Posted in Audio by - October 28, 2022

Released October 2022


When a young man named Kaleidoscope gives an exclusive interview to a less-than-scrupulous reporter warning that humanity is on the precipice of extinction, the Doctor and UNIT must work out if the story is genuine or fake as The Third Doctor Adventures returns with the six-part ‘Kaleidoscope’ by Alan Barnes. As an unidentified object heads toward a top-secret military base filled with experimental missiles, however, it seems that at least part of this purported alien’s story may sadly come to fruition.

Naturally, as Sarah’s journalistic rival who found Kaleidoscope begins to advertise his psychic powers to the masses, uncovering any validity to their claims becomes of paramount importance to the Doctor and Sarah. By undertaking this investigation, however, Sarah finds herself uneasily allied at times with a woman she knows has little- if any- journalistic integrity, and Sadie Miller spectacularly captures the feistiness, shrewd intelligence, and moral fortitude of Sarah at the very beginning of her journey with the Doctor. To give credence to Sarah’s disdain, Jasmin Hinds is likewise superb as Jenny Nettles who, despite a hint of good intentions, is without question out for herself first and foremost and willing to betray anyone’s trust in the process of making a name for herself. Whether taking illicit photographs or tapping phones, Nettles is the epitome of everything Sarah stands against in journalism, and that unique friction serves ‘Kaleidoscope’ well throughout, especially as Kal continues to form a deeper connection with her as they both become more entwined in UNIT’s affairs.

Of course, Gerran Howell is tasked with carrying a significant portion of this story as the mysterious Kal who proves he has psychic powers but whose origins remains somewhat shrouded as he listens to the voices and music only he can hear. Howell imbues something of an ethereal and disconnected quality to this young man who continues to learn just what it means to be human in the most mundane and the most extraordinary of circumstances, and the unexpected truth behind his abilities that even he is unaware of is a brilliant nod very real dangers humans themselves can pose as they attempt to harness technology not their own. Even with the presence of UNIT, Doctor Who doesn’t too often explicitly delve into the machinations and politics of foreign countries, and the firm reminders here that the UK is not the only country with exposure to aliens and that UNIT remains an open secret that outside forces remain desperate to learn more of provide a fictional but nonetheless impactful look at geopolitical tensions that continue to this day.

Despite being six parts, however, ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a story that attempts to bring in far too many plotlines to allow adequate exploration of each. While there is no denying that the sentient nanobots offer an incredible initial hook as a chain reaction of implosive missiles becomes a very real possibility and as even the Doctor proves susceptible to their influence, having that problem neatly wrapped up so early in the story ends up providing a very disjointed experience, one that is much more noticeable than in other six-part stories that also split the main narrative up into four-part and two-part portions. This is the means by which Daphne Green, a former flame of sorts of the Brigadier’s, is introduced, but her admission that her life was all but stalled until the Brigadier and Cal happened to travel to the base at which she was leading protests likewise suggests that more of this story than is necessary is predicated upon coincidence rather than narrative need.

Nonetheless, Helen Goldwyn gives a suitably strong performance as this haughty and flirtatious woman who so clearly enjoys teasing the Brigadier, and this brief look into the Brigadier’s past as he learns that Daphne’s husband dies some time ago with the reasons hushed up is a clever means by which to put the Brigadier on a touch of the defensive side while also amplifying Daphne’s immediate importance. Of course, that importance becomes all the more prominent when she finally reveals herself to be a foreign agent who has been waiting for just such an occasion to advance her importance in a scheme that looks to take full advantage of the Doctor and Sarah, again allowing this international but very human threat to develop quickly but effectively. Although it’s clear that a Soviet UNIT-type operation with the Doctor as its own scientific adviser is doomed to fail, the stark background setting and the incredible collection of technology already available certainly raises the prospect of a new and capably-equipped operation taking form. Unfortunately, both Green and Colonel-General Sokolov prove to be far too egotistical and short-sighted to provide an effective front, the former assuming the Brigadier would drink while on duty and the latter assuming he knows the Doctor’s motivations better than anyone, and this narrative supporting the final two parts of ‘Kaleidoscope’ certainly had much more to offer if given an expanded time to feature so that the conclusion wasn’t so abrupt after so much buildup.

As always, Tim Treloar is incredible as the Third Doctor, expertly channeling Jon Pertwee’s fierce pride, determination, and curiosity. As well, Jon Culshaw continues to give an uncanny performance as the Brigadier who is uniquely spotlighted throughout ‘Kaleidoscope’ and who has an ultimate moment of triumph befitting of his long career and the intense friendships he has formed against all odds. ‘Kaleidoscope’ even manages to provide an introduction for Harry Sullivan without stepping on established continuity, and though the role is fairly limited with the Doctor temporarily absent from affairs, Christopher Naylor once more capably steps into the role to continue to flesh out this character within the ever-expanding Big Finish catalogue.  With incredible sound design and direction to support the always-strong lead performances, ‘Kaleidoscope’ has all the components necessary for a true classic. However, the occasional overdramatic performance in support and a strange shunting of the nanobot plot with a more sinister Soviet plot that is not given enough time in focus create an odd unbalance that doesn’t allow for a fully cohesive narrative despite Kal and Daphne as interlinking components.

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