Full marks to Alan Barnes for the idea behind this trilogy of adventures, replacing the Doctor in an adventure with one of his other incarnations. The idea’s crossed my mind (and I’m sure plenty of others’ too) but more done on the line of how, say, McCoy would deal with the events of The Daemons or The Massacre, rather than a whole new adventure, as happens here. We’ve got Colin Baker’s Doctor replacing Troughton, and Davison standing in for Hartnell yet to come, but if the scriptwriters can pull off the trick with the same aplomb as Nick Briggs demonstrates here, then Big Finish are marking their 200th main range release in style.
It’s a “base under siege” story to an extent (or “Island of Terror” as Briggs calls it in the extras), and emphasises the difference between the sometimes morally questionable 7th Doctor and his far more upright (or should that read uptight) 3rd incarnation. Questions are left unanswered at the end of the story and I suspect that once all three plays have been released and various aspects revealed, it will be well worth going back to this one with that fresh perspective. Inevitably, there’s some disquiet on Jo’s part, which Katy Manning puts across very well, regarding the legitimacy of the Doctor, although at least she has had the benefit of encountering other incarnations. This Doctor’s attitude to events unfolding around him isn’t perhaps as proactive as his younger self’s, and Jo sometimes feels she has to step up – which of course provides plenty of chance for Briggs to give Manning some meaty material – and McCoy handles the moral dilemmas (and the disappointment they sometimes invoke) with suitable gravitas.
As director, Briggs has brought a great cast together for this story: as well as Manning and Richard Franklin (whose Captain Mike Yates isn’t as present as much as I’d hoped he would be), we’ve got Barnaby Edwards and Neil Roberts sounding charming as the regular army officers, very much from the old school; voice artist par excellence David Graham as Hedgerton; and Jez Fielder and Rachel Bavidge providing a bevy of other roles. There are even a couple of lovely cameos…
The music and sound effects by Joe Kramer are given quite a bit to do in the storytelling (as you’ll see if you’re a subscriber and read the script), although there’s a repeated motif in the music that is very similar to the one used in the Sherlock Holmes stories – to the extent I started wondering if it was being used deliberately to indicate clues!
Verdict: A clever fusion of the Pertwee and McCoy eras. 9/10