The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 5
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tim Treloar (The Doctor) and Katy Manning (Jo Grant)
The Third Doctor and Jo are joined by the Brigadier (Jon Culshaw, taking over for Nicholas Courtney) for two, new adventures against familiar foe.
Similar to “The Green Life,” another recent Big Finish drama starring Jo Grant and Torchwood’s Captain Jack (John Barrowman), “Primord” is writer, John Dorney’s, sequel to “Inferno,” a Classic Who story also famous for being Liz Shaw’s final appearance as the Doctor’s companion. It’s an easy association to make if you’re familiar with the serial but less easy to pick up on if you’re not (unlike “The Green Life” which has a similar title to “The Green Death” and the iconic maggots on the cover).
As it happens, getting to know the Primords is no trouble at all but forming an opinion of Liz off this production is harder to do. It’s not that “Primord” doesn’t work for newcomers but that there are circumstances that make this episode a poor place to start, if you’ve never met Liz before. It does put you in the same boat at Jo (she’s never met Liz either), but your takeaway’s going to be very different, depending on how much you have to depend on the Doctor’s word over your ears.
Even if this story isn’t characteristic of Liz, Daisy Ashford is a wonderful successor to her mother, Carolyn John, who originated the role on TV. Liz is unflappable, to a degree that’s disconcerting. Her insistence on keeping the reason she wants to meet with the Doctor a surprise is fishy, but the Doctor isn’t bothered, so you make allowances for it. I hope Ashford gets to work with Big Finish again because while “Primord” doesn’t exactly make you warm to Liz, it’s not the kind of story where you can pass judgement.
Treloar does an excellent job, using his voice to reflect the Doctor’s state of mind throughout this story. I know that’s being vague but it’s all about using tone of voice, when you can’t say what you really mean, but he does it without drawing attention to himself, leaving it up to listeners to notice. Selfishly I wish he had more scenes with Manning as Jo, who gets paired with the Brigadier both in this story and “Scream of Ghosts,” yet it speaks to how healthy their relationship is, that they don’t need to be joined at the hip to have complete faith in each other and so much warmth.
“The Scream of Ghosts”
“The Scream of Ghosts” begins, much like “Primord,” with the Brigadier asking the Doctor for help and the Doctor turning him down, at least until he realizes the case intersects with his interests. Even then he’s unapologetic about blowing the Brigadier off, making their exchanges rather hilarious starting out.
It turns out that the Doctor’s not the only one who’s been picking up strange signals on his radio. One man, Warren (Dominic Wood), hears them in the middle of the woods. A friend of Sergeant Benton’s, it’s Benton (John Levene) who convinces the Doctor to look into them. They make a fun pair, Benton and the Doctor – very respectful and candid, whereas you’re reminded, listening to this story, that the Brigadier isn’t deferential to the Doctor and that his affiliation with UNIT puts them at odds sometimes.
Written by Guy Adams, there’s some neat science behind this story (like the explanation for why Warren can’t record the signal) and I enjoyed having to look up a few words to get all the period, British references Adams makes.
While maybe hold off on “Primord” until you’ve gotten a chance to watch something with Liz, The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 5 is another testament to the timelessness of the Third Doctor and Jo.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures Volume 5 is available to purchase from Big Finish.