Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures Volume Three

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Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures Volume Three – Starring David Bradley, Claudia Grant, Jemma Powell, Jamie Glover, Carole Ann Ford, Ajjaz Awad, Jo Ben Ayed, Orion Ben, Youssef Kerkour, Raad Rawi,  Mina Anwar, Susie Emmett  & Belinda Lang. Written by Marc Platt & Guy Adams & Directed by Ken Bentley – 5xCD / Download (Big Finish)

David Bradley’s portrayal of the First Doctor (on television at any rate) is an artfully-crafted love letter to the Doctor. There’s more than a passing physical resemblance to William Hartnell, a similar voice with familiar intonation and prosody, and it’s all wrapped in a familiar gruff exterior hiding a twinkly old time traveller. But take away the frock coat, the wig, and that twinkle, and how well does Bradley’s portrayal really hold up?  I’ll tell you in a bit. But first – an introduction to the two stories making up this third volume of ‘First’ Doctor tales.

The first story, written by Who legend Marc Platt, sees the TARDIS land in the Phoenician city of Tyre during the Iron Age. It’s a time of great division (because if it wasn’t, then there wouldn’t be a story), with the city’s King in a bitter and escalating feud with his sister. As is always the way, dark omens from the city’s prophets predict chaos, storms, a fate worse than BREXIT, and the arrival of a stranger with a mysterious box that could change everything (spoiler: it’s not Paul Daniels). With Ian (seemingly) killed in a crowd-pleasing ceremony, Susan and Barbara forced into the dark realities of the times, and the Doctor angering the powers of the city, will our erstwhile heroes and heroines be able to survive the era and get back to the TARDIS in one piece? Or is this a case of ‘so far, so familiar’?

All in all, The Phoenicians is typically ‘First Doctor-y’ mix of history, myth and legend, with some full-on, nail-biting tension spooned in to keep you wanting more. The size and scope of the story is enormous – especially once the story moves from land to the open sea. Big stories often need big characters to fill them. So it’s just as well we have a main cast who give fantastic, believable performances as the original ‘Team Tardis’. There are some memorable moments here too:  The Doctor having to play the part of an envoy of the Gods is a lot of fun, as is the climax, which also ties things up neatly before (explosively) moving on to the next adventure. 

If Time-travelly, timey-wimey, paradoxical ‘stuff’ is more your thing, the second story in this volume (Tick-Tock World), is going to be right up your temporal alley. Guy Adams’ tale sees the TARDIS going haywire and the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan finding themselves in the dark ruins of an eldritch (love that word) landscape affected by time. With the TARDIS (apparently) destroyed, the group is forced to wander through miles of time-damaged desolation, looking for a way off the planet. Key to this is an older woman who is waiting to connect with the Doctor.

Tick-Tock World has a lot in common with stories like Mawdryn Undead and The Girl Who Waited, with characters meeting with different versions of themselves (but what about the Blinovitch Limitation Effect?!), jumping timelines, and experiencing many weird temporal concepts. This could lead to the story becoming confusing or unfathomable, but Adams’ script is both cohesive and elegantly crafted, with masses of character development from start to finish, and a soundscape that fits beautifully both tonally and structurally.

I guess one of the big draws with Volume Three is Carole Ann Ford returning in a role in which, as always, she’s absolutely fantastic. Whether her presence has helped the team to gel or it’s serendipity that she has just come along at the right time I don’t know, but David Bradley absolutely finds his feet in this second story, bringing his best performance as the First Doctor, and building on Hartnell’s historic performance: listen out for his introspection and emotion at the thought of having lost his ship forever because it is absolutely heart-breaking, then listen out for Volume Four because if it’s half as good as Volume Three, it’ll be a doozy. Bex Ferriday

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