At last! The heretofore Whoniversal asymptote that is the Time War has at proper last been reached by Classic Doctors. Yes, Big Finish’s latest Eighth Doctor box set is The Time War I, the first in a series of sets situated within the temporal reaches of the Time War (as opposed to just outside them, as with all Classic Doctor stories up to now).
And a very fine set it is too, with support from Jaqueline Pearce’s marvellous Cardinal Ollistra, two (possibly four) new companions, and scripts from the now ubiquitous manic typing fingers of Messrs Fitton and Dorney, whose metaphorical scriveny inflatable arm bands and day-glo swimming trunks are virtually never out of the BF writing pool.
The set opens with John Dorney’s The Starship of Theseus, which sees the Doctor and companion Sheena (Olivia Vinall) arrive on the luxury space-liner Theseus, only to find shenanigans afoot. Why are passengers disappearing? What waits under the space bridge? And above all, who the hell is Emma?
Second up is Matt Fitton’s Echoes of War, in which the Doctor crashes into the middle of the Time War on a jungle planet, where reality itself is in temporal flux. Crossing a landscape of corrupted time with a misfit band which includes scientist Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) and the resourceful but somewhat dangerous Dal, the Doctor must ensure they all survive before time literally runs out.
Fitton’s second story in the set immediately follows with The Conscript, something of a filler piece, albeit supremely entertaining, in which Eight is forced to join the army and curtail his insubordination for the good of the company. Divide and rule is the army’s policy; but is a little rebellion actually what the Time Lord military supreme need?
The set closes with Dorney’s One Life, in which time catches up with the renegade at last, and Ollistra’s weapon to end all wars is finally almost within her grasp.
And overall, the whole thing is just wonderful: real can’t-put-down audio. Without giving too much away, there’s a side love story that, despite being the B-arc of the narrative for the most part, is totally engaging throughout – full of pathos, love and loss. Meanwhile, in the A-arc, we have a very traditional Eighth Doctor story, in the very best sense: Eighty is throughout the suave rebel, entirely cynical about his people’s motivations, and erring repeatedly on the side of peace and running away. The stories themselves differ greatly, but all are good: from the timey wimeyness of Theseus, through one of the best Dalek stories of recent times in Echoes of War, to the final reveal in One Life.
Performances are great, especially McGann in the title role, continuing to make the Eighth Doctor one of the very best interpretations. Rakhee Thakrar’s Bliss looks like she will grow into a very entertaining companion too – although I feel she’s a little underused in this particular boxset. And talking of companions, we also have Sheena who… well, suffice it to say, her time with the series ends abruptly enough that she might as well be called Dodo. I know she’s not meant to be the focus here; but her interplay with the Doctor was entertaining. I, for one, would welcome more time with her.
Overall, this is yet another BF release that does nothing to disappoint. It sounds great, and it builds the Who mythos. Can’t wait for the next one – other, of course, for the fact that this would take us ever nearer to the Eighth Doctor’s demise. Long may we hold that off – here’s to ten Time War boxsets at the very least.
The Time War 1 is available from BigFinish.com.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Paul McGann (The Doctor), Olivia Vinall (Sheena), Nimmy March (Rupa Maguire), David Ganly (Quarren Maguire), Sean Murray (Captain Darvor), Hywel Morgan (Koloth / Jefferson), Laurence Kennedy (Purser Lunney / Aymor / Chancellor), Rakhee Thakrar (Bliss), Karina Fernandez (Captain Tamasan), Jacqueline Pearce (Ollistra), Nick Brimble (Commander Harlan), Katy Sobey (Veeda), Okezie Morro (Norvid), and Nicholas Briggs (Dal / Dalek Commander / Dalek Drone / Daleks). Other parts played by members of the cast.