Vengeance of the Stones is a somewhat odd choice to celebrate the Third Doctor’s reign between 1970 and 1974. With the Destiny of the Doctor series charting an adventure for each of the eleven Doctors with a story suitable and celebratory to their era, you would instantly have a checklist for the Third Doctor.
In many ways, writer Andrew Smith has the right idea but something of the wrong calculation. There’s a mysterious disappearance of an RAF fighter jet over Scotland, the drafting of UNIT, the Brigadier and the Third Doctor to investigate events and of course the lovely Jo Grant to help out in her own plucky way. Except that this story is BJG, that’s Before Jo Grant, and instead, this particular adventure is used to describe the first encounter that Mike Yates has with the Doctor and his wonderful world.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Mike Yates, he’s a fine hero who helped the Doctor many times and does deserve his spot in the Doctor Who hall of fame but when you’re celebrating a specific era of Doctor Who, maybe you should remember the companions that were there through thick and thin. Whilst the Doctor and Jo were waiting for Daleks, Mike Yates was pulling rank on Sergeant Benton to get his food, whilst the Doctor and Jo were helping to ease political tensions on Peladon, Mike Yates was waiting to go out for a night on the town and whilst the Doctor and Sarah were trying to rid London of dinosaurs, Mike Yates was busy filling it with them in an ultimate betrayal.
It may seem an odd thing to get hung up on and yet the focus on Mike Yates’ story in this adventure ends up taking the focus away from the Doctor and the familiar Pertwee fun that we all think about when reminiscing of this era. In fact, this leans more towards the Companion Chronicle style of storytelling than anything else.
Writer Smith does have the main bulk of the ingredients that he puts into the prose mixing bowl, the aliens that seem innocent but are actually terribly evil, the remote sinister setting, the heavy-handed nature of the military and that lovely Avengers-style espionage feel that so many Barry Letts/Terrance Dicks stories emulated. However after the first two brilliant offerings in the Destiny of the Doctor range, for me this one seems to just miss the mark.
It may be a well-rounded tip of the hat to Jon and Co but Vengeance of the Stones certainly doesn’t feel quite like a full celebration of the Pertwee era.