The War Doctor Box Set: Volume 2 Review
Gustaff Behr gives his spoiler-free verdict on the War Doctor’s second audio boxset.
Now this feels more like a Time War boys and girls! The second War Doctor Box Set sees John Hurt’s non-Doctor battling the Daleks across three stories in a trilogy that feels very much like a war in which time is the most prominent weapon available.
Legion of the Lost
John Dorney knocks it out of the park with this first installment, shattering any reservations I had about box set two following in the footsteps of its predecessor. It does a fantastic job of diving into one of the first key pieces of Time War mythos and presenting us with a story covering the ethics of life and death. Legion of the Lost is a classic. From start to finish, there is not a moment of lag. We’re introduced to Collis – a Time Lady who meets the War Doctor on another one of those pre-story sequences before whisking us off to the planet of the Technomancers.
You read that correctly. Techno…Magicians. If it sounds too fantasy to be Doctor Who, fear not. I won’t spoil things, but this unique species of aliens definitely ranks high on this author’s list of aliens that need to be revisited.
While I had trouble connecting to Rejoice (the girl with the ironic name) from Only The Monstrous, Collis and I clicked instantly. This may be due to how much development and evolution she gets in the span of just one story. She is also a very different kind of pseudo-companion than what we’re used to which adds a spark of originality to the character.
David Warner has featured in a lot of Big Finish titles these last couple of months and he never stops being a highlight. Here he plays Shadovar, a Technomancer and he is simply delightful in the role. Such a waste he only sticks around for one story, but it’s a still a killer.
Overall, a perfect story if not for the discount De-Mat gun that serves as the titular Infernal Device for this story. While not a bad thing in of itself, to anyone who knows what a De-Mat gun is in Doctor Who, this plot device might come off as regurgitating plot ideas.
Rating this story: 9/10. Simply spectacular.
A Thing of Guile
Continuing on from the last story, Big Finish throws us a curveball in flipping the War Doctor’s affiliation and overall status as a Time Lord on its head. This also gives us a unique opportunity to learn more about the bizarre, almost antagonistic relationship between the War Doctor and Cardinal Ollistra.
This is long overdue in my opinion as the character of Ollistra is a deeply interesting one: a Time Lady with the thought process of the Sixth Doctor, the cunning of the Seventh and the pragmatism of the Twelfth. She features heavily in A Thing of Guile, but the plot also does a good job of showcasing that the Doctor isn’t the Alpha and Omega when it comes to morality and sacrifices. It’s always been something that on occasion vexed me whilst watching Doctor Who. On the one hand, thank whichever god you believe in that this impossible man fell out of the sky to solve all your problems, but on the other hand, what gives this weirdo with the bad dress sense the authority to tell me what’s right or wrong?
The aforementioned is a big plot point moving forward in the trilogy and both sides get to make their case which does blur the argument of who’s right and wrong. And deep down, that’s great storytelling.
Whilst the character interaction stands at the heart of this story, the actual plot for this installment is rather forgettable.
Rating this story: 7/10.
Matt Fitton takes us home with The Neverwhen, a story whose creativity rivals that of The Eleven (the character, not the story). The Neverwhen is by far the closest Doctor Who has come to showing us what a true Time War would look and feel like and this story is one of those that is absolutely wasted as just an audio drama. Watching this on television would be epic. Believe it!
The Neverwhen also ties together the trilogy in a great big red bow by drawing on several of the aforementioned “Infernal Devices” that the box set is named after. I can’t fault the execution and the various plot twists leading up to, as well as those following the climax. The Neverwhen is the best story in the series by far.
Even the Daleks feel fresh here and keep in mind that Dalek stories are the most susceptible to what I like to call “Dalek Decay Syndrome”. Given that the entire War Doctor Series is basically just one long Dalek story, it is impressive how Big Finish has managed to make them a threat, but also use them sparingly so as not to wear us out. This continues here and if I’m honest, The Neverwhen is probably one of their best outings in years.
If you’re waiting for me to point out what I didn’t like about this story, keep on waiting because I genuinely can’t. I listened to this box set three times already and I’m still enthralled. Infernal Devices is rich in characters, plot ideas – references! Oh my the references make this series feel so affluent without wearing out its welcome.
Rating this story: 10/10.
This volume is a substantial improvement over the last and one I feel disproves Russell T Davies’ words that a Time War could never be done justice if explored. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is iffy about or hasn’t heard it yet. It is worth every penny!