Operation Hellfire

Posted in Audio by - May 18, 2020
Operation Hellfire

Released May 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Given the Third Doctor’s prolonged exile on 1970s Earth before finally having the freedom of travel through space and time restored, historical settings are largely absent from the era. In Jonathan Barnes’s ‘Operation Hellfire,’ however, the Doctor begrudgingly accepts an invitation to an audience with a popular horror writer, soon discovering that the Time Lords have other plans for him as Jo and he find themselves at the height of the Second World War in 1943.

‘Operation Hellfire’ is not a story that sees the Doctor caught up in the horrors and tragedies of warfare itself, but this particular setting allows for the very worst in humanity to combine with the elements of the occult and from much farther abroad to result in a sweeping narrative that makes the most of its expanded cast. Of course, it’s no secret that the Doctor and Winston Churchill have long known each other through the Doctor’s many lives, and Ian McNeice in an extended cameo provides an immense power and gravitas as the proud yet reverent Prime Minister that truly allows events to be set in motion by removing the unexpected constraints the Doctor has forced on him upon arrival in this time. Still, with Hitler and the values of the Nazi party an ever-present threat, the Doctor and Jo are quickly directed to a mysterious manor in their search for a powerful amulet that can alter reality itself, using misinformation to counter the greatest misinformation of them all to gain entrance to occult acts that could forever change life on Earth if successful. As expected, nothing goes quite as planned, but the fantastic relationship that the Doctor and Jo have developed by this point results in some brilliant scenes along the way, and although the resolutions to a key cliffhanger and to the search for the amulet do perhaps occur a bit too easily, the story perfectly sets up everything that eventually occurs and unfolds with a strong and well-measured pace that expertly intertwines dialogue with action and danger.

While it’s a shame that UNIT couldn’t feature in some capacity or that Churchill couldn’t more directly take part in these affairs, especially as much of the drama resulting from the Doctor’s forgetfulness about one key figure could otherwise open up room for more prominent voices, this particular setup very much allows the Third Doctor and Jo to feature, and Tim Treloar and Katy Manning both deliver immense performances that recapture the genuine warmth and friendship that these two long-time companions fostered and developed. Whether just passing time with conversation or fighting to prevent another sacrifice upon the altar of evil, these are the very best of friends, and it’s that dynamic that so effortlessly carries ‘Operation Hellfire’ to its conclusion. In support, Terry Molloy, Samuel Clemens, Mark Elstob, Beth Goddard, and Jeany Spark all flesh out this story in both time periods to remarkable effect, and the brilliant conviction each actor brings to his or her role makes the drama all the more profound and visceral.

So while the World War II setting is little more than window dressing for a story bookended by a figure in the present who can tie events together, the tremendous atmosphere and tension throughout ‘Operation Hellfire’ utilize the very real dangers of the world outside of this manor to amplify the tremendous and life-threatening dangers unfolding within its walls. The overall plot and music may not quite come together as cohesively as the preceding ‘Poison of the Daleks,’ but this is yet another thrilling and memorable outing for The Third Doctor Adventures range that only seems to be growing in confidence.

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