What if… the Doctor had not been UNIT’s scientific advisor?

1997… and a lone exile arrives on Earth, years later than planned.

On the eve of the Handover, an advanced Chinese stealth bomber crashes in the hills above Hong Kong. The discredited UNIT has just 24 hours to steal the technology, rescue the passenger and flee to international waters.

Down by the harbour, there’s big trouble in Little England – a bar owned by an old soldier, who simply wants to forget the past. But an ancient evil is stirring in a place of peace.

The Doctor finds a world on the brink of terror. A world that has lived without him for years. A world that is frighteningly like our own…

With the recent sale at Big Finish which concentrated on the contributions of the much missed David Warner, I took the opportunity for a relisten of his Unbound Adventures, starting with Sympathy for the Devil.

Doctor Who Unbound was a series produced by Big Finish Productions. It featured hypothetical stories set in variants of the Doctor Who universe with premises fundamentally altered.

These premises were often built upon “what if” propositions such as; “what if the Doctor hadn’t left Gallifrey” (Auld Mortality), “what if the Doctor hadn’t been UNIT’s scientific advisor?” (Sympathy for the Devil) and “what if the Valeyard had won” (He Jests at Scars…).

The second of these stories, written by Jonathan Clements, was Sympathy for the Devil which features acting legend David Warner’s take on the Third Doctor, the premise is that David Warner was the face the second Doctor chose and he was exiled to Earth but arrived late and instead of arriving in the 70s/80s dependent on UNIT dating he arrived in time for the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese.

The Doctor soon encounters a familiar face, ex-Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart who now owns a bar in Hong Kong, he was sacked in disgrace in the 80s because without the Doctor to help several of the invasion attempts we saw in the Jon Pertwee’s era took more extreme measures to defeat but in many cases the Brigadier was unable to justify them all.

Soon after the Doctor meets the Brigadier there is the noise of a plane overhead and the plane which appears to be invisible crashes into a nearby hill and the Doctor and Brigadier go investigate. On the hill they meet the current head of UNIT Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood, a shouty Scotsman played by David Tennant 2 years before he became the Doctor himself. The story moves along quickly and it’s an interesting alternative timeline, with flashes of references to past stories including mention of Mike Yates and the dinosaurs. For an audio that came out within 5 years of the first Big Finish, and before we knew Doctor Who was definitely coming back it is a brave attempt to try something different, as the whole Unbound range was.


There’s some lovely writing and I really liked the ending, in that we learned what happened to the Doctor and Brigadier but for certain other characters it just ended without a specific resolution, and I quite liked that as it was the story of the Brigadier and the Doctor. The acting is top notch, though with a cast of Nick Courtney, David Warner and David Tennant you’d expect as much. Tennant’s Brimmicombe-Wood is a joy (if I recall named for a fan) and his accent is slightly different from his natural one but instantly recognisable. David Warner though, is instantly the Doctor, slightly less cynical than he appears later in the Benny audios, and he leads these audio’s as the pro he is. The cynical and bitter Brigadier of these stories also gives Nick Courtney the chance to play a more world weary version of the character, and he shines in it, sparking off of both David Warner and David Tennant.  

If you are a Doctor Who fan looking for something different and haven’t given these a try I couldn’t recommend it enough. For an audio recorded 20 years ago it’s still a great listen and is available as a cheap download from Big Finish here.

User Reviews


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *