Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Big Finish go back to the early days of the Time War with the 8th Doctor. As with a few other recent release we get to explore how the Doctor struggles to keep hold of who he is when the universe around him turns dark and bitter in the midst of war.
Before we go further, I point out to all reading, it’s impossible to talk about this set without some mild spoilers. I will keep them light but… SPOILERS sweetie!
The Doctor and his companion are heading on holiday on a luxury space-liner, in an effort to avoid the war. Unfortunately all is not as it seems on the Theseus. People are disappearing and the Doctors memory is failing him… or do things seem to be changing?
This is a really clever start to the set. You get the feeling of a traditional 8th Doctor story at the beginning, but then it seamlessly gets darker in tone and introduces the Time War and the fallout from it. At the beginning the Doctor is in his own world outside of the war. By the end the stakes are all too real.
The Doctor is stranded on a jungle world in the heart of the war after a crash landing. To escape alive with the group of people he is with, he teams up with an equally lost Dalek who doesn’t know who or what he is. Can the Doctor trust a Dalek and can the Dalek become more than his programming would usually be telling him he is?
This sounds like familiar territory for modern Who. With episodes on TV like ‘Dalek’ and ‘Into the Dalek’ and even in Big Finish Ian Chesterton ended up in a tense alliance with a Dalek a few audios back. But this does justify itself as different. If nothing else, teaming up with a Dalek in the middle of the Time War adds an extra degree of hopefulness over experience for the Doctor. And difficulty of him explaining to his party why trusting a Dalek at this time is a good idea.
The Conscript by Matt Fitton
Cardinal Ollistra decides it’s time to make a full on soldier out of the Doctor, so she coerces him into signing up against his will. Commandant Harlan runs a tight camp, but has he met his match in the Doctor? Or will the Doctor not be able to get through training without losing some of his moral edges?
This is a great story for putting the Doctor is a non-Doctor situation and finding ways of letting him still be the Doctor. The way Paul McGann acts as the Doctor wanting to not be there or if he has to, to show the recruits around him a better way without being just branded a traitor for not being a soldier. We also explore the propaganda of war as soldiers are told exaggerations and out and out lies to glorify aspects of war and make them less fearful of the very real dangers.
The Doctor faces threats at each turn. But will the Daleks kill him or will his own people try to get there first? Why are we seeing scenes from a couples life in this story and what is the new weapon Cardinal Ollistra is on the hunt for?
A great end to the set. There are so many twists and turns and acts of love in the middle of out and out destruction. I’d say more, but I wouldn’t want to give this one away at all.
This feels exactly like the Time War series should. It seperates itself from the Doom Coalition or any of the previous 8th stories and sets and gives you a distinct style whilst honouring who the 8th Doctor has to be until that fateful night.
It’s great to see Jacqueline Pearce back as Ollistra and that she can play so differently but still deliciously against another Doctor. Their relationship may be different, but her drives and deviousness is not. She feels like she has less affection for this ‘out and out’ Doctor, compared to the more pragmatic War Doctor.
It’s nice to hear Paul McGann in the extras talking about his reading up on war and how the Doctor’s story mirrors the conscientious objectors of WW2.
The stories are different and interesting and find new and unique ways of progressing the story whilst respecting what we know is to come. Each story is inventive and plays with different visions of what a war could look like when time can be manipulated and erased. Where people can be weapons and the ‘good guys’ can compromise themselves into being indistinguishable from the monsters.
I heartily look forward to series 2! 10/10
Buy this release on CD or download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-eighth-doctor—the-time-war-series-01-1384