Wednesday, 30 November 2016

THE THIRD DOCTOR ADVENTURES VOLUME 2

The third Doctor era is a bit of a quandary for me, I both equally like and dislike the Third Doctor in almost equal measure. Let me explain. I always saw the Doctor as a rebellious anti-establishment figure, I had grown up with the Tom Baker era so was used to the anarchic Williams era Tom as my template for what the Doctor should be like and the cozy establishment man of the Third Doctor just didn’t do it for me, fact my young self thought of him in the same way as one Sue Perryman and I had my least favourite Doctor in the “Pompous Tory”.
The folly of youth. Revisiting the Third Doctor era with new mature eyes I saw him as every bit as rebellious as his fourth incarnation – more so if anything – he was subversive, trying to bring down the establishment from the inside, talking the language that the establishment understood whilst all along retaining his anti globalisation, anti bureaucracy pro- environmental hippy credentials. He was a man of action, a man of gadgets but also a deeply spiritual man and his quest for knowledge for its own sake was his downfall.
The Pertwee era was also where the Doctor Who Formula seemed to hit its stride – big set pieces, alien invasions, The Master, UNIT, The Brig and also the wonderful Jo Grant.
 42 years on and time has been cruel, we have lost Jon Pertwee but his Doctor lives on through Big Finish. Last year they made the very brave choice of recasting Tim Treloar as the Third Doctor – a thankless task as if he “did a Pertwee” he would inflame fan wrath for impersonating, but if he played it as himself he would not capture the essence of the era. Tim Treloar did neither and he did both -whilst not actually impersonating Pertwee he captured his essence, the warmth of his personality and his performance and brought his own spin on what the third Doctor was – and now (after a rather long intro) he is back with Volume 2
 As I said earlier there are certain formula to the Pertwee era, the stories are a certain “type” of story – alien invasion, aliens were always here, mad scientist, Doctor sent on a mission, colonists against oppressors and this box set follows the type of story that would have been seen on screen in late 1973 – we get a “colonists against oppressors” story & a “aliens were always here” story – with sufficient modern twists to make them anything but nostalgic retreads of a bygone age.
 The box set is split in to two four part stories:
 2.1 The Transcendence of Ephros by Guy Adams
 The Third Doctor was a very moral Doctor, and very vocal in his morality and on the Planet Ephros he gets to exercise full moral outrage. It starts off very traditionally – The Doctor (Tim Treloar) is taking Jo Grant (Katy Manning) to visit the planet Ephros, but like  Metebelis 3 its not as he remembers it – it is now a cold dark place beset with earthquakes and soon they lose the TARDIS when the ground cracks open. What follows for the first three episodes is a pretty standard “colonists vs corporates” plot – the colonists led by Mother Finsey (Richenda Carey) are a religious group who are going to willingly sacrifice themselves when the planet explodes the next day. The Galactic Corporation are going to harvest the energy of the explosion and their leader Karswell (Bernard Holley) is looking forward to his bonus. But what if everything is not how it seems, what if all we are seeing is based on a lie and who is the “wise man” that Mother Finsey had as a mentor? Gripping stuff (if a little by the numbers) but undoubtedly a Pertwee era story, shot in 4:3 and with jungle sets built in a tiny BBC Studio – like many stories of its time it asks ethical questions and lets the listener form their own conclusions – I didn’t feel preached to as could sometimes happen in the TV stories of the era – a strong opener with a fourth episode that you wont see coming…..
 2.2 The Hidden Realm by David Llewellyn
 A very good friend of mine made a very good point about Doctor Who a few years ago, and on the whole I agree – he said “Doctor Who is best when it is set in a small village” I suppose its that sense of the familiar being subverted – of picture postcard England being dangerous (the old “Yeti on the Loo” factor) and this second story is the “Aliens were here all along” story. This one has bags of atmosphere – it has that “washed out location film” feeling if you know what I mean even though it is an audio – but I get ahead of myself. In the town of Bramfield people are going missing, in fact they have been going missing for a good long time and when Jo Grant’s cousin Stephanie (Clare Buckfield) reports her husband Peter (Robert Whitelock) missing The Doctor & Jo head over to investigate. The odd thing is that the Police have been investigating and found out that £100,000 has been wired to his account from a criminal escaping justice in Argentina……
With scary magpies (don’t say the rhyme whatever you do…) and a town where no one can be trusted Jo and her new friend DS Joseph (Alex Lanipekun) must work together as even the Doctor is vulnerable to attack. A great little homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers given a Doctor Who and and English folk-lore twist.
 A cosy little nostalgia trip that will tick all the right boxes for aficionados of the Pertwee era, it feels like it has fallen of the screen in 1973 & landed on a CD in 2016 and will give you a warm glow inside – Doctor Who as it was done in a bygone era and very well done at that 8/10.