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Review: The Defectors
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Review: The DefectorsBig Finish, Main Series #198
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Jo Grant is shocked to find most of her colleagues are missing. Then she discovers that the Doctor has inexplicably changed. But there’s no time to worry about it, as she and her misplaced Time Lord friend are whisked to the mysterious Delphin Isle on a matter of national security. There, they encounter a disturbingly odd form of local hospitality and learn of a highly classified incident that took place during the Cold War. Why exactly have they been brought here? And what is the truth concerning the bodies in the harbour and the vast project being undertaken beneath a cloak of secrecy?

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The Defectors is number 198 in Big Finish’s main Doctor Who series.

Kicking off a new trilogy of unique stories for Big Finish, The Defectors from Nick Briggs is the first of the so-called “locum Doctors” trilogy, whereby a different Doctor is placed into an era from the past. Future releases will see Peter Davison substituting for William Hartnell and Colin Baker for Patrick Troughton, but our first instalment kicks off with the interesting scenario of the morally diverse seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy entering the realm of that most just of Doctors, Jon Pertwee.

The locum Doctors concept is one of those ideas that will work spectacularly well or be a disaster… luckily it’s most certainly the former. A Third Doctor story is a very particular thing, like with Troughton and in someway Tom Baker, there are certain tropes that the listener comes to expect if the play is to have an air of authenticity.. and The Defectors has it in abundance. From Cold War references to secret projects, from UNIT to mysteries covered in “national security,” it’s Saturday tea-time in 1972 all over again… with a McCoy twist!

After Mike Yates is called away to London, a suspicious Jo Grant finds herself confronted by a strange little man claiming to be the Doctor, both soon whisked away to the mysterious Delphin island and military facility by an equally mysterious officer. The facility and island, designed to house top level defectors, throws up more questions than it does answers as our leads are confronted by blue skinned people, rotten boats in the harbour and an unaging population.

Sylvester McCoy is in fine mettle as the Doctor, seemingly enjoying the change of tone and casting, developing an instantaneous chemistry with Katy Manning as Jo, with the relationship between the two being excellently scripted by Nick Briggs. Jo in particularly gets some quality material here, Manning rising to the occasion as she deals with both a new Doctor and being thrust right into the action. While Mike Yates meanwhile may potentially be underused in the story, it fits with the era itself and the necessity for the downgrading of UNIT through the absence of John Levene and the great loss of Nicholas Courtney.

Indeed, Briggs has once again hit the nail on the head spectacularly, penning an authentic sounding and scripted Third Doctor tale, all be it influenced in some measure by B-movies such as It Came From Outer Space as much as the era itself. Yet the writer manages to successfully retain Seven’s individuality, not merely making him a Pertwee substitute as could have been the danger, our scheming and darker McCoy present and correct.

Traditional in the base under siege sense and government conspiracy sense, The Defectors is a fast-paced, strongly scripted and unique affair that leaves the listener wanting to hear more from McCoy and Manning. With the Sixth Doctor ready to meet Jamie, Zoe and the Cybermen next month, the next audio will possibly lose some of The Defectors originality with those taking part having already appeared together previously a number of years ago, yet we’re sure that just as here it will be another fine release from the continually impressive Big Finish.

Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Richard Franklin (Captain Yates), Neil Roberts (Captain Cornelius), Barnaby Edwards (Commander Wingford), David Graham (Shedgerton), Rachel Bavidge (Europan Leader), Jez Fielder(Europan)

The Defectors is available now from BigFinish.com

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Excellently scripted
Intriguing concept
Great chemistry between our leads
Evokative of era

Negatives

Wears it's influences on it's sleeve

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Bottom Line

Traditional in the base under siege sense and government conspiracy sense, The Defectors is a fast-paced, strongly scripted and unique affair that leaves the listener wanting to hear more from McCoy and Manning. With the Sixth Doctor ready to meet Jamie, Zoe and the Cybermen next month, the next audio will possibly lose some of The Defectors originality with those taking part having already appeared together previously a number of years ago, yet we're sure that just as here it will be another fine release from the continually impressive Big Finish.

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About The Author
Michael East
Michael East is the founder of Doctor Who Worldwide. Best selling author, great statesmen, Ambassador to the Netherlands… Michael is none of these things. He was however named TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, is an award winning web designer and a comedy Marxist. He enjoys beards, retrogaming and classic TV. He is not a hipster.