The Annihilators

Posted in Audio by - February 25, 2022
The Annihilators

Released February 2022


2022 marks a year of change for Big Finish and its Doctor Who catalogue, bringing each incarnation of the Doctor under its umbrella onto more equal footing in terms of prominence. Thus opening the door to more experimentation with format, The Third Doctor Adventures brings back the seven-part serial to more fully realize the spirit of the beloved first run of Pertwee episodes from 1970 in Nicholas Briggs’s ‘The Annihilators’ as it simultaneously peeks ahead to what is in store for the Second Doctor with a surprising crossover.

An unknown informer has summoned the Brigadier to the North of England where something green and deadly has been found in the water at Lewgate Docks. Unfortunately, even once the Doctor and Liz Shaw are called in to help with the investigation, the UNIT forces are met with disapproval and obstructionism from the local constabulary. When even the passage of time becomes anything but standard with several hours of days unable to be accounted for in relation to the Doctor’s own timekeeping devices, however, a much more intricate and nefarious plot is slowly revealed involving not only authoritative collusion but also multiple alien species that have decidedly different plans for humanity’s fate given the triumphs and tragedies humans will be responsible for in the future. Ultimately, there is a certain homage to ‘Galaxy 4’ and the bias that appearances can cause, but the story unfolds organically and uses both alien species to grand effect while playing upon the self-assuredness of the Doctor that his psychic sensitivity and resulting inferences allow to develop. Briggs has crafted a well-paced story that starts out small in scope before gradually intensifying into something much more grandiose, and the frequently-referenced impending arrival of a monumentally destructive force on Earth that has already caused such mayhem from so far ensures that the stakes are never forgotten even before the true motives are revealed.

Naturally, as strong as the writing, direction, and sound design are at evoking the feel of season seven, the success of ‘The Annihilators’ is most reliant upon the incredible performances in the leading roles. Tim Treloar has, of course, mastered the cadence and intonations of Jon Pertwee, and the Third Doctor’s confidence, fortitude, and anger when his morals are challenged are all perfectly captured and displayed. Likewise, Daisy Ashford, sharing an immense vocal similarity with her mother, expertly brings forth Liz’s own determination and intelligence, and the chemistry between these two wonderfully expands upon the mutual trust and respect the two characters would come to develop during their time together at UNIT. With Jon Culshaw once again providing an eerily accurate rendition of Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, this entire era is impressively realized and a testament to everything that Big Finish has attempted to do to keep every era of Doctor Who thriving.

However, an unexpected bonus- and one that Big Finish kept under wraps until very close to release- is the inclusion of Michael Troughton in his full-cast debut as the Second Doctor and of Frazer Hines as beloved companion Jamie. Hines, of course, has reprised his companion role for Big Finish countless times already, and his energy and dedication is every bit as pronounced as ever, highlighting a capable and pragmatic man who has developed so much during his time with the Doctor. And while Troughton does not attempt to do a perfect recreation of his father’s voice, he expertly captures the mannerisms and energy of this most mischievous incarnation. Ultimately, the story could have succeeded quite well without their involvement since neither is completely vital to the progression, but the moments when the different eras’ casts unite are brilliant, and the not-so-furtive hints at a role the Second Doctor and this older Jamie played within a time between ‘The War Games’ and ‘Spearhead from Space’ quite adeptly sets the stage for what is to come for that incarnation in the audio medium even if nothing gets overtly explained here. Nonetheless, the end result of these many components is a perfect recreation of season seven with a bold seven-parter that pays due respect to the past while also looking toward the future of where Big Finish can continue to take these many cherished characters.

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