War Doctor 1: Only the Monstrous
Written By: Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
John Hurt (The War Doctor), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra), Lucy Briggs-Owen (The Nursemaid), Carolyn Seymour (The Slave). Beth Chalmers (Veklin), Alex Wyndham (Seratrix), Kieran Hodgson (Bennus), Barnaby Edwards (Arverton), Mark McDonnell (Traanus) John Banks (Garv) and Nicholas Briggs as The Daleks.
Producer: David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
1.1 The Innocent 1.2 The Thousand Worlds 1.3 The Heart of the Battle
Once Big Finish announced they we able to get John Hurt to do a War Doctor series of audios, my expectation and desire for the audios I knew would not likely be met with the actual product. That is, we have been given hints of a dark, dangerous Doctor who is likely to do things which he would not do in other incarnations. And it is this that I, and many others, wanted out of this audio.
But this is not exactly what we get here. This is not to say we won’t get it in the future. It is quite possible, even probable, the arc here will go that route, but to start things off, they wanted Hurt to play the Doctor in a more traditional manner, to help connect him to the rest of the incarnations.
Therefore, what we get is more like Day of the Doctor, where we have been told he is a dark, dangerous Doctor only to show him desirous not to be such. He’s moody. He’s upset at what he has been called to do. He is upset with the war. And yet he feels it necessary to be at the forefront of the battle, to do what he can to stop the Daleks, and possibly his own people, from having the universe destroyed in the wake of their long war.
He is always at the center of the battle. He always survives, even if others do not. And this is something which has made him distraught. He is alive, he survives, while innocents do not. This, he feels, has made him into a monster—only the monsters can be at the heart of the battle and survive. He believes himself not to be the Doctor. He is nobody. A man who deserves no name even if others will use his name to his annoyance.
The story begins with the Doctor thinking he has done his part to stop the Daleks in the Time War, saving a couple low-level Time Lords in the process. It took a lot out of him—he barely survived, and, at least for some time, the Time Lords assumed he did die. He finds himself crashing on the planet Keska, which is under attack from an outside source, in a war which seems surprisingly unconnected with the Time War. The Doctor is treated well by a young woman, Rejoice, who helps him heal as he helps find a way to save the planet from outsiders; in the end, she sees a lot of good in him, though he seems grumpy and dark, and she thinks the best solution is to go with him in his adventures, to help him stay true to his goodness, but, as soon as they journey off Keska, it is clear, such adventures are not to be. The Doctor is recalled by the Time Lords, for they have a mission for him. Being dragged back to Gallifrey, he knows that the Time Lords have returned to their own ways and Rejoice, being an alien, wlll not be welcomed. So she is returned home, and the Doctor once again is companionless.
The mission appears to be very dangerous and yet very important. One of their most important agents has been lost in a new, null-zone. The fear is that the information he has will be taken from him unless he is rescued. The Doctor, wanting to be on his own, denies the mission, only to find his TARDIS diverted to the null zone itself, having to do the Time Lord’s bidding. And he finds himself back on the planet Keska, a few decades later, where to his horror, the Daleks have helped Keska’s old enemies take over and enslave the world. The Daleks somehow have created a new weapon, and have a plan of their own, which seems connected to the lost Time Lord agent, who, once he is found, claims he is working out a peace deal with the Daleks on behalf of the express wishes of the Time Lords of Galifrey. The extent of the accord is itself horrible – a thousand worlds would be put in the null zone, under dominion of the Daleks, who promise to keep to their thousand worlds and to leave Gallifrey alone.
The Doctor, the man who hates the war, and hates being a warrior, is the man who would most like such a peace. And yet, with what he knows of the Daleks, and the terrors they would unleash upon the people of a thousand worlds, he has to go against his greatest wish and once again be the warrior he does not want to be.
And he has to do it to save not only the universe, but his own friend of Keska, Rejoice, who is now much older and wiser and sadder because of what happened since she was sent back home.
Can the Doctor save the day? Can he expose the real plan of the Daleks? And how is the burden of the war going to affect him? That is what we face with the parts 1.2 and 1.3.
The story, therefore, does serve an arc for a would-be companion of the Doctor, and in it, we get to see the terrible fate his life as a warrior has left for him. We can feel for him. But, in this story, except for the Doctor and how he views himself, there is little to distinguish the Doctor from his other personas. He is the Doctor, even if he does not think he deserves to be called by his name. He isn’t here as manipulative as the Seventh Doctor, he is grumpy and angry, but he is not as cruel as we have seen the Doctor is capable of being with the First Doctor. He can’t avoid the war, and he will do what he can to stop the Daleks, but he still seems to keep to his core principles. That is what we get here.
The story is good enough, though not exactly great. John Hurt is good for the role, indeed a natural, and his voice is key here. Rejoice, I sympathizewith. The Time Lords are manipulative and it is understandable why the Doctor would want to have nothing to do with them. And yet there just is a little something more I wanted from the Doctor; I wanted him to do something we would never expect from him, something which makes him that much more dangerous. We don’t. Just like Day of the Doctor.
It is hard to say how the War Doctor arc will go, but I have a feeling, this is the high time of the Doctor and the Time Lords in the war. They feel at the height of their power, close to winning the war. The desperation is not there. I hope and believe, for now, we will see such desperation and the Doctor do something shocking. I hope so. But for all this it feels introductory with the weaknesses of such. I would give the set 7.5/10 to 8/10 – it’s good, but it still feels a bit common for the Doctor. It could easily have been a post Dark Eyes McGann here. But, for all that, there are some great lines, especially from Hurt, and so it is recommended for it is enjoyable, worthy of a listen, especially to introduce us more to the stories of the Lost Doctor.
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