After her ordeal in Tibet, Erimem is uncertain of whether she wishes to continue traveling with the Doctor and Peri. The TARDIS arrives on Space Station Medusa, orbiting over a distant world that is the home to Earth Colony Phoenix. Protected from the inhospitable surface of the planet by their artificial habitats, the colonists live and work in isolated quarters, travel only by transmat, and virtually never share space with each other. After she and Peri find what appears to be a nest of enormous eggs, Erimem accidentally activates a transmat port and finds herself beamed to Earth Colony Phoenix, into the quarters of a man who has never met another human being in his adult life. The Doctor and Peri are taken by an android to meet the leader of the Phoenix colony, who insists that nothing is wrong – even though Peri later learns that the colony, capable of supporting thousands, is down to only 16 people. Soon, the Doctor learns the grisly truth: a species of aliens known as the Khellians is also lurking on both the colony and the station, and has slowly harvested the human population for food until the colonists are nearly extinct.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Caroline Morris (Erimem), Deborah Watling (Auntie), Richard Gauntlett (General Makra’Thon), Charles Pemberton (Butler), Lucy Beresford (Bellip), Richard Unwin (Vidler), Daniel Hogarth (Laroq), Sara Carver (Khellian Queen)
Notes: Deborah Watling played Victoria Waterfield, who traveled with the second Doctor and Jamie, in from 1967 to 1968. The transmat sounds, if they’re not the actual original effects, seem to be an homage to the teleport sound effects from Blake’s 7.
Timeline: after The Roof Of The World and before The Council Of Nicaea
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: An interesting take on a basic, “Ten Little Indians”-style mystery, Three’s A Crowd has three stories to tell: the strange living conditions of the colonists, the nature of the threat facing them, and whether or not Erimem will continue her TARDIS travels. The segues between these various story elements aren’t always graceful, and ultimately the Khellian element winds up suffering. Aside from some token mentions of them trying to survive and harvesting the human colonists as food to feed their young, the Khellians wind up being a fairly superficial menace. The Doctor doesn’t take offensive action against them, but the colonists – specifically Auntie (well played by former full-time TARDIS traveler Deborah Watling) – do, and the Doctor seems powerless to do anything about it.
The colonists’ strange social system is the part of the story almost screaming for more attention, but that side of the story also takes a back seat once the Khellian menace is exposed. The whole story could’ve been about that, for all I cared – the Khellians could’ve been left out, and parts two and three could’ve been about the colonists adjusting to a more normal human existence. I still would’ve been listening. The third part of the story, a bit of drama which calls into question Erimem’s place among the TARDIS crew, at least rings true to the somewhat soapy tendencies of such plotlines during the John Nathan-Turner/Eric Saward era of the series.
Overall, an interesting collision of storylines, but somehow Three’s A Crowd manages to conceptually shortchange each of them a bit.