The Doctor and Jo are sent on a mission in Doctor Who: Operation: Hellfire, where they get to meet Churchill and share a rather unusual historical adventure…
Operation: Hellfire – the second story from Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Adventures: Volume 6 – is a little unusual, at least for the Third Doctor. While most other Doctors seemed to visit Earth’s history at least semi-regularly, there were only a couple of occasions when the Third Doctor had a historical adventure on television.
So it’s a refreshing change when he and Jo are sent on a mission back in time in this story – even if it is back to the Second World War. The Doctor gets to say hello to his old friend Winston Churchill. While it’s a joy to hear Ian McNeice voice the part once more, it has to be said, he doesn’t feature in this story quite as much as you’d think. Still, considering that the Doctor has to deal with both spies and occultist Nazis, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t have much time for his old friend.
However, the historical setting is just one of the elements that make this particular adventure so unusual. What also stands out about Operation: Hellfire is that it doesn’t feature aliens or monsters. While it features many clear villains, all of them are very human. For a Third Doctor story, while human villains featured in many stories, not featuring any aliens at all (other than one Time Lord and the Doctor himself, of course) is definitely rare.
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Extremes of humanity
However, when looking at who wrote this particular story, it isn’t too surprising. Jonathan Barnes has written many stories for Big Finish. Some of these include Doctor Who audios focusing on other Doctors, but more than that, he’s heavily worked on Big Finish’s range of Sherlock Holmes stories. Unsurprisingly, they’ve all focused primarily on very human characters, both good and evil. And that remains true with this audio.
With Operation: Hellfire, Barnes is keen to tell a story featuring the very best and worst of humanity. We have characters who are both heroic and villainous; strong and pathetic; wise and foolish. Having such colorful and distinctive characters helps to give this story an almost pulpy vibe, and provides us with a very different kind of historical adventure – one that suits Jon Pertwee’s era extremely well.
Highly entertaining and full of twists and turns, Operation: Hellfire is a story that both stands out from the usual Third Doctor adventure while still feeling most appropriate to his era in particular. An extremely enjoyable audio, and a great contrast to something as traditional as Poison of the Daleks.
Do you think the Third Doctor should have gone back in time more often? Perhaps even had a pure historical story? Let us know in the comments below.