Howdy-o good neighbors and welcome to Big Finishing Move here on One Of Us. This, dear reader, (always want to make you feel appreciated) is where I slap on the old critic’s hat and look at the releases from Big Finish and see if they’re gold or garbage. Today we are looking at the second box set in BF’s War Doctor range. So, is this set worth your dinero or are you better off saving that couple of bucks for the ad-free version on Hulu this month? Let’s find out!
TARDIS Team: The War Doctor and Various
It’s a normal week for the War Doctor. Get up, have a nice breakfast, visit some war-torn section of time and space where various atrocities are happening, try to stop said atrocities, and almost die in the process to stop them. Eat, sleep, repeat. On some planet full of nightmares, the Doctor meets Collis, the only other Time Lord left in a mission to capture (and in the Doctor’s case) and destory a Dalek super-weapon. The pair succeed, but they also appear to die in the process. Thankfully, the rules of life and death aren’t what they used to be for Cardinal Ollistra, and those under her command and the War Doctor find themselves dragged into a series of adventures as the Time Lords seek to conquer death itself. Can the War Doctor make it through this madness in one piece or is he destined to be one more bit of cannon fodder recycled in the horror that is the Time War?
Unlike the previous War Doctor release, Only The Monstrous, which was written entirely by Nick Briggs, this release is handled by writers John Dorney, Phil Mulryne, and Matt Fitton. While there is an overarching plot, each writer does their very best to flesh out their individual tales and make each chapter feel satisfactory as both stand alone entries and parts of a larger story. There is a greater sense of urgency and focus on getting into the meat of the story, which helps the pacing immensely and keeps the audience engaged the whole way through.
This isn’t to say this release is without issues. The War Doctor range is the most experimental thing Big Finish has attempted with the character across their various releases. The War Doctor has some tonal issues in terms of his character, as does the series as a whole. This is a byproduct of the lack of preexisting material in regard to the War Doctor, and despite the best efforts of the writers to disguise this fact, it’s very obvious they’re working out the kinks of who this incarnation of the Doctor is and what his stories should feel like.
On the performance side of things, you know that you’re doing something right when you can outshine both John Hurt and David Warner, and in the case of Jacqueline Pearce, she does just that. In the hands of a lesser actor, the character of Ollistra could very well come off as campy, but Pearce knows just how to breathe life into the Cardinal that makes even her more melodramatic bits believable. She gets that the character is all in the nuance of each line, and takes the time to add the necessary underlying emotional complexity to what would otherwise be a very stock Who character. Ollistra is all of the Time Lords worst traits; pompous, arrogant, given to lies and manipulation to achieve their goals, and lacking in compassion and mercy for friend or foe in her efforts to end the Time War. You get the sense that Ollistra was likely one of the more tolerant and understanding members of her people before the war, but all that death and pain has left her hollow, leaving her with only the drive to win. Perhaps her only saving grace is her obvious respect for the Doctor. It doesn’t stop her from using him to meet her needs, but her admiration has led her to view the War Doctor in some ways as her reluctant champion, a fact that would give the Doctor the willies were he ever to find out.
Even with the few minor quibbles I have with this box set, I could not recommend highly enough. It’s fresh, it’s different, and the only way we’re going to see more of it is by showing our support. Every part of this can be considered a serious improvement over the previous box set, and you finally have a valid reason to go take the War Doctor plunge.
Purchase The War Doctor Volume 02: Infernal Devices Here:
Hey, since you’re here already , I hope you won’t mind if I take a second to encourage you all to check out the rest of One Of Us. Tons of cool stuff awaits those adventurous enough to click!
Next time we’re doing another major release as we we once again catch up with Paul McGann in:
And after that:
Catch you on the flip side!
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, The War Doctor: Only The Monstrous, Wave of Destruction, The Labyrinth of Buda Castle