The audio Third Doctor (Tim Treloar) is back with companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and this time they bring some old friends with them, in a new Big Finish release.
‘Primord’ by John Dorney
The Doctor and Jo go to see the work of the Doctors prior assistant at UNIT Liz Shaw (Daisy Ashford). Whilst Jo is happy to meet an old friend of the Doctors, she is somewhat concerned that maybe the Doctor misses having a companion with more scientific skills. Meanwhile, The Brigadier (Jon Culshaw) heads to check out a prison coincidentally close to where the Doctor and Jo are visiting Liz, where prisoners are escaping. Is Liz latest project connected not only to the prison breaks but also to an old enemy of the Doctor’s and the Earth?
It’s hard not to start with the team here. Not only do we get someone taking on the audio moustache of the Brig, but also one stepping into the searing mind of Liz Shaw. Stepping in for the sadly departed Caroline John is none other than her daughter Daisy Ashford. I was struck by how close and even imperceptibly at times the performance is to the original. Then you get Jon Culshaw, master impersonator to the stars, taking on Nicolas Courtney (an unenviable task given how beloved the character is across generations of Whovians). He does a great job. Is it exact and imperceptible? For me no, but it gets the feel and the spirit of the character. Nicolas Courtney has such a precise and unique voice I’m not sure anyone could have got closer as Culshaw captures 90% of his voice and carry’s the rest with a great performance. Let us also not forget how marvellous Katy Manning dials back her voice to sound just as we remember it and the great job always done by Treloar making us feel like Jon Pertwee is in the room.
As for the plot, it’s a great story that does justice to having this team there, including getting to hear Jo Grant meet Liz Shaw.
‘The Scream of Ghosts’ by Guy Adams
One of Sargent Benton’s (John Levene) CB radio friends is in trouble, so he and the Doctor head to investigate a mystery in sound. By coincidence, the Brigadier and Jo are looking into whether UNIT should keep funding research into a breakthrough in communications through mobile telephones (they’ll never catch on!). With the Tardis blowing circuits owning to a strange signal coming through on the console, all things audio are turning against the UNIT team.
If you are going to bring back UNIT in force, it would be a shame to miss Benton out, and what a pleasure to bring John Levene back. This story by Adams does that lovely thing of using something that would have been on the verge of breakthrough at the time the story is set (mobile phones in their infancy) and playing on the fear and even derision they got. We know how the mobile phone (cell’s for our American friends) worked out for better or worse. Then those old bricks that none the less could bring about a revolution in how we communicate did inspired a mixed reaction. There is also the ever creepy in mysterious sounds. Adding the inclusion of a CB radio, now so of its time, is lovely. You can just picture Benton after work reaching out and finding people and their fascinating stories. Back then you couldn’t simply open up your favourite social media to speak to new people.
This really is a joyful boxset. To begin with you are listening for how similar or different the new actors sound against their original counterparts, however soon you are lost in two stories that capture the feel of the time, the most important element to get right. The music on this release by Nicolas Briggs (as if he doesn’t wear enough Big Finish hats, also directing this set) is so much of this era of Who, it could have been lifted from a Third Doctor story. When you can successfully recast Doctor Who (something that would once have been sacrilege), it means that you can tell a story in any era with every character you love, as long as there is an audience. Something that doesn’t look to be going anywhere anytime soon.