Justin Richards takes us back to the UNIT era with a vengeance in this excellent opener to Big Finish’s new world of Third Doctor stories, with Tim Treloar giving a strong performance as Jon Pertwee’s incarnation of the Time Lord. Attention, not surprisingly, is on Treloar’s role, and there are times when he sounds precisely like Pertwee (certain vowel sounds and sibilances in particular, as well as the… sometimes deliberate… way in which he would phrase sentences). Of course it’s not an impersonation, and everyone in the extras is at pains to point out that that isn’t what they were after, but a performance as Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor, and Treloar must be congratulated for doing so well in such a high-profile role. The recastings Big Finish have engaged in (with new Barbara Wright and Ben Jacksons on the way) are a necessary way forward if the company is to continue to produce stories from all eras of the show, and confirms – if such confirmation were really needed – that despite their forays into the worlds of the 21st century show, they are still actively pursuing new ideas for the classic era.
Treloar is helped by strong work from both Katy Manning and Richard Franklin reprising their roles (and their vocal pitches) from 40 years ago, as well as the guest stars – Carolyn Seymour’s Freda Mattingly, I hope, makes a return appearance, while Robbie Stevens and John Banks provide so many different voices that I honestly thought there was a much bigger cast than actually was the case.
Richards’ script hits all the important touchstones of the Earth-based stories, walking the fine line between homage and cliché, and ensuring that this feels like a tale that we somehow missed on screen rather than simply rehashing the UNIT tropes (as some of the novels set in this period did). He introduces a new member of the chain of command (fulfilling the story function that the Brig would have done had Nick Courtney still been here to play the part), who I also hope is back for more of these.
As director, Nick Briggs keeps everything cracking along while his music score sounds like the lovechild of Dudley Simpson and Malcolm Clarke, with some homage to the underwater elements of the latter, and some of the driving force of the former. Russell McGee’s sound design is also well-produced.
Verdict: An excellent start with Treloar’s performance giving Big Finish a new way to tackle this much-loved era. 9/10