WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
Released November 2016
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told.
The Third Doctor and Jo return to Earth in ‘The Hidden Realm,’ journeying to the village of Bramfield New Town to explore the mysterious disappearance of the husband of Jo’s cousin, Peter. With an ominous group of magpies circling above, they soon discover a terrifying alien plot that reaches farther back into the village’s past than they’d ever anticipated.
Doctor Who has always found remarkable success in subverting the sense of the familiar, and the cozy English village housing a dark secret is used to great effect here, effortlessly sliding into the Pertwee televised era in the process. Bramfield itself is brought to life wonderfully as landmarks and characters throughout the town are explored, and ‘The Hidden Realm’ in general is full of a powerful atmosphere and a menacing sense of foreboding that effectively drives events forward as very human sentiments and motivations slowly unveil themselves.
In a town where nobody and nothing is as it seems, Jo teams with Alex Lanipekun’s DS Joseph to uncover the truth behind Peter’s recent disappearance and other strange goings-on nearby, all the while keeping in mind the mysterious 100,000 pounds an escaping criminal in Argentina has just wired into Peter’s account. When Peter and others start reappearing with strange gaps in their memory, though, events take on a much more sinister tone, each action needing to be calculated precisely to determine how best to proceed. Though the absence of UNIT is notable, ‘The Hidden Realm’ does at least address the necessary omission with a decent explanation. Accordingly, Jo and DS Joseph truly drive the narrative forward, and the two form a wonderful team as Jo’s burgeoning confidence in both herself and dealing with the unknown plays off Joseph’s more rigid beliefs and desire for truth well. Sandra Voe also gives a remarkably robust performance as Miss Barnett, playing a very significant role in the story and proving to be an invaluable source of information about both the village and its past.
Even the Doctor, looking into the local superstitions of Bramfield’s witching areas as he explores the significance of the number seven, finds himself at a disadvantage and vulnerable to the alien machinations. The uncovered plot is fascinatingly simplistic and horrific at the same, the rich and powerful being given a second chance at the expense of ordinary citizens, and the nefarious Overseer Zim’s character and realm come to life quite successfully on audio without ever stealing too much focus from the very human story at hand. However, despite the unnerving truth, it’s Tim Treloar playing against character as a result of the Doctor’s arrogant vulnerability that is the highlight of the latter half of the story. Treloar continues to refine his nuanced channeling of Pertwee, but having him play a darker take on the Doctor while remaining true to the essence of Jon Pertwee proves his versatility and heightens the alien threat immensely.
Earthbound stories don’t necessarily carry the same sense of mystique that off-world adventures might, but ‘The Hidden Realm’ makes fantastic use of very human sentiments and plights to create an engaging tale that utilizes all of its characters in rewarding ways. ‘The Hidden Realm’ follows in the footsteps of ‘The Transcendence of Ephros’ by hiding truths in plain sight, but the uneasy truths revealed are nonetheless significant and very satisfying, leading to a powerfully emotional resolution that will not soon be forgotten. Tim Treloar and Katy Manning again showcase their inherent chemistry together, and the strengths and shortcomings of both lead characters as well as strong guest performances and determined direction are all employed to great effect to offer yet another strong entry in The Third Doctor Adventures, a series that has already managed to lovingly recreate such a distinct era of the programme with aplomb.