Pertwee than Pertwee himself. The rest of the cast either doesn’t do enough to come across as believable or overact to the point where they’re still unbelievable.
So, with a rather disappointing start, can the next story, Storm of the Horofax, save this volume?
Storm of the Horofax
While the plot of this story is by no means flawless, it doesn’t have any of the issues that The Conquest of Far had. This story deals with anomalies and other problems caused by temporal leaks and Time Sensitives. The narrative, by Andrew Smith (Full Circle), takes some pretty big twists and turns with the characters which culminate in intense scenes between them and a great, big gut punch towards the end.
The characters are really what make this story, however. You’re invested in each and every one of them, so that when the stakes are high, the story actually feels dangerous. The only real issue with how the supporting characters are handled here is how, as soon as you get invested, they’re taken away and you don’t really see them again until the end. The only supporting character who doesn’t actually suffer from this is Adam Rigg (Iain Batchelor).
The enemies in this story offer a rare look into the world of Time Sensitives that aren’t Time Lords. The Horofax are an entirely different race of Time Sensitives with an interesting backstory that actually manages to restore some of the lost mystery that used to surround the Time Lords (something that was absolutely needed). Very much like Mother Finsey from The Transcendence of Ephros, it’ll be a damn shame if the Horofax don’t pop up again at some point.
The acting from our two leads is also back to top marks in this story. Katy Manning really shines as Jo Grant ends up doing quite a bit more than the Doctor. Storm of the Horofax gives her a chance to show what a great actress Manning is; she shows a whole range of emotions on top of pretending to have a cold throughout the story. Tim Treloar feels like Jon Pertwee again and though he doesn’t actually influence the events of the story as much as Jo, you can feel the full force of the Treloar magic making for an excellent experience, especially after listening to The Conquest of Far. The supporting cast also puts in some pretty good performances, but again it is Iain Batchelor who is stellar. Batchelor manages to make Adam one of the most relatable and fun-to-be-around characters that Big Finish has produced in a while. This story is a major step up from The Conquest of Far and saves the box set from falling under the gigantic umbrella of mediocrity.
While Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 3 appears to be the weakest set of the line, there still aren’t any bad stories. Though The Conquest of Far may very well be a disappointment as Tim Treloar’s first Dalek story, it’s mediocre at worst and many may find themselves enjoying it through and through despite its flaws.
Storm of the Horofax, however, is of the quality that we have come to expect from the previous stories in this range and may just be the best one yet. This volume is definitely a mixed bag, but if you’re a big Third Doctor fan, you should give it a go anyway. You may just find a new favorite story contained within it.#
The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 3 is out now from Big Finish.