Released November 2015
The third entry in the second series of The Early Adventures jumps ahead in the Second Doctor’s timeline to the era of Victoria and Jamie, seeing the TARDIS land aboard a space station orbiting a black hole with no associated star or supernova to explain its existence. The normal rules of time are bending for the 20,000 inhabitants, and an old foe is lurking in the shadows.
As with any well-written story, ‘The Black Hole’ can be enjoyed both by newcomers as an isolated adventure and by fans more well-versed in the programme’s long-standing mythology. Excitingly for fans, this is the story that finally reveals- from the Second Doctor’s perspective- the events leading up to and following on from Jamie’s and his presence with the Stattenheim remote control in the Sixth Doctor tale ‘The Two Doctors.’ Simon Guerrier also cleverly inserts the appearance of a species that Jamie should have no knowledge of at this point, mischievously toying with listeners’ knowledge and anticipation.
Guerrier perfectly recaptures the feel of the Second Doctor era, even having rows of computer banks shooting out ticker tapes; at the same time, though, he introduces concepts and bits of knowledge that are very much more modern so as to lend credence to the story without dating it. Once again, Frazer Hines performs admirably as Patrick Troughton’s Doctor and as Jamie, and fortunately this script is a bit more forgiving to him than the previous. Deborah Watling is also able to perfectly recapture the essence of Victoria even if her voice has grown deeper with the passage of time, and it’s a pleasure to hear these two companions play off each other again to recreate an era with so much of its visual aspect missing. In a brilliant but also strange choice, the great David Warner serves as the narrator for events, adding considerable weight and authority to the proceedings even though he does not play a character within the story itself.
Generally the pacing of the tale is very good throughout, allowing ample exploration of characters’ motivations and actions, although there are some slightly lagging and padded points toward the middle. However, the strong performance of Rufus Hound in the villainous role superbly drives along the action as he delivers a changing and nuanced performance full of cunning, intelligence, and arrogance. Although understating the performance, Janet Dibley as Commander Flail aboard the station is very strong as well, and these two supporting characters- and the eventual reveals they bring with them- add greater weight and repercussions to the events at hand, both regarding the black hole and the Doctor and his companions.
Simply put, ‘The Black Hole’ is a superb example of just what The Early Adventures is capable of, offering great insight into all of the leads and supporting cast members while toying with continuity and established events within the confines of an extremely intelligent script.