- You may be looking for the titular operation.
Operation: Hellfire was the second and final story in The Third Doctor Adventures: Volume Six.
Producer David Richardson noted that the Third Doctor never had an episode set in the past with the exceptions of The Time Monster and The Time Warrior. He therefore emailed Jonathan Barnes, asking him to write a "pure historical" in the style of what may have been attempted had the style continued into the Jon Pertwee era. Barnes offered three possibilities and the World War II setting was viewed most favourably. He also included a hint of supernatural "flavour" with the inclusion of the Time Lady and the mysterious Amulet of the Wastelands. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
The story once again featured Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill. Beyond The Churchill Years, it was third audio story to unite him with one of the main actors playing the Doctor, preceded by Their Finest Hour (with the McGann as the Eighth) and Subterfuge (with the McCoy as the Seventh). However, despite featuring on the cover of the box set, Churchill plays a much smaller role in this story, receiving an extended cameo, and is absent from Part One and Part Three altogether. In this sense, it is more in line with his appearances in The Shadow in the Glass, The Pandorica Opens and The Wedding of River Song. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
Publisher's summary Edit
When the Doctor accepts an invitation to an audience with a popular horror writer, he's expecting a rather dull evening. But he quickly senses the presence of another Gallifreyan nearby. The Time Lords have a mission for him.
Soon the Doctor and Jo find themselves at the height of the Second World War in 1943. Caught up in a struggle involving occultist Nazis, the Prime Minister, top secret agencies and a mysteriously powerful amulet, they must distinguish friend from foe and avoid sacrifice upon the altar of evil.
Part one Edit
Elsewhere in time, seeking some adventure, Jo agrees to organise the Doctor's papers, most of them bills, but one of them is a personal invitation from the Douglas Quilter, a wartime Wing Commander-turned-novelist, to attend a gathering at one of the Doctor's clubs.
At Quilter's gathering, he reads a chapter from his latest occult wartime thriller. While listening, the Doctor feels the a presence of a Time Lord in the building. In the library, they meet a Time Lady messenger from the Conclave of Grails and Antiquities intent on recruiting them for a mission to retrieve the Amulet of the Wastelands, an artefact capable of great universal manipulation. It is lost somewhere in Earth's history, last sighted in 1943. The Doctor refuses because he is tired of being treated as the Time Lords' "errand boy" simply for "deniability".
In the main hall, Quilter delivers his reading, the story involving occult figures supporting the armies of the swastika. Before he can finish his extract, he has to leave his audience unexpectedly. He confronts the Doctor with a revolver and demands he accept the mission. The Doctor tackles him with Venusian aikido, but Quilter fights back with some of the same techniques, which he claimed to learn from the Doctor himself as he had already met him in the past.
The Time Lady summons the Doctor's TARDIS, which has been prepared to make one return trip to 1943. Quilter assures him the outcome of the war is greatly improved by his efforts. The Doctor finally agrees and he and Jo travel to the 1940s. As he had already met him, Quilter knew the Doctor would accept, but the Time Lady warns him that time can still be changed and that if the Doctor fails, history may still be altered.
The TARDIS arrives in the club over thirty years before it departed. In 1943, it was decorated like an occult temple. The Amulet is right in front of them, but when Jo tries to take it, the security system activates and the room floods with gas.
Daisy Chapel has a premonition. She announces that the man who will change the war has arrived.
Part two Edit
The Doctor and Jo regain consciousness in the club and find themselves bolted inside a makeshift cell. It is opened from the other side by a younger Wing Commander Douglas Quilter, who has taken the two prisoner for sneaking into a building under military jurisdiction. He tries to question them about the whereabouts of a defector called Ernst Littmann. It is a name the Doctor recognises but he is not sure from where. He claims he wants to help and says the Prime Minister, "old Winnie", will vouch for him. Quilter thinks the pair must be mad.
Quilter bumps into Chapel. She finds mention of "the Doctor" curious given old records she had read and suggests they contact the Prime Minister after all. He does so, and is told to expect an imminent call from Churchill himself. Just seconds later, the phone rings and Quilter receives orders to set the Doctor free. He will be a valuable ally for them in Operation Hellfire.
In their cell, the Doctor tell Jo that the Amulet they saw was a fake. He talks about the importance of this time period as one of immense importance to history. Jo takes the time so express how much she values her time spent in the Doctor's company and on their adventures. Then Quilter and Chapel reappears and invite their help. They are going to the Cabinet War Rooms.
En route, Quilter explains works for the London Controlling Section (LCS), tasked with disseminating misinformation to mislead the enemy. They were responsible for Operation Bodyguard and Operation Graffham. Now they are working on Operation Hellfire. Jo becomes distressed to see London so devastated, a scene repeated all over Europe, but Quilter reassures her Hellfire may shorten, or even end, the war.
The Time Lady reports that the Doctor had successfully embarked on his mission but he is not yet aware of its severity. She warns that they may have to intervene if it appears he will not succeed, lest the stitches of reality unravel.
Quilter explains Hellfire is the most ambitious disinformation campaign yet attempted by Britain. It involves Ernst Littmann, an occultist with influence on Hitler himself. However, he has been convinced to leave Berlin and defect to England. He arrived in Dover five nights previously but then disappeared and is currently at large.
As Hellfire is explained to the Doctor, Sir Davenport Finch prays to the occult spirits, and identifies Littmann as the great wizard who will aid them in victory and bring Britain to its knees. He is interrupted by Sally, a former evacuee. He beckons her towards him but when she proved reluctant, he uses force and strangles in the name of his lord.
The search for Littmann was slow due to the demands of the war but it was believed he was searching for an amulet and attempts were made to lure him out of hiding. The trap the Doctor and Jo walked into was set for him. The LCS knows that the real Amulet is held in Sussex by a fascist sympathiser named Sir Davenport Finch, who has been suspected of collaborating the Nazis since the war began. He was placed under house arrest by an officer named Hegley. Since then, the LCS fear the guards have since been turned and Finch is back in control.
The Doctor volunteers to infiltrate Finch's manor and extract the Amulet, which impresses Winston Churchill who makes a surprise appearance at that very moment. He asks for a private word with the Doctor.
Despite their long-standing friendship, the Doctor's appearance distresses Churchill at so critical a time in Britain's history. He guesses that were the Amulet to fall to the Nazis, the consequences would be catastrophic. He requests that once the Doctor has completed his mission, he must leave, together with his monsters. The Doctor accepts. Churchill also offers him a warning about the smoke and mirrors surrounding the LCS.
Quilter's team arranges to send the Doctor to Sussex in the guise of the elusive Herr Littmann to retrieve the Amulet, and bring down the house of traitors in the process. Chapel offers to drive him.
In Finch's mansion, Finch observes the Amulet, and declares that the "great plan" must be brought forward.
On the journey, Chapel apprehends the Doctor, revealing herself as one of the traitors. She claims their plan will demoralise the United Kingdom and crown the Nazis as "the kings of all creation".
Part three Edit
In London, Quilter reveals that he has suspected Chapel of being a traitor for months. He knows she drugged the Doctor's tea and that he is in peril. He and Jo set off to rescue him.
The Doctor's physiology wakes him up from the drug quicker that Chapel expected. Chapel extols her beliefs about greater powers and occult rituals but the Doctor suspects she is not as convinced about all this as she is letting on. He escaped his binds with Harry Houdini's techniques and jumps from the car. Yet in hiding, he is contacted by the Time Lady again who reminds him he must travel towards the Amulet. Acceding, he allows himself to be captured again.
Hegley reports the disappearance of Sally to Finch. Finch speaks to Hegley about the loyalty he had shown and offers him "a greater understanding of the universe". Their war goes far beyond politics. He shows Hegley the body of Sally and reveals she was killed out of necessity, to preserve the secrets he is about share.
Reaching the manor, Chapel meets back up with Finch. She is surprised to learn Littmann has still not arrived. She does, however, suggest the Doctor be used in the next sacrifice. Hegley takes him to the cellar.
Quilter and Jo catch up and approach the manor on foot. Jo improvises and they split up. She knocks on the door, claiming to be an acolyte of Littmann. Hegley invites her in ahead of the sacrifice, which Quilter overhears. Jo finds the Doctor but keeps up the pretence and says Littmann told everyone to start the sacrifice without him. As such, Finch passes the dagger to her and orders her to perform the act.
Part four Edit
To delay the sacrifice, Jo pretends to hear the voice of Littmann calling for the proceedings to wait until his arrival. Outside, Quilter confronts Chapel, but she reveals herself to be in the possession of the Amulet.
In Churchill's office, he consults a General about a memorandum on his desk. Assured that its intelligence, delivered by Quilter, is correct, he makes an anonymous call to Finch's mansion, asking to speak with Jo. He gives her a very important piece of news, then tells the General that there is more they can do.
The Doctor finally makes his move and apprehends Finch. Jo gives the Doctor the news, which he himself has also worked out: Ernst Littmann never existed and was a fabrication of Nazi Germany's own disinformation department. The Doctor recognised his name from the Littmann Gambit, a huge Axis deception. Jo declares all the activity in the manor as "pointless".
Chapel arrives with Quilter as a hostage, correcting Jo to say it has instead been "irrelevant". She still has the Amulet, which revealed to her that Littmann was not real already, and her plans will still proceed. She has Hegley remove the Doctor, Jo and Quilter to the tennis court. Alone with Finch, Chapel tells him she knows he murdered Sally, without even attempting to turn her to the cause. In retribution, she shoots him. She questions if she ever believed in the devil but is still fascinated by the Amulet.
The tennis court is used as a landing ground for an advance manoeuvrable airship decorated with a Union Flag, that will be used to collapse the morale of Britain and force her surrender. It is loaded with parcels of poisoned food to be dropped across Britain to the people burdened with rationing.
The dying Finch begs for forgiveness from his master. In his last moments, he sees the Time Lady, who asks him where the Amulet is.
As Chapel takes off, the British Army arrives. Quilter overpowers Hegley, who can't bring himself to shoot anyone. The Doctor makes it onto the airship before it ascends. It starts to turn about under the influence of the Amulet, causing Chapel to throw it away. Convinced that her plans are in ruins, she makes "one last sacrifice... in the name of the Reich" and commits suicide by throwing herself from the airship.
The Army rounds up the traitors, including Hegley, and conducts a search of the manor. With Hellfire essentially concluded, Quilter suggests to the Doctor and Jo that they all head back to London before morning.
Later, the Doctor teaches Quilter some Venusian aikido. He and Jo meets with Churchill, who is reassured by the Doctor that there will be no more monsters involved in this escapade - all those that were had a human face. Churchill gives him his thanks for his service. After saying their farewells to Quilter, the TARDIS materialises. Jo simply tells Quilter, "Good luck with the novel!"
Back in the 1970s, the Time Lady requests the Doctor hand over the Amulet, but he has already hidden in somewhere safe. He reminds her he has done what the Time Lords asked and that time has been preserved. They will simply have to make do without the Amulet.
The older Quilter then speaks with them now that his reading and book-signing is finished. He invited the two to join him for a drink. The Doctor asks him if the Amulet is still safe. Quilter assures him it is hidden inconspicuously in his sock drawer. It has done very little over the years but Quilter wonders if it has influenced his success in his writing career. The Doctor suggests an alternative: people just like a good story, and perhaps one day, he will read one of the novels himself.
- The Doctor - Tim Treloar
- Jo Grant - Katy Manning
- Winston Churchill - Ian McNeice
- Hegley - Sam Clemens
- Wing Commander Douglas Quilter - Mark Elstob
- Sally / Time Lady - Beth Goddard
- Sir Davenport Finch - Terry Molloy
- Daisy Chapel - Jeany Spark
- The Doctor and Jo had an "improbable" encounter with the Ogrons and the Minister for Fisheries.
- Quilter tells himself to KBO.
- The Doctor visited the Cabinet War Rooms in one of his previous incarnations.
- The story was released within a week of the 75th anniversary of VE Day on 8 May 2020. It was the second of two WWII stories released by Big Finish that month, preceded by Scorched Earth in the Main Range only the previous day on 13 May 2020.
- Nicholas Briggs compared the story's "atypical" Third Doctor nature to Inferno and The Ambassadors of Death. He also drew comparisons to the TV Action comic strips, and notes they did indeed set a story during World War II. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire) In fact, the Third Doctor starred in two such stories, Timebenders and Who is the Stranger, the first of which was the first ever Doctor Who story set during the war. A third war story in TV Comic, Treasure Trail, also saw the Fourth Doctor return to the conflict on a mission from the Time Lords.
- Ian McNeice's lines were recorded separately under the direction of Samuel Clemens, who previously directed Subterfuge. Briggs read Churchill's lines in the recording studio as a prompt for the other actors. He noted he had played Churchill previously in the stage play The Monsters Are Coming!. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
- According to Briggs, Terry Molloy's casting as a fascist, Davenport Finch, had little to do with his performances as Davros. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
- Jonathan Barnes at one stage considered writing a "celebrity historical" about Dennis Wheatley, but in the end he opted to create the fictional "Wheatley-esque" author Douglas Quilter instead. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
- Beth Goddard originally based the character of the Time Lady on the performance of Fiona Shaw in Killing Eve, although this changed as the recording went on. She based Sally off a cleaner that she knew. (BFX: Operation: Hellfire)
- The Doctor tells Jo how the Time Lords use hypercubes to send messages. (TV: The War Games, The Doctor's Wife)
- The Doctor asks the messenger about "that chap in the bowler hat". (TV: Terror of the Autons)
- The Doctor mentions the Corsair. (TV: The Doctor's Wife, COMIC: Old Friends)
- The Time Lady refers to the circumstances behind the Doctor's exile on Earth. (TV: The War Games)
- Jo recalls the Dæmons. (TV: The Dæmons)
- Jo considers that, some time in her future, she may leave the Doctor. (TV: The Green Death)
- Churchill meets the Doctor and Jo in the Cabinet War Rooms. (TV: Victory of the Daleks)