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It's been two years now since the first of The Third Doctor Adventures arrived from Big Finish. In that time, the range has gone from strength to strength across three previous sets, recreating early 1970s Doctor Who on audio with Tim Trealor stepping into Jon Pertwee's role. While the range has played it safe to an extent up until now (most notably with the Dalek story in Volume 3), this fourth entry promised to explore new territory by taking this Doctor up against two foes he'd never encountered on TV.
The first is the Meddling Monk who features in the set's opening story The Rise Of The New Humans. Written by Guy Adams, the story sees the Doctor and Jo Grant (played by the ever-delightful Katy Manning) investigating a private hospital connected to two strange deaths brought to UNIT's attention. There they discover enough strangeness to consider the involvement of a certain Time Lord, only to meet another one entirely. Adams uses the first episode to have fun with the cliche of the era's big Time Lord baddie before delving into the story proper which races from plot twist to plot twist, ever increasing the stakes as the consequences of the Monk's meddling spiral out of control. It's also a genuinely fun story with the wonderful chemistry between not just the Doctor and Jo but between the story's two Time Lords, the latter drawing out laughs but ones that never overwhelm the actual plot. It's a Third Doctor story that is at once familiar but refreshingly seemingly new.
Perhaps more enticing for fans is the second story of the set. The Third Doctor somehow never faced the show's second longest running villains the Cybermen on TV, something Big Finish has rectified with The Tyrants Of Logic. Written by Marc Platt (whose other Big Finish credits include the Cybermen classic Spare Parts for Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor), it's a story quite different from anything done with this Doctor on TV or audio to date. Set on a mining planet ravaged by the Cyber-War decades earlier, the Doctor and Jo find themselves among a genuine cast of characters including a literal one-man band and a man hunting down remaining Cyber tech. It's the latter that brings the silver creatures to the planet in search of something that could bring about a new war. Platt takes the idea behind the base under siege format and combines it both with the inherent horror of the Cybermen and with a genre take on the familiar 1970s trope of Nazi relics and potential resurrection. Even more surprising is that he finds something new to do with this Doctor in the process, making this story not only the highlight of the set but perhaps of the entire range to date.
It helps the casting is solid as well. Tim Trealor continues to give excelling performances as the Third Doctor, with this set feeling as if their seeing what he can do more in the role, especially in the Cybermen tale. That same story also gives Katy Manning a chance to shine as well with a beautifully delivered little monologue. While Manning never quite recreates the sound of her 1970s self, there can be no denying the genuine chemistry between the pair that conjures up Pertwee and Manning onscreen more than four decades ago. When you add the likes of Rufus Hound as the Monk or Nicholas Briggs' Cybermen, it makes the entire experience even better.
Big Finish is known for their almost cinematic audio production values and this set is no exception. Jamie Robertson, who has proven himself to be one of Big Finish's most talented composers, has once more created a score that truly evocative of the era on TV. The inclusion of a suite of music from each story will appeal greatly to fans of Doctor Who music. Meanwhile, the sound design nicely brings the varying locations of the stories to life ranging from the English countryside to a ruined mining town under siege by the Cybermen in the future. All of which makes this a solid example of the company's work in these fields.
This fourth volume is another triumph for both the range and Big Finish. From bringing this Doctor with two foes he never encountered on TV to fine stories and solid production values, it shows off Big Finish at their best. Indeed, it might well be the best release in the range to date and a go-to place for fans of this Doctor's era looking to experience Big Finish for the first time.