The Defectors
Audio / December 29, 2016

Released April 2015 As Big Finish approaches its monumental 200th Main Range Doctor Who release, the company has commissioned a trilogy of stories that pairs Doctors with past incarnations’ companions. Beginning with ‘The Defectors,’ Jo Grant and her inexplicably-changed Doctor arrive on Delphin Isle on a matter of national security as they learn of a highly classified incident dating back to the Cold War. As secrets manifest and bodies mysteriously appear in the harbour, the Pertwee and McCoy eras impressively collide. The crux of this concept is developing a story that feels like it comes from the earlier Doctor’s era, and the incredible atmosphere of Delphin Isle and the mystery of its oddly-acting locals certainly manage to evoke the core essence of the Third Doctor’s Earth-bound tales. Indeed, McCoy seems perfectly at home in this type of story that has so rarely been afforded to him, the secrecy of the Seventh Doctor complementing the burgeoning mystery of Delphin well. Indeed, Jo Grant acts as a stand-in voice for the Third Doctor, highlighting the different courses of action that these two Doctors take and keeping the tale true to her time on the programme. Katy Manning manages to evoke the youthful…

The Monster of Peladon
Website / November 17, 2016

Aired 23 March – 27 April 1974 ‘The Curse of Peladon’ was one of the most important serials of Jon Pertwee’s tenure, not his Third Doctor’s first trip off of Earth but certainly the first one to create a vast and rich alien world that showed the true potential of the colourized programme’s extraterrestrial adventures. With how beloved that serial instantly became, it makes sense that Doctor Who would revisit the world of Peladon in a rare direct sequel, but ‘The Monster of Peladon’ does little new and instead seems content to revel in repetition as if celebrating the success of its predecessor. Set some fifty years after ‘The Curse of Peladon,’ ‘The Monster of Peladon’ asks the audience of believe that Alpha Centauri is still present on the planet, that the last surviving native creature Aggedor is still alive and well, that the rare trisilicate mineral has shown up in abundance on Peladon, and that the Ice Warriors are again involved in events. All of these plot points, aside from trisilicate’s abundance, are well-trodden and were used to good effect before, but it strains credulity to suggest that all of them would coincide for another tale. The script does…

Death to the Daleks
Episode / November 16, 2016

Aired 23 February – 16 March 1974 Jon Pertwee’s final year as the Third Doctor continues with ‘Death to the Daleks,’ his final confrontation with the Doctor’s most iconic foe. Much like in the rather traditional ‘Planet of the Daleks’ in the previous year, this serial sticks to the basics, offering some of the most familiar Terry Nation tropes while suggesting that the Daleks are in need of a major rejuvenation to lift them out of the lull they’re currently experiencing on the programme. The foundation for this episode is solid, but it never proposes a true reason for why the Daleks have to be present other than their iconic status. An advanced society regressing into a primal state after its self-aware city cast its inhabitants out amidst the universe itself dying from a devastating plague is all incredibly powerful background information that instantly elevates ‘Death to the Daleks’ to something more than a typical good-versus-bad tale. Unfortunately, the implementation of these concepts is somewhat lacking, perhaps most egregiously with the supposedly complex series of puzzles and deadly ploys the Doctor is tasked with solving that he quickly disposes of with little trouble whatsoever. The idea of the Exxilons visiting…

Invasion of the Dinosaurs
Episode / November 15, 2016

Aired 12 January – 16 February 1974 In its early years, Doctor Who often told overly ambitious stories that the budget and effects couldn’t quite match. In fact, it’s part of the distinct charm of the classic series in general, and while there will always being certain episodes and moments that suffer from this more than others, very rarely does the credulity of the effects really affect the story being told. The transition of the Pertwee years to a more Earth-centric format alleviated this to some extent, the thought being that the budgeted effects would be more prominent and distractive in colour, but ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’- by its title alone- draws intense focus to the effects bringing the dinosaurs to life in modern-day London, letting down fans expecting to see something more realistic and even failing to meet the expectations of the production team. Looking past the puppets, costumes, and Colour Separation Overlay employed for the dinosaurs that are so clearly the root of this tale, ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’ is one of the few Pertwee tales to really embrace the concept of time and time travel. Here, a group of people is determined to rewind time back to…

The Time Warrior
Episode / November 14, 2016

Aired 15 December 1973 – 5 January 1974 The start of Jon Pertwee’s final year in the titular role sees a return to Earth’s past, time travel not really a focus of the era and trips in the TARDIS instead preferring the future and alien worlds. The result, in a way, channels the William Hartnell pseudo-historical story ‘The Time Meddler’ while simultaneously feeling like a transition story that showcases the type of format and storytelling that would become so popular in the upcoming Tom Baker era. Perhaps this sort of foreshadowing is intentional as writer Robert Holmes would go on to serve as script editor under Philip Hinchcliffe with the Fourth Doctor, and his active dislike of the true historical brought about the creation of the Sontarans, a race that would go on to become one of the most enduring in Doctor Who’s catalogue. Although the story does feature more action than the horror the future era would become known for, Holmes decidedly presents history as accurately as he can, focusing on the gritty realism rather than the romantic glamour that the history books present. Even new companion Sarah Jane Smith, one who would become arguably the most popular in…

The Green Death
Episode / November 12, 2016

Aired 19 May – 23 June 1973 One of the trademarks of the Jon Pertwee era is its willingness to tackle important and sometimes difficult political and social issues. At least a small part of the reasoning for originally bounding the Third Doctor to Earth was to give him a chance to confront the issues that plague humanity on a daily basis, and that concept fortunately is not forgotten now that the Doctor has regained his ability to travel throughout time and space. Finally giving reason to the occasional references of Metebelis III over the past several stories along the way, the Doctor finds himself at least initially entwined in the battle between corporations and the environment in a story that very much feels like another early attempt at a more grandiose season finale. The core conflict is effectively set up early on in the small Welsh mining town of Llanfairfach, Global Chemicals responsible for the sudden appearance of a toxic green slime and giant maggots as the result of burying the toxic by-product from their highly profitable oil processing system. Led by the business-driven Stevens, the executives involved do at least show flashes of conscientiousness, making them a much…

Planet of the Daleks
Episode / November 10, 2016

Aired 7 April – 12 May 1973 The Pertwee era’s answer to ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ continues with ‘Planet of the Daleks,’ picking up from the cliffhanger ending to the exciting events of the space opera ‘Frontier in Space’ but strangely doing little to acknowledge that preceding serial with no resolution to the human and Draconian conflict offered. Unfortunately, while ‘Frontier in Space’ was able to mask its padding with intriguing characters and setting changes, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ is unable to replicate that feat. The story also oddly treats the revelation of the Daleks’ presence as a surprise, a fine plot point by itself but completely unnecessary since the Daleks appeared at the end of the last story and the title rather blatantly gives their presence away from the outset. The planet Spiridon is a fascinating setting, its climate changing from extreme to another during the course of a day and containing hostile and merciless vegetation. However, these intriguing concepts are employed more as distractions from the light Dalek plot than as actual plot points in their own right. Interestingly, the Daleks seem to have become quite adept at invisibility in the opening episode, significantly increasing their seeming power…

Frontier in Space
Episode / November 9, 2016

Aired 24 February – 31 March 1973 Assuredly a conscious decision to celebrate the return of the Third Doctor to his free and exploratory ways, ‘Frontier in Space’ sets out to form the first half of a twelve-part epic tale that is concluded in ‘Planet of the Daleks.’ While the two stories as a whole may not quite reach the lofty heights of the previous lengthy epic ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan,’ ‘Frontier in Space’ by itself is a wonderful example of Doctor Who on its largest scale, showcasing tremendous consequences in a vast space opera. As with any six-part story, there is occasional superfluous padding to fill out the running time. While having the Doctor and Jo shunted off as prisoners of different groups for the majority of the story may feel like a convenient plot contrivance, though, it also helps to ensure setting changes that keeps the pacing and revelations brisk enough to maintain interest without ever dragging excessively. In fact, writer Malcolm Hulke exploits the extended running time to effectively flesh out this future filled with galactic conflict. Few of the details scattered throughout the script directly relate to the plot, but it’s refreshing to see just how…

Carnival of Monsters
Episode / November 9, 2016

Aired 27 January – 17 February 1973 With the Time Lords lifting the exile of the Doctor at the end of ‘The Three Doctors,’ ‘Carnival of Monsters’ truly marks the turning point of Doctor Who as the Doctor once more officially becomes a man of time and space, for the first time in full colour. In essence, just as ‘Spearhead from Space’ was vital in establishing a new format for Earthbound adventures, ‘Carnival of Monsters’ is just as vital in shedding that more cautious though no less intriguing approach to the franchise, providing a love letter to the fans that is just as important to the tenth anniversary year as the preceding multi-Doctor serial. Although ‘Carnival of Monsters’ may not carry the panache of boasting multiple Doctors, the Daleks, or the Master like other stories of this series, it’s crucial in setting the bar for what the prototypical Doctor Who episode should be going forward. Looking past the dodgy special effects and costume design, this story reintroduces the TARDIS as a crucial component of the series while also highlighting the much bigger universe the show is treading into than that of the past three years. Cleverly, this story also draws…

The Three Doctors
Episode / November 8, 2016

Aired 30 December 1972 – 20 January 1973 The first serial of Doctor Who’s tenth series does something the franchise has never attempted before, namely bringing together all three televised versions of the titular Time Lord for one adventure. Also the story which sees the Third Doctor’s exile on Earth end, ‘The Three Doctors’ is an incredibly important part of Doctor Who mythology that both redefines the character of the Doctor and once more reinvigorates the sense of freedom for his travels and adventures that was so important in the first two Doctors’ eras. Strangely, or perhaps purposefully, ‘The Three Doctors’ does nothing to act like a tenth anniversary special. The serial still airs in four weekly installments and little pomp is given to the arrival of the First and Second Doctors, the story only momentarily pausing to explain their identities and reasons for their presence. Even if the story does somewhat feel like the anniversary elements were inserted into a more standard episode at a later time, there’s no denying the joy that arises from seeing both William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton reprise their roles. The entire concept of regeneration and what it actually means to the Doctor was…