There’s a new otherworldly hero – but is Kaleidoscope the real deal or just a spoonbender from space?
Set in his final season, Kaleidoscope sees the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith with rivals for their positions.
Consciously channelling the 1970s, this Season 11-set story brings the Doctor face to face with the Cold War and pop culture. However, it begins with the titular Kaleidoscope, a trippy visitor who claims to be from another world; inspiring a hoard of adoring teenagers, he ends up needing a helicopter rescue from London’s South Bank.
Kaleidoscope is the discovery of Jenny Nettles. An unscrupulous rival of Sarah’s, she reports on all manner of conspiracies (the more unlikely, the better). Suffice to say the pair do not get on!
Meanwhile, the RAF Air Defence are out chasing interdimensional flotsam. Plus, the Brigadier might just have an old flame (Daphne) leading the protestors outside a high security air base.
Writer Alan Barnes spins an enjoyable tale which draws inspiration 1970s television shows. Despite its six-part runtime, it adroitly avoids any potential slump in pace; there’s a clever twist in the narrative which propels it into the final two parts. It also toys with the notion of the Brigadier replacing the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith, drafting Kaleidoscope and Jenny Nettles into their roles.
We loved the visit to UNIT’s original underground HQ from ‘Spearhead from Space’ — cleverly explaining the shot-on-film one-off location which sits at odds to the more familiar UNIT surroundings. There were a couple of other pleasing cameos too; a cheeky appearance from soon-to-be companion Harry Sullivan (Christopher Naylor) and an outing for the Doctor’s wonderful new vehicle too. Who could resist either?
Gerran Howell is endearing trippy as Kaleidoscope, while Jasmin Hinds shines as the brilliantly annoying Jenny; at first, we couldn’t help but think she was unfairly treated by the Brigadier and Sarah.
We also enjoyed the Brigadier’s chemistry with Daphne (Helen Goldwyn); initially, we groaned at the cliché of the protesters being led by a well-to-do woman of a certain age, but in the context of the tale and her relationship to the Brigadier it made perfect sense.
With three incredibly versatile actors in the ensemble, Jon Culshaw, Mark Elstob and Stephen Noonan, the cast seems expansive. We particularly enjoyed Noonan’s villain, who was coming from an unusual, but appropriately ’70s, angle.
It’s great that The Third Doctor Adventures are stretching their format and embracing longer stories like Kaleidoscope (and February’s The Annihilators).With Tim Treloar’s winning performance as the Doctor, Sadie Miller’s remarkable Sarah and Jon Culshaw’s redoubtable Brigadier, long may they continue.
Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures – Kaleidoscope is available now on collector’s edition CD box set (+ download) or as a digital download only, exclusively from Big Finish.