Sunday, 20 September 2015

Companion Chronicles 8.10 - The War To End All Wars

Another month, another Hartnell era Companion Chronicle. In previous months we have had tales by Ian and Vicki, this month it’s Steven’s turn, but this story is a little different.
Set a long time after he left the Doctor, an older Steven has been deposed as King of the planet he left the Doctor for in the TV story The Savages. He has been the victim of political machinations from two of his daughters, (very much like King Lear), and as he is visited in his cell by his grand daughter Sida, he tells a tale of how his life experiences have led him to allowing this set of circumstances to occur….
If this were a TV episode, it would be described as a Doctor-Lite, as the great man doesn’t really play much part in the narrative, he gets captured at the beginning, saves the day at the end, but that is all, this really is Steven’s story, a coming of age tale forged in the insanity of perpetual war without meaning.
So, The Doctor, Steven and Dodo arrive on the planet Comfort.  The Doctor is arrested as a subversive, Steven and Dodo are drafted to the army to fight in a perpetual war against an unknown enemy, and they are split up and put into different units, Steven is an ex soldier, so he accepts, grudgingly at first, the mundanity of military service.  As the weeks and months move on, he almost becomes institutionalised, then the elections come up, and Steven thinks that maybe he can make a difference.
As Steven is telling the story to Sida, he is also teaching her a fundamental life lesson about freedom of thought, word, deed and expression.  Steven soon becomes a mouthpiece for ending the war the voice of the “ordinary soldier” but is he being used by the powers that be to make a point?
Part Jacobean tragedy, part Orwellian nightmare, part homage to The Prisoner (the episode Free For All) the story raises many questions of ethics and morality, about power and blindly following orders because “that’s what we do”.   It is one of the most thought provoking stories I have heard for a while.  The cliffhanger to part one, though not totally unexpected is chilling, the trauma and hopelessness of what Steven and Dodo are put through is quite harrowing, this story does not pull any punches.
I was almost sad when the story ended, but it needed to, there needed to be closure, and Steven being not really part of the solution was apt, as really he was nothing more than a bystander caught up in events.
Another great entry into the Companion Chronicles, such a shame they are ending soon, so my view on this story is that I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered, however, if I had to pick a number, it would be a well deserved 9/10.