Seasons greetings to all and welcome to Big Finishing Move. This little stop-off on the information superhighway is where I get to don my critics hat and review the works of Big Finish both new and old and let you know if they wonderful gifts or lumps of coal. Today we turn our eye to a new range over at Big Finish as they dive into the Time War with The War Doctor Volume 1: Only The Monstrous.
So, is this inaugural release range an explosion of awesome or a dud, let’s hop to and find out!
TARDIS Team: The War Doctor
It’s another fine day in the Time War as we find two Time Lord troops set to trigger the Time Eliminator, a rather nasty bit of Dalek engineering taken by the Time Lords and is now set to take out a huge section of the Dalek Fleet. Down side to this whole affair is that this is a suicide mission, but thankfully for the pair the War Doctor shows up saying he’ll handle the final bits and shuffles them off in their TARDIS. It isn’t quite clear if the Doctor had some brilliant plan to survive the blast or if he had reached the point where he didn’t care if he lived to see another day but a combination of skill and/or dumb luck sees our hero survive the blast and crash land on the peaceful planet of Keska. there he is nursed back to health (regeneration not an option I suppose, so he opts for long stretches of the coma like state first seen used in his fourth incarnation) by local girl named Rejoice. Roped back into the war the Doctor is summoned by Cardinal Ollistra and sent on a rescue mission for a key figure in the war, Lord Seratrix in the war torn future of the now ravaged Keska. Seems nobody is telling him the whole truth, can the Doctor stay alive long enough to save the day and figure out everyone’s true motives?
I wish their was a nicer way to put this, but the first section of this story drags and pretty badly at points. Large sections of the Doctor’s first trip to Keska could and should have hit the chopping block. Everything you need to know (which isn’t much) could have been handled rather quickly and sadly only seem to be stretched out to pad the run time. By the time the story proper kicked in a third of the entire outing has already been burned through and I was pretty sick of Keska only to be told that we were now going back.
To writer/director Nicholas Briggs’ credit, the return to Keska is much more interesting and the character of Rejoice gets some much needed character depth. Also their is some clever bits what Seratrix is trying to do and the Doctor’s own usual stance on war and one of the most clever uses of the phrase “Peace in our time” that I’ve ever seen.
On the vocal front John Hurt of course steals the show, the man man could read the heating directions for a microwave burrito and make it sound interesting. He does however have someone that can toe to toe with him in Jacqueline Pearce’s Ollistra. The whole thing could have been the two actors going after each other verbally in character and I would have loved every second of it.
I really wanted to like this one but it is mediocre at best. The main problem here is this is all virgin territory for the franchise. Sure, there has been endless talking about the horrors and atrocities of the Time War and we saw the last few moments of the final battle in the 50th TV Special, but we haven’t ever been properly in one of these stories this dark and nearly apocalyptic time for the universe. We know how to write war stories with the Doctor in them but I don’t think anybody yet knows how to write War Doctor stories. They aren’t nor should be the same thing. This adventure leans a little too heavily on the old Who tropes weakening instead of strengthening the story. There also is the question of how dark should these tales get? Personally I think they should be as grim and miserable as possible to truly put a spotlight the horror of war. I don’t think the Doctor should be wading through knee high pools of innocent blood every five seconds or anything that terrible, but this series needs to have teeth to it otherwise it only undermines and weakens the franchise. This story does go dark by the end and has a sufficiently grim payoff, but it is only in those final bits that I think they got the tone right. I’m hoping the next release in this range is better because this was not the strong start this series needed.
Purchase The War Doctor: Only The Monstrous Here:
Take note, my good readers, we here at One of Us have audio goodies of our own, we are the proud home of the spin-off series from The Intergalactic Nemesis entitled Salt. It is all for free on the site so you have no excuse not to check it out!
Check out my previous reviews:
Phantasmagoria, The Fearmonger, The Light At The End, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, Storm Warning, Blood of the Daleks, The Chimes of Midnight, Seasons of Fear, The King of Sontar, White Ghosts, Dark Eyes II, The Crooked Man, Project: Twilight, The Evil One, The Harvest, The Last Of The Colophon, The Council Of Nicaea, Destroy The Infinite, Afterlife, The Abandoned, Zygon Hunt, Revenge Of The Swarm, Philip Hinchcliffe Presents Box Set, Dark Eyes 3, Mask of Tragedy, The Fourth Doctor By Gareth Roberts, The Exxilions, The Darkness of Glass, Dark Eyes IV, Requiem for the Rocket Men, Signs And Wonders, Death Match, Suburban Hell, The Burning Prince, The Cloisters of Terror, The Acheron Pulse, The Fate of Krelos, The Shadow Heart, Return to Telos, The Sixth Doctor – The Last Adventure, Doom Collation I, The Yes Men