We’re all aware that the Time War was massive. It left lasting impressions on The Doctor that were felt for seasons on TV. Big Finish have dared to take us closer to those lost moments through an ever expanding multitude of ranges which seem to affect so many of our favourite characters from Classic Doctor Who. Now they’re exploring the Time War with the first TV companion, Susan in ‘Susan’s War’.
‘Susan’s War‘ is a boxset of four stories that work just like all of the recent Big Finish sets. Four individual stories that are closely connected to tell one larger story. After years of getting only pieces of Susan’s story beyond the First Doctor, we’re finally granted a full set of her. Sadly for Susan, but excitingly for listeners, it revolves around the Time War.
Sphere of Influence by Eddie Robson
Writer Eddie Robson picks up where his Short Trip adventure ‘All Hands On Deck‘ left off. Susan has been called upon by the Time Lords to do her part in the Time War. ‘Sphere of Influence‘ is, at its core, a story of nostalgia. It’s Susan, the Sensorites and Chesterson, Ian Chesterson. The dynamics have changed and the circumstances are different but it’s very much like an old pair of slippers.
‘Sphere of Influence‘ is a smart way to start off this set. Introducing listeners to a familiar and favourable setting, alongside her school teacher, is nothing short of charming. We’re reminded that she’s capable, intelligent and able to do things on her own. It’s a safe set up for what becomes a turbulent set of stories.
The Uncertain Shore by Simon Guerrier
After a nice trip down memory lane we get a story that had a lot to live up to if this wasn’t going to be nostalgic set. Susan and Veklin have gone undercover, as artists. Writer Simon Guerrier gently leads us down a rabbit hole, making friends and playing nice before tearing it all away.
At some point ‘The Uncertain Shore‘ grabbed me and hooked me in. Despite being unable to listen to this story uninterrupted, by quarter of the way through, I was fully engaged. Once the murder mystery took focus the story unravelled quicker than I anticipated. The slow build early on allowed the majority of this adventure to be told in, what felt like, rapid fire speed.
Not only did this story lure me in, it shocked me. There comes a point towards the end that happened so quickly and unapologetically that I am certain my jaw dropped. It serves as a reminder that this set is a serious look at Susan’s involvement in the Time War. The remaining stories are not playful nostalgia.
Assets of War by Lou Morgan
‘Assets of War‘ by Lou Morgan is a slightly odd inclusion. Of all the stories that could be told this one feels minor. Perhaps it’s because it followed two fantastic adventures and now most of this is spent talking. It’s great to have a story set on Gallifrey but does highlight the less exciting aspects of war. The prep, the briefings, the arrogance and the one-upmanship all feel like it could be from the Gallifrey series.
The big difference between this and the Gallifrey series though is our title character. While Susan could sit comfortably in the Gallifrey stories she is a healthy mix of Romana and Leela. Most of the drama would be quickly cleaned up. Susan is kind like Leela and smart like Romana but without the ambition. Perhaps that’s what allows ‘Assets of War‘ to feel minor; the consequences to Susan are limited.
As a standalone story in this particular set, it felt underwhelming but they can’t be all big on spectacle. However, there are some great performances, namely Roly Botha as Rennis. A strong willed young man, who is wonderfully written, gives this story it’s heart.
The Shoreditch Intervention by Alan Barnes
Back to Earth. London. 1963!
Likely, this is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Susan and the Eighth Doctor have history. Paul McGann‘s Doctor had the most contact with his great grandson, Alex. Also, this is the Doctor leading up to the War Doctor. This is ‘Susan’s War‘. It’s the conclusion folks! Oh, and it’s a little nostalgic.
There’s little to be said about this story because it’s just begging to be listened to. It’s the perfect culmination of events. This is, oh so, very satisfying to have Susan and her Grandfather collide. The Doctor is nonchalant, as only Paul McGann can deliver, and Susan is involved in her mission and the lives of those she encounters.
What really works is that we can’t tell who is going to be proven correct. The Doctor is rarely wrong, but this is Susan‘s own box set. The best part of this story isn’t so much the adventure, or the circumstances but the interaction between Carol Ann Ford and Paul McGann. The two have such a rapport and the characters have such a unique history that almost anything would have been wonderful.
Alan Barnes has given us more than just wonderful though. This is the kind of story that we fans will be holding on to for a long time and eagerly anticipating more. Though, if no more were to come with these two, it would be a great conclusion to Eight and Susan’s story.
This is one of, if not, the best of the Time War box sets. If you’re following Big Finish’s Time War arcs then you’ll certainly want to pick this up. The original companion brings a lot of weight and history with her and this set mines that resource, but doesn’t rely on it. Susan is not the helpless girl we remember her being. She’s a strong, wise and thoughtful character who seems to be the most well rounded of all the primary players in the Time War.
‘Susan’s War‘ explores some interesting concepts and does some great world building in a universe of war we are already familiar with. It sets the ground work for more stories but also holds its own as a stand-alone set. Each story is distinct from one another and there’s some genuinely great music by Howard Carter and skilful direction by Lisa Bowerman.
You can purchase your copy of ‘Susan’s War‘ at the Big Finish website.
Gallifrey needs every Time Lord to fight the Time War. A summons has been issued across the universe to its prodigals. Whatever their skills, the war effort can use them.
Susan’s call-up papers have arrived, and, unlike her grandfather, she is willing to join her people’s battle and finally return home.
Because Susan knows the Daleks, and she will do her duty…
1. Sphere of Influence by Eddie Robson
Susan’s first mission is one of diplomacy. The Sense-Sphere could prove a valuable ally to Gallifrey.
But she is not the only one who knows the Sensorites of old. Susan will have the support of an old friend.
Ian Chesterton is about to rejoin the adventure he left a lifetime ago!
2. The Uncertain Shore by Simon Guerrier
Susan and Commander Veklin are on the trail of a spy. Under cover on a ravaged world, they find a weary population, trapped, and waiting for the inevitable. But one among them is a traitor.
The Time War is coming to Florana, and Susan will face a struggle to simply survive…
3. Assets of War by Lou Morgan
Cardinal Rasmus believes that Susan’s special abilities will help him assess a new weapons project.
On a secret military base, creatures from the vortex are being bred for war. Gallifrey’s scientists think they can be used as assets against the Daleks.
But the Orrovix are not easily tamed…
4. The Shoreditch Intervention by Alan Barnes
When Susan’s TARDIS is intercepted, she is given a highly classified mission.
Earth, 1963 is a nexus point in the Time War, but the timelines must be negotiated carefully. Mods and rockers are not the only dangers on the streets of Shoreditch.
In Susan’s past, the Daleks are waiting. But so is the Doctor!
- Carole Ann Ford (Susan)
- William Russell (Ian Chesterton)
- Beth Chalmers (Veklin)
- Damian Lynch (Rasmus)
- Paul McGann (The Doctor)
- Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks / Fyodor)
- Laura Aikman (Lootsa)
- Roly Botha (Rennis)
- Ian Brooker (Guard / Strato / Sensorite / Parasite)
- Louis Davison (Franko / Policeman)
- Hugh Fraser (Second Elder)
- Trudie Goodwin (Faith)
- Simon Ludders (Monty / Ogron 1)
- Tom Mahy (JP / Rocker 2)
- Vincenzo Nicoli (Vibax)
- Dan Starkey (Yeorgi / Ogron 2)
- Claire Vousden (Investigator / First Elder)
- Becky Wright (Alex / Lehena)