It is with more than just a twinge of sadness that we come to review Big Finish’s final box set in the sublime War Doctor series.
With the passing of the late great Sir John Hurt, the whole of the acting profession is a distinctly colder place without the man who was once the Elephant Man and Quentin Crisp and a crewman on Alien, and to all fans of Doctor Who, the War Doctor.
The War Doctor as a character has been ground into the dirt by the effects of the Time War. He has recanted his name and can be severely rude and distant. But despite the burden of all the universes on his shoulders, we still can glimpse the man who wants no more than to help the oppressed and tend to the sick. And Hurt was the perfect choice to become the Doctor. His whole incarnation is one of bone weary tiredness, but also fierce determination in the face of overwhelming odds. His acting as ever is intense and moving and really makes you feel for his Doctor!
The final set for the War Doctor has a plethora of hugely enjoyable moments. The true feel of futile and costly war is at the forefront of these tales.
PRETTY LIES by Guy Adams
The final arc begins with the battle intense, a totally down to the nail exploration of the full horrors of war. One is instantly driven to route for the safety of the population of Beltox, and the dramatic tension and build up to a harrowing finale is so well achieved by all involved.
Guys Adam’s script is full of drama and terror and yet isn’t heavy handed or repetitive at all.
THE LADY OF OBSIDIAN by Andrew Smith
In the second story of the set, we hear of the return of the Doctors companion Leela, as ever superbly portrayed by the wonderful Louise Jameson. This reviewer always has been a great fan of any female character who is shown to be capable of looking after herself! But in this story, Leela is known as ‘The Lady of Obsidian’. One strongly gets the feeling that Jameson works just as well with Hurt as she did with Tom Baker’s Doctor all those years ago. Throw in a reliably devious Cardinal Ollistra played by the wonderful Jacqueline Pearce and you’re bound to get a story to remember.
The writer of this tale, Andrew Smith has risen from the lowly seventeen-year-old who wrote Full Circle to a reliable and robust pair of hands that Big Finish has utilised so very well.
THE ENIGMA DIMENSION by Nicholas Briggs
The thrilling conclusion of this immense saga is written by gifted Dalek voice maestro Nicholas Briggs. A grandiose end that a finale should be. But it will leave you saddened by the War Doctors extreme self-loathing. This story has him thinking he may even be the worst warrior in all of Gallifrey history. Thrown into a war no one can emerge from without being forever changed. The War Doctors despair and grief is palpable throughout.
The sound design and direction are also spot on. Highly polished and breathtaking in scope and the scale. Considering they are only in audio format, these stories have maintained a cinematic and massive scale that makes them an indelible contribution to Who lore. Together with the ever present threat of the insanely evil Daleks, all these elements blend together to make a splendid banquet.
From the beginning of the War Doctors time with Big Finish starting with the outstanding ‘Only the Monstrous’ to this stunning new conclusion, all Doctor Who fans will relish and enjoy a showcase of just what made Sir John Hurt a formidable Doctor.
Congratulations to all involved in what has been a stunning 10 out of 10 series.
THE WAR DOCTOR VOLUME 04: CASUALTIES OF WAR is available to buy now on CD or as a download direct from Big Finish.
The War Doctor and Cardinal Ollistra are stranded far from their Time Lord forces, with Daleks closing in, destroying all that stands between them. They must call on the help of new friends and old to fight their way back to the front lines. From the outer reaches of the galaxy to the heart of Gallifrey itself, the Doctor finds casualties in every place the Time War has touched. Among them, a fighter, a travelling companion of the distant past, who remembers him quite differently. A warrior woman named Leela…
4.1 Pretty Lies by Guy Adams
Trapped and desperate, light years from their armies at the heart of the Time War, the War Doctor and Cardinal Ollistra discover that wherever they go, destruction follows. A war reporter named Schandel may provide the key to their escape, but it is often said that the first casualty of war is the truth. When the choice between grim reality and a hero’s story means life or death, will the Doctor allow Schandel to print the legend?
4.2 The Lady of Obsidian by Andrew Smith
As a Dalek Strike Fleet heads to destroy another defenceless world, the Doctor seeks help from a shadowy guerrilla force. The Time War leaves many casualties in its wake, and inside the Obsidian Nebula, the monstrous Unlived are held at bay only by the ‘Lady’ and her dwindling band of fighters. The War Doctor soon finds himself at the Lady’s mercy, and two old friends face new revelations…
4.3 The Enigma Dimension by Nicholas Briggs
The Dalek Time Strategist has a new plan to ensure final victory in the Time War. As its forces gather for a huge assault on the enemy, ahead of the fleet something hovers above the planet of the Time Lords. And on Gallifrey itself, shadows move among the Cloisters. The Time Lords face a threat alien to their entire universe. To save their world, the War Doctor and his allies must enter the Enigma Dimension…
Written By: Guy Adams, Andrew Smith, Nicholas Briggs
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
John Hurt (The War Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Jacqueline Pearce (Cardinal Ollistra) Joseph Kloska (Schandel), Julia Hills (Sera/Spokesperson), Mark Elstob (Editor/Old Man), Lizzie Roper (Rosata Laxter/High Minister), Chris Porter (Skaul/Freel), Alan David (Castellan Kanteer), Jane Slavin (Panopticon Guard Lintok), and Nicholas Briggs (Dalek Time Strategist/Daleks/Assault Team Leader).
Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Matt Fitton
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs