Doctor Who: Primord Review

DW Primord

The Third Doctor Adventures returns, and has further evolved! Starting off as a mostly narrated affair, we eventually got Tim Trelor’s Third Doctor in a full cast environment, and now we have a perfectly recast Brigadier thanks to Jon Culshaw, and a good version of Liz Shaw from the original actresses own daughter. Adding in Jo Grant, who is thankfully still with us, and we’ve pretty much hit full cast Third Doctor stories! Primord, the first story of two, features both new recasts and is a really fun, if not rather basic, story that is also a direct sequel to TV classic Inferno… Let’s have a deeper look!

Official Synopsis:

Prisoners are escaping from incarceration all around the country and UNIT have been called in to aid in the search. But the Doctor is unwilling to agree to the Brigadier’s request for help as he and Jo have opted to take a holiday – they’re going to visit his old assistant Liz Shaw, now working in Cambridge University.

But, unfortunately for Jo, the Doctor can’t relax for very long. Soon the Time Lord and his friends are facing an old enemy – creatures they’d long since thought they’d put to ground.

The Primords have returned – and this time the danger may strike very close to home.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Tom Treloar) – For the first time in a long time, The Doctor is planning to take a break and visit his old friend Liz Shaw in Cambridge, with Jo along for the ride… This will obviously go without a hitch and just be all friendly and… Yeah, never mind.

Jo Grant (Katy Manning) – Jo has heard a lot about Liz Shaw from The Doctor and The Brig, and is looking forward to meeting her predecessor, as well as generally looking forward to the trip.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Jon Culshaw) – It is an unusually quiet period for UNIT at the moment, so much so that the Brigadier and his men have been called over to Cambridge to help deal with escaped convicts and a string of robberies, rather than the strange and alien…

Liz Shaw (Daisy Ashford) – Liz has been working on a special project with her fiancée, at least that’s the last thing she really remembers before her thoughts turned to more sinister things…

General Sharp (Michael Troughton) – General Sharp has been tasked with taking on a project that could save millions of British lives… at the expense of countless innocent people in other countries… Oh well, he’s a loyal Brit, and sees no problems with this set up!

Lady Madeleine Rose (Bethan Dixon Bate) – A rich higher-up who is funding the special Primord project both General Sharp and Liz Shaw are caught up in. She, like Sharp, sees no issues to valuing British life over all others…

The Primords (Various) – People mutated by a mysterious green goo found deep underground, they lose all reason and become hairy beasts who are infectious to the touch…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Third Doctor Adv Vol5 Cover

Can’t help but feel the cover is slight skewed in favour of this story…

I guess first things first: Jon Culshaw makes a great Brigadier. Unlike Trelor’s Third Doctor or, for the record, Daisy Ashford’s Liz Shaw, where they do great impressions of the characters but don’t impersonate the actors, Culshaw is full on impersonating Nicholas Courtney, which given his background makes sense. It works, and adds a key character from this era that was sorely missing. As I said the new Liz Shaw is good, she has a lot of the vocal quirks of the original character and a similar voice (makes sense!) but you can tell the Ms. Ashford wasn’t just trying to do an impersonation. Add in Trelor, who only keeps getting better (I laughed at his perfect mimic of Pertwee’s cry of pain!) and this was a very exciting “what can come from this in the future” story, alongside being quite good in its own right.

Speaking of the actual story in its own right, it is oddly, as previously mentioned, a direct sequel to Inferno, but less alternate Earth full of evil doppelgängers, and more focusing on the viral threat that turned people into “Primords”. The Doctor and Jo go to meet Liz, though soon Jo is off with the Brigadier on what they both think is an unrelated matter, and The Doctor becomes confused as his old trusted friend shows that she’s used Primord goo to convert several people and experimented using it as a biological weapon. As you may have guessed, Liz isn’t in her right mind, and it turns out that she has been infected with the goo herself, but a suppressant she had developed meant it only affected her psyche, instead of turning her into a feral beast, and now The Doctor is infected too…

Cue “evil” military officer who is in favour of the biological weapon “for old Blity” and his snobby higher-up backer, and plenty of Primord outbreaks thanks to a stronger and more deadly strain The Doctor and Liz created while all evil. Jo and The Brig are captured long enough to get the jist, and eventually the former saves the day by bringing The Doctor back round long enough for him to develop a cure, allowing her to put the cure in the sprinkler system and spray everyone with it.

There is a side story that Liz got involved with the project due to her fiancée, who turned into a Primord long before anyone else. Her love ends up getting killed while killing General Sharp, the aforementioned corrupt military man, before he can be cured. They end up being the only two deaths in the whole story, which The Doctor mentions too much sadness, after declaring the day a triumph as nobody had died for a change…

The Bad:

The plot was certainly slow for the first half, it was like it was supposed to be a six parter (or seven for authentic Inferno-ness!) but instead of trimming it down they just removed the middle episodes, so we got the slow introduction and the more chaotic, busy end, but nothing in between. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it did feel like it took a while to get going, even if the first part was mostly me being thrilled with the new voices!

Speaking of which, very odd decision to recast Liz Shaw and have her debut be where she plays an evil version of the character for 99% of it. It’s also kind of disappointing, like John Dorney felt the need to include evil versions of actual characters to make it more Inferno-y, when they could have just kept the Primord part… or not done a sequel to Inferno at all, obviously!

The Continuity:

Well, I mean, I guess I’ll mention the fact that Primords and many other things featured all call back to Third Doctor TV classic “Inferno” again, though I think that should be obvious by now!

When The Doctor and Liz first meet again, The Doctor mentions the last time they saw each other was “That New Dawn business”, which is a callback to the Companion Chronicle story “Sentinels of the New Dawn”, set after Liz left, but before this story, I guess!

Overall Thoughts:

Primord is a hard one to judge on its own, as a lot of the story was me just delighted to have the Brig and Liz Shaw back in full cast stories, but even then it had its moments. No new character broke any mould and certainly for a sequel to Inferno it could have been a bit braver, but overall it was an enjoyable two hours, and one I wouldn’t be opposed to listening to again…

4 Star Listen

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