Review: Doctor Who – Beyond War Games

Written by Cavan Gilbey


Season 6B is something of a controversial subject amongst fans; many like the use of the Doctor as a Gallifreyian agent being part of his punishment prior to regeneration while others see it as undermining the very effective and emotional ending of The War Games (a personal favourite of the regeneration stories, narrowly beaten by Logopolis). Personally I’m relatively indifferent to Season 6B since, or at least until this boxset, it was something that just seemed slightly lame. But now I must admit I am fully sold on telling stories during this sub-season since Beyond War Games is shockingly compelling and some of the best Second Doctor material Big Finish have published in a long long time; not since The Black Hole have I been this enthusiastic about dedicated releases from one of my favourite Doctors.

Before we get into the stories themselves I would like to sing my praises for Michael Troughton’s performance as The Doctor, taking up the mantle from his late father. Now I missed out on listening to The Annihilators, despite it being part of my favourite solo Doctor range, and thus didn’t get to hear his debut. So upon hearing this performance completely blind I must say that I was staggered by how fantastic it was. Naturally being Patrick’s son, Michael has a similar sounding voice anyway so it was always going to be a matter of mannerisms. Michael gets them down perfectly; the thoughtful pauses and stumbling in the middle of sentences, the little coughs and the perfectly interwoven gleeful whimsey and deadpan seriousness. If Michael Troughton is going to be the de facto audio Second Doctor going forward, then I am buying those boxsets in a heart beat.


The Final Beginning is the first story in the set and it picks up directly from the ending of The War Games with the Doctor being sent out into exile but instead he finds himself winding up on a frostbitten planet with only a couple of prospectors and a mysterious girl by the name of Raven. Writing duo of Briggs and Wright do an excellent job at creating a world that feels genuinely hostile, there doesn’t seem to be a safe corner of this planet with its isolated ice tornados and echoes of the past and future. There’s a touch of stories like World Apart or even Logopolis here, as the script has this atmosphere of finality, of a Doctor who is finally having the past catch up with him and now is dealing with the consequences. Desperation is a great way of describing the tone of the first two episodes, something wonderfully represented by the two prospectors (played fantastically by Tim Treloar and Anna-Maria Nabirye) who just need the minerals to get cash to put food on the table.

Where this story really kicks into high gear is in the latter pair of episodes, with the reveal that we are on fact on Skaro; however one which has fallen into ruin following the Doctor’s intervention with the human factor uprising in Evil of the Daleks. There is a genuine sense of horror when we discover the identity of the planet, it all feels like a cruel joke from the Time Lords as they put the Doctor through an ironic punishment of having to live through the consequences oh their intervention. The Doctor has to watch an innocent person be forcibly mutated into a dalek as well as seeing an innocent man sacrifice himself so they can survive. A punishment for his selflessness is seeing someone equally selfless die before his eyes. The final twist in the tale comes with the reveal that Raven works for the Celestial Intervention Agency, an agent sent to watch the Doctor to judge his usefulness as an agent. It’s a great reveal and Troughton truly sells the Doctor’s anger when faced with the a cruelly apathetic performance from Emma Noakes as Raven.

The Final Beginning was a necessary if you’re going to legitimatise 6B, but Briggs and Wright prevent this story from being insubstantial fan-service or exposition dumps by carefully crafting a hostile atmosphere and characterising the Doctor as always being on the back foot having to deal with a pseudo-existential punishment. It’s essential listening for any Second Doctor fan an quite possibly the best story they have given this incarnation on audio.

10/10


Wrath of the Ice Warriors rounds of the set as the Doctor is returned to Earth to aid the Brigadier with some Ice Warrior troubles in Scotland. Now I shan’t be saying much about this particular story since there really isn’t much to say. Andrew Smith delivers a perfectly functional script, not without some fun moments but ultimately feels like any Ice Warrior story you have heard before. The Ice Warriors aren’t monsters you can do much with really and Wrath does try and change that with the concept of a Martian civil war over matters of expansion of empire, however this feels completely secondary given it’s such a late inclusion in the story.

The main appeal of this serial is the cast. Culshaw still absolutely shines as the Brigadier, the vocal mannerisms just keep improving. Katy Manning gets a rare villainous turn as Ice Queen Zelanda, whom she plays with a joyous pantomime sliminess. Manning is definitely the highlight of the story as her villain is characterised quite well in her single minded blood-thirstiness which leads to some excellent chemistry with The Doctor. Lucy Golde is another standout as surrogate companion Sheena Flynn, although I really with they had used her role as an artist a lot more during the story outside of it being a MacGuffin to set up a plot twist.

I really don’t have much to say. The story is fun enough to hold your attention but it is quite a barebones and generic UNIT story, one we’ve seen a ton on TV in the 70’s  and in some of the Third Doctor Adventures. The cast really hold this one together more so than the actual concept, which needed to probably be a bit more like Red Dawn or Lords of the Red Planet in their style to have worked effectively.

6/10


Beyond War Games is worth your time, but the two stories feel written for two very different types of fan so milage may vary. I got on more with the surreal landscapes of the first story more but plenty will find fun in the UNIT romp with its thrill a minute pace. What I do know for sure is that this could be ushering in a new golden age for the Second Doctor on audio.

8/10


Order on CD/Download from Big Finish
Order on CD from Amazon and Forbidden Planet

Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.