This month’s volume of The Third Doctor Adventures is a real fan pleaser, finally providing the dynamic Third Doctor his own clash with the Cybermen, as well as serving up a bout with another old adversary too.
Rise Of The New Humans
After the Doctor and Jo are called in investigate an apparent suicide, they soon find themselves bound for a mysterious country clinic in Bessie. The Doctor suspects an old enemy, but is surprised to find the Monk interfering with human biology, for seemingly altruistic reasons.
Writer Guy Adams has fun with the villain’s identity, teased up to the first cliff-hanger and, in fact, it is rather a shame that we knew his identity from the outset. The rivalry between these Time Lords is engagingly played, with the Monk – and yes, the Doctor’s continued use of that name is addressed – utterly frustrating the Doctor with his unprincipled use of time travel, while the Monk questions quite how different the two truly are. The Monk has an ally of sorts here, in Mina Anwar’s Dr Kurdi, a no-nonsense scientist whose discoveries have implications for all of humanity.
Although this is another super-evolution story, it is an entirely different beast to last year’s excellent Fourth Doctor Adventure Dethras, thanks to the involvement of the Monk and its Earthbound setting. The story also provides plenty of incident for Katy Manning’s Jo, with a nice connection made between her and one of the Clinic’s patients.
Rufus Hound now owns the role of the Monk, having played his garrulous and magnificently moustached Monk against various Doctors. Also in the guest cast is Joe Sims (Broadchurch) in multiple roles and the story provides the Big Finish debut of Clare Corbett, a prolific audio actress, familiar for her roles in the BBC Audio Doctor Who series Hornet’s Nest and for narrating Eleventh Doctor audiobooks.
One minor surprise was a namecheck of ”regeneration”, a term not coined on screen until Pertwee’s final story, but as it came in conversation between Time Lords, we suppose it makes sense and it would be rather odd if they had danced around it. We enjoyed the continuation of the Doctor’s TARDIS envy and the smart solution to calling out UNIT, with the night shift responding rather than more familiar faces.
The Tyrants Of Logic
Having encountered Daleks, it makes perfect sense for Tim Treloar’s Third Doctor to settle that ancient score and have his own full-bloodied Cybermen story. Of course, this incarnation has encountered them before – both in the The Five Doctors and the Liz Shaw Companion Chronicle The Blue Tooth – but this story offers full cast, action packed adventure on an alien world.
When the TARDIS arrives on Burnt Salt, the Doctor and Jo find themselves embroiled in a desperate tale of survival. Along with a couple of human colonists who run a saloon bar, they meet Hollisen Grier (Ronan Summers), a hard-bitten agent of the Bureau for Cyber Retribution, who has come to the former mining colony on the trail of some dangerous cargo left over from the war.
Marc Platt, writer of the enduringly popular Spare Parts, brings us Cybermen on the edge of extinction and all the more dangerous for it. As well as giving us a glitter guns for the humans, Platt develops the Cyber-canon by streamlining the process of conversion with a nasty new trick. As ever, we are deliberately being scant on detail here, because the story develops with surprises that we would not want to spoil.
Director Nicholas Briggs also brings the Cybermen to life, with beautifully rendered Troughton-era voices as well as something new. In a surfeit of impressive guest performances, we would like to highlight Jeff Rawle (Frontios) who imbues the tragic Chad Caramel with such charm, and Deli Segal who vividly brings Skipper to life.
The sound design here is impressive, particularly in The Tyrants Of Logic which assaults the ears with authentic effects and really sells the tension, along with Jamie Robertson’s evocative score.
These stories are a well-matched pair, demonstrating what a good team Jo and the Doctor make and providing plenty to put both actors through their paces. Katy Manning is naturally pitch-perfect as Jo, while Tim Treloar seems well into his stride and his portrayal grows in confidence; he rises ably to the challenges of both sparring verbally with Rufus Hound and handling the dramatic and emotional demands of the Cyberman story, as well as catching Jon Pertwee’s idiosyncratic pronunciation of “Cyber-mn” perfectly.
While we are always going to miss the Brigadier, it would be lovely to hear Mike Yates brought back again, as he was for the first volume, or perhaps even John Levene as Benton – both were highly enjoyable in the recent UNIT Assembled box set. Regardless, within the tight restraints of what they have, this is a great release and the trailer tag line of “recreating an era” is thoroughly well-earned.