It’s back to 1970 as we rejoin the Third Doctor, Liz Shaw and the Brigadier for a new seven-part audio adventure! The Annihilators is not only the first seven-part story from Big Finish, but is also the first appearance of Michael Troughton as the Second Doctor, as he inherits the role from his late father! A seven-part, multi-Doctor story is one hell of a premise… but does Nicholas Briggs‘ script live up to it? Read on to find out!
The Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier are summoned to the town of Lewgate in northern England, where the body of DC Lee Staniton has recently been recovered from the docks, covered in a strange green substance. As the Doctor deals with alarming disturbances to both gravity and time, Liz discovers an alien presence in Lewgate… but, for some reason, the local police seem loathe to help them get to the bottom of what’s going on. What is DCI Denise Walker hiding? And what are the Second Doctor and Jamie doing in Lewgate?
Just from that short plot description alone, it’s clear to see that The Annihilators is a very authentic early Pertwee-era script, dealing with an Earth-bound threat, corrupt authority figures and grittier, more realistic settings and characters. Despite this familiarity, Nicholas Briggs‘ script is teeming with creativity, full of some really fantastic ideas which make sure that, though this is one of the longest stories Big Finish has ever released, it doesn’t drag for even a second.
There’s a real sense of mystery throughout The Annihilators which makes it irresistible to keep listening. Who summoned UNIT to Lewgate? What is happening to time and geravity? Who are the Greshtrenor? Why is the Second Doctor involved? There are so many intriguing questions proposed in the opening episodes that it’s hard not to stay hooked right until the very end.
Tim Treloar, Daisy Ashford and Jon Culshaw return here as the Third Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier respectively, and do a great job at bringing the material to life. As previously mentioned, Michael Troughton makes his debut as the Second Doctor in this story, and I’m happy to report that he’s wonderful in the role, giving a strong approximation of his father’s voice while also putting his own spin. This, combined with the return of Frazer Hines as an older version of Jamie, makes this a great first story for this new era for Second Doctor.
The guest cast for this story are all on top form, though there are a few standouts. Karen Archer is excellent as the secretive DCI Denise Walker, while Daon Broni is compelling as eager young police sergeant Al Sinclair. Meanwhile, Mark Elstob and Bethan Walker are very effective as the gelatinous Greshtrenor, who are one of the more unique Doctor Who villains out there.
Sound design here is handled by Steve Foxon, and is excellent throughout. Highlights include the unearthly sound of the time distortions, the burbling Greshtrenor voices and some excellent action sequences. Foxon’s work is complemented by Nicholas Briggs‘ incidental music, which fits perfectly with the 1970s vibe of the story.
Overall, The Annihilators is a very effective reboot to the Third Doctor Adventures range, succeeding in recreating the incredibly specific energy the 1970 season of Doctor Who had. While the concluding episode is slightly weaker than the rest of the story, Nicholas Briggs‘s script is pacy, gripping and intriguing, absolutely justifying this being such a long story. This, combined with the stellar efforts of the entire cast (and Michael Troughton in particular, as the new Second Doctor), makes The Annihilators one of the strongest releases of 2022 so far. Highly recommended.
The Annihilators is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com