The Havoc of Empires

September 9, 2016

Released September 2015

The second story within the first volume of Big Finish’s The Third Doctor Adventures, ‘The Havoc of Empires’ is a suitable companion for the preceding ‘Prisoners of the Lake,’ set after the Doctor’s exile on Earth has ended and taking events from Earth far into space. With the Doctor intending to take Jo Grant and Mike Yates for a night out to see the great W.C. Grace in a final cricket performance, the TARDIS once again misses its mark and lands its occupants on a space station in the middle of a political storm.

At a quick glance, it’s apparent that ‘The Havoc of Empires’ shares some similarities with the beloved Peladon tales of the Pertwee era. Two opposing factions are present on the space station and are set to be united by a political marriage, one that several parties are interested in stopping. The Doctor, Jo, and Mike arrive and are mistaken for security officers, allowing them the perfect reason to undercover the many secrets aboard the station. The script, in particular, gives Katy Manning the opportunity to shine, allowing Jo the chance to utilize some of her UNIT training while the intrigue deepens as bombs explode, the death toll mounts, and the pressure from all sides increases. With the Doctor tied up and confined for the majority of the second half of the story after falling under suspicion of murder and the script unsure of what to do with Yates, manning thankfully offers a powerful performance as she takes centre stage while remaining true to her character and her strengths and flaws.

Like the first story of this set, ‘The Havoc of Empires’ does not pioneer into new territory. This is very much a story that would fit into the classic era perfectly and is very much a story intended to elicit a nostalgic feel. Yet while a political marriage and solving the mystery of the sabotage are certainly not new revelatory plot points, writer Andy Lane manages to present events in an amusingly dramatic fashion without completely relying on trusted clichés even as the political arrangement results in true love. There are a few genuine surprises to be had as secrets are slowly revealed and, even if a crucial plot point relies on a sight gag as the eyebrow-communicating Delphons are introduced and the space station AI provides a rather easy resolution at the end, the overall pacing and frequency of crucial information being divulged is satisfyingly tight and consistent.

Tim Treloar once more excels with his uncanny impersonation of Jon Pertwee, certainly enough so as to allow suspension of disbelief as he even manages to incorporate a slight lisp and an annunciated shortness to great effect. The use of narration in a style somewhere between the main range and the The Companion Chronicles range- fitting given the likewise intermediate cast size- is again used to good effect to help bypass slower moments that would require awkward dialogue, further helping the quick pace continue. Lucy Birggs-Owen and Hywel Morgan deserve due credit for their sterling work as the forthcoming married couple, and Helen Goldwyn, Joanna Bacon, and George Layton each give a strong and nuanced performance as required.

While ‘The Havoc of Empires’ may once again play things safe, it is certainly a strong addition to the Third Doctor era as Big Finish attempts to fill a rather large gap they have had to leave in the classic chronology up until this point. Tim Treloar has managed to capture the essence of Jon Pertwee exceedingly well, and hopefully this box set and its two stories are received well enough to warrant further outings of this ‘new’ this incarnation.

Wrap Up

The Havoc of Empires

Pros

  • + Katy Manning excels in the spotlight as Jo Grant takes centre stage
  • + Tim Treloar once more uncannily channels the essence of Jon Pertwee
  • + A few genuine surprises as the mystery unfolds

Cons

  • _ Script once more plays it safe in a very traditional format
  • - Resolution a bit too easy and ultimately unsatisfying

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