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8 June 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Mark Wright & Tim Foley

RRP: £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download)

Release Date: May 2021

Reviewed by: Robert Emlyn Slater for Doctor Who Online

"Two brand new adventures for the Third Doctor, Liz Shaw and Sarah Jane Smith:

7.1 The Unzal Incursion by Mark Wright

Under the supervision of the Doctor, the Brigadier and Dr Liz Shaw, UNIT are getting ready to activate Hotspur: their new, advanced early warning system.

But something goes wrong. Can it be that UNIT has been betrayed from within? Suddenly bases are falling across the globe, and only the Doctor and his friends are able to escape.

Not knowing how far the conspiracy goes, the Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier become fugitives. Their investigations lead them to the Fulcrum military training facility. And something beyond the Earth.

7.2 The Gulf by Tim Foley

The TARDIS lands on an ocean planet where the Doctor and Sarah find themselves stranded on a former rig, which has recently been converted into an artistic retreat.

But art is far from the residents’ minds. A troubled member of their collective has disappeared, and the Doctor senses a sinister psychic presence. The waves are rising. And there’s something in the water."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

We’re thrown back into the 70s this month with two new adventures featuring the Third Doctor, Sarah-Jane, Liz Shaw, and the Brigadier. Taking place in two different eras of the Third Doctor’s time on the show, we’re given two completely different stories here in the seventh volume of The Third Doctor Adventures.

The first story, The Unzal Incursion, written by Mark Wright, is a pacy, bombastic adventure which sees the Doctor, Liz Shaw, and the Brigadier become fugitives who have to go on the run when it seems that UNIT has turned against them. 

This four-part story never really lets up, right from the first minute. It’s an action-packed game of cat and mouse, with the Doctor and his friends always trying to keep ahead of the people that are chasing them, by any means necessary. There are car chases, airplane chases, and even a big Venusian Aikido fight for the Doctor against the villainous Unzal in this rip roaring adventure. It was a thoroughly entertaining ride, and one I’m looking forward to revisiting already.

I must give praise to the acting in this story. Daisy Ashford is brilliant as Liz Shaw and provides a really convincing performance as Liz Shaw, the role her late mother, Caroline John, used to play in the show. I was very impressed with what I heard from her in this boxset and look forward to hearing more from her in the future. 

Jon Culshaw is also utterly fantastic. His impression of the Brigadier is so scarily accurate that I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t actually Nicholas Courtney who was stood behind the microphone. I always knew Culshaw was good with his impressions, but this was something else. A 10 out of 10 performance and impression.

My only criticism of this adventure is that I feel as though the final ‘fight’ between the Doctor and his friends and the Unzal in episode four fell a bit flat. The Unzal were much more intimidating when they were hidden away, rather than when they went all ‘lumbering monster’ and turned up for a scrap at the end.

I was a big fan of the Unzal’s plan, however, and thought it was a nice, clever change from the usual ‘alien invasion of Earth’ trope. The ‘mystery’ that was left dangling at the end was also a really nice touch.

Overall, for the most part, this was a pacy, exciting adventure with fantastic performances from all the cast that was a real joy to listen to. I’m hoping for more adventures with Ashford’s Liz and Culshaw’s Brigadier in the future.

The second story, The Gulf, written by Tim Foley, was in my opinion, the slightly stronger story from this boxset. Featuring Sadie Miller as Sarah Jane, this adventure takes place aboard an old rig out in the midsts of an ocean planet. The rig, which floats just above the water (which is a really cool mental image) is now home to an artist’s retreat which is seemingly being haunted by a maleficent telepathic force.

This base-under-siege-esque adventure was a nervy, atmospheric story that could be quite disturbing at times. You could really feel the claustrophobic sense of isolation here, and the Doctor and his friends being chased through the rig as it slowly falls into the sea was incredibly exciting. 

I was particularly impressed with the performances from the guest cast in this adventure. Everyone was on top form, in particular, Wendy Craig as the famous painter, Marta Malvani. Lucy Goldie also gives a chilling performance as Laurel, the woman who fell into the sea and came back changed. 

The Gulf is Sadie Miller’s second appearance as Sarah Jane Smith following her debut in The Return of the Cybermen earlier this year, and I was once again really impressed, and blown away, by how similar she sounded to Elisabeth Sladen at times! It wasn’t an outright impression, but there were times where it was really uncanny, especially towards the end. I’m looking forwards to hearing more from her in future audios.

It goes without saying that Tim Treloar was absolutely brilliant as the Third Doctor in this boxset. He nailed his impression, as always, and had everything right, down to even the smallest of mannerisms. 

In fact, it was really weird, and obviously really impressive, that every single performance of these much-loved characters was an impression of them given by another actor. I honestly felt as though I’d just tumbled back through time into the 70s and was listening to the original cast act out two brand new audio adventures for me. I did have to keep reminding myself that these people weren’t the real actors, and I guess that just goes to show how brilliant they all were in this boxset.

I also have to give huge praise to the production team too. The sound design in particular was excellent, and really felt as though they’d lifted music straight from the show and placed it into this boxset. This volume was clearly made by people who loved this era of the show, and the adventures available here really feel as though they could slot into their respective seasons quite easily. 

If you’re a fan of this time in the show’s history, or if you just want to sit back and listen to two excellent, atmospheric, pacy stories that will have you gripped throughout, then I highly recommend you giving this volume of The Third Doctor Adventures a listen. It’s a huge success, and I for one can’t wait to see where they go next in volume 8. 

Excellent stuff. 

+ The 3rd Doc. Adventures: Vol. 7 is OUT NOW, priced £24.99 (CD) | £19.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title from Big Finish!

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