Big Finish’s Third Doctor Adventures range so far has probably been one of the company’s most consistent in terms of quality.
None of the stories which span the three previous box sets can be labeled as “bad.” One may have fallen right on the border between “good” and “mediocre”, but the statement that “none of these serials have been bad” still holds true. However, now that there is yet another pair of stories out, you, the reader, are probably asking me, the reviewer, those questions once again: “Is it worth my money? Should I buy yet another one of these expensive volumes with the risk of it being absolutely God-awful?” Yes, you’re asking that age-old question that we’ve all pondered time and time again: “Is it any good?” And now you’re screaming at me to just get on with my review already.
The Rise of the New Humans by Guy Adams
The Rise of the New Humans starts the set off with a creepy idea done in an unusual tongue-in-cheek style. The first episode sets up a good horror mystery narrative, then throws you into straight into the opposite direction once the Monk (Rufus Hound) shows up. It’s really quite a fun ride with plenty of twists and turns tone-wise that makes the story very intriguing to listen to. The only big issue with the plot is the pacing in the third episode, but beyond that, it’s pretty solid.
The characters are where this story falls flat. There are two plots that go on at the same time, but because we’ve had more development with one group of characters, the other group feels less important. I also feel that the supporting characters have all been done before, some of them to death. For example, the Monk’s sort of “companion” for this story is a mad scientist experimenting on injured people, claiming that world will ultimately benefit from her obviously quite deranged actions. Yeah, sounds pretty similar to Davros, John Lumic, Doctorman Allan, etc. Also, there’s this guy who’s a giant floating mass of energy who at first you think is evil and then… isn’t. If you’re a proper Doctor Who neckbeard like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Gosh that sounds a lot like the character from Winter for the Adept.” The point is, all of the characters have been seen here before in one way or another and it’s a shame too because, with such a solid plot, you’d want memorable individuals to compliment it. Sadly, that factor isn’t present here.
Fortunately, all the actors are having fun with their roles, particularly the leads. Tim Treloar, as the Third Doctor, is as brilliant here as he has been in the past; Katy Manning (Jo Grant) is still a joy to listen to after all this time; and this is probably Rufus Hound’s best performance as the Monk yet.
Overall, it’s a pretty decent start to the set, but can the next story top it?
The Tyrants of Logic by Marc Platt
Yes, the Third Doctor versus the Cybermen!
The narrative of this story follows a common structure in Cyberman stories. Interesting set-up, disappointing payoff. The story opens on an ice planet where only a few people live, and of course, the Cybermen invade it. This offers a look at what a base-under-siege story would have looked like if it was done well during the Pertwee era. Another interesting concept that was written into this story was the way the Cybermen prepared people for conversion using gas from Cybermats. A few characters end up dead because of it, and they do actually stay dead, which adds to the impact the first half of this story has. But the second half’s pacing is all over the place and the entire plot is resolved by – minor spoiler alert – the power of love… yeah, bet you didn’t see that coming from a modern Cyberman story.
The characters are where this story really shines. These people are genuinely some of the most well written I’ve seen (or, uh, heard) in quite a while. They’re all enjoyable to be around because of how much time you get to spend with them on the down-low during Part One and Part Two. Seriously, if the previous story’s strong point was the plot, this one’s is the characters. Each of them has very unique abilities and skill sets that come in handy at opportune moments.
The acting in this story is also phenomenal. Everybody is just an absolute joy to listen to. Like the last story, Treloar and Manning are great, but in this one, it’s the supporting cast – Nicholas Briggs, Deli Segal, Jeff Rawle, Ronan Summers, Carolyn Pickles, and Linda Marlowe – who steal the show. They just make the characters come to life in a way one doesn’t usually see with Doctor Who too often. It’s a real treat.
In fact, it’s possibly the best bit of acting to come out of this range yet.
This is a major step up from the previous set. The Rise of the New Humans has a great concept and story going for it, though the supporting characters are a bit lacking in unique memorable traits. Though The Tyrants of Logic probably has the weaker narrative of the two, it has a more intriguing set-up and characters that will just make you want to keep on going with it.
In the end, I’d highly recommend this volume of The Third Doctor Adventures as there’s a lot here to enjoy and it’s definitely worth your money. More please, Big Finish!
The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 4 is out now, priced £30 on CD or £25 as a download from Big Finish.