Review by Kenton Hall
While this is the third volume of Big Finish’s full-cast Third Doctor Adventures, its release comes at a time when re-casting in Doctor Who is at peak discussion levels, whether it’s the impending arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor, in the form of Jodie Whittaker; or David Bradley clasping the lapels of William Hartnell’s First Doctor come Christmas.
Since 2015, Tim Treloar has taken on the audio mantle of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. In the initial volume, a mixture of narration and dramatisation seemed intended to soften the blow of someone else taking the role, much as the Companion Chronicles allowed other series’ cast to give their impression of “their” Doctor, without the minefield of re-casting.
Treloar’s Third Doctor is good; often very good indeed, but it will never be Jon Pertwee. There are moments, line-readings where he comes awfully close, but as with any performance, the choices Pertwee may or may not have made can never be replicated. His interpretation has to stand on its own. And that’s the question. If the Doctor is a single character, played by multiple actors, is each incarnation a character in its own right? Able, as with so many characters; to be reimagined by other performers? I believe the jury is officially out on that score. However, with so many distinct eras to revisit, on this evidence, as I suspect will also prove the case in Twice Upon a Time, it would seem a shame to limit the stories that can be told.
Speaking as an actor I wouldn’t relish Treloar’s job; but he certainly has my respect. Because, alongside the irrepressible Katy Manning as Jo, he has grown into the part of the Third Doctor in this volume in a way that not only allows the listener to imagine these stories slotting neatly in alongside their televised equivalents, but also for Treloar himself to shine as an actor in his own right, bringing the wry humour and moral surety of Three to new stories.
Big Finish certainly knows how to conjure an era. These two stories, The Conquest of Far and Storm of the Horofax, certainly feel like Third Doctor stories. The guest performances are sharp. there’s a depth to the ideas on show and they just feel right. Katy Manning needs her share of the credit here, for once again enthusiastically inhabiting a character she’s been playing for decades. I can only imagine that that it is bittersweet revisiting her era in this form without her co-star, although it is clear that everyone concerned is interested only in honouring and expanding on the work that came before.
On the other hand, as with some of the Fourth Doctor adventures that revel in the nostalgia factor, I enjoy it when the audio format allows these earlier Doctors to appear in stories that stretch the format in ways that wouldn’t have been viable at the time and I’d love to hear Three in more experimental stories as well. But, as always with Doctor Who it’s great to have both and both of these stories have strong scripts and fresh ideas of their own.
And one final thought, I don’t know what kind of day Nicholas Briggs was having when he recorded the interrogation scene in The Conquest of Far, but the Daleks here are truly unhinged and frightening in a very different way. It caught me off-guard, in a good way, and I love it when Doctor Who does that.
You can buy the set on download or CD here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-third-doctor-adventures-volume-03-1510