Sunday, 28 February 2016

THE WAR DOCTOR 2 - INFERNAL DEVICES

The power of words is a wonderful thing. Think back to New Years day 2010 – David Tennant was on his last hurrah as the Tenth Doctor and during the episode Gallifrey is coming back, but it isn’t the Gallifrey of the past with bumbling ineffectual dusty old Timelords, this is the Gallifrey from the darkest days of the Time War, as the Doctor says that everything from that time will come back “the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, and the Could’ve Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres” all horrific sounding, all evocative of the Hell that the Time War must have been in the last days – how awful it must have been to make the War Doctor consider using The Moment…..
 This second box set is subtitled “Infernal Devices” and is made up of three stories, each focussing on a different weapon of mass destruction from the height of the Time War and further sees the descent of the Time Lords into a force for evil. The War is at its height and an increasingly desperate Time Lord War Council look for new ways to win the war. Just think about this – The Time Lords, guardians of the time lines, who observe but do not interfere have been changed by this war, they have become almost a mirror image of the Daleks – they will do whatever it takes to win – in many ways by engendering this change in the very nature of what it is to be a Time Lord , the Daleks have already won the Time War, because the Time Lords have become as merciless, as corrupted and as single minded as their enemies. As always I digress – but this set is a challenging listen, it takes everything you thought you knew about the Time Lords and turns it on its head, it asks many questions of the listener, offers many moral dilemmas on the nature of war, humanity, survival and victory – the three stories are:
 2.1 Legion of the Lost by John Dorney
The Time War has changed the nature of the Time Lords, they are exploring different ways of achieving victory and are (to coin a phrase) “thinking the unthinkable” – at what cost should victory in a war be achieved, is there any circumstances where losing what make you the people you are is worth sacrificing in the name of a greater good? These and many more questions are posed here, but it is up to the listener to answer for themselves.
The story begins with The War Doctor disabling a weapon known as the Annihilator – a weapon so powerful that it can remove a whole timeline from existence but the memory is retained. This however is only the tip of a very dark and desperate iceberg. On the planet of the Technomancers, Mages who fuse magic & science to horrific ends – their leader Shadovar (the wonderful David Warner) has offered the Time Lords a deal which could ensure victory, but it is a deal with a great cost.
This is a chilling episode, really chilling. The moral ambiguity is uncomfortable because we look on the Time Lords as the “Good Guys” but are they? Are they really any better than The Daleks – the language being used by them is horribly reminiscent of Davros’ justification for victory – its an episode to be appreciated rather than enjoyed, and an episode to be admired for its courage in posing ethical dilemmas.
 2.2 A Thing of Guile by Phil Mulryne
 In story one we witness desperate Time Lords resorting to desperate measures – this episode turns the scenario on its head. Asteroid Theta 12 is a secret Dalek research base where Daleks are thinking the unthinkable and trying to find a way to win the war. Whereas the previous episode has seen the Time Lords losing more and more of their “humanity” (for want of a better description) this sees the Daleks trying in part to regain theirs……
The Time War really has changed the nature of what it is to be a Dalek as well as a Time Lord. The weapon in this is “The Anima” a device that Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) would like further information on and tasks the War Doctor with investigating it. Another grim and bleak episode with very little hope, because even The Doctor is not the Doctor who saves the day any more – he has been changed by the War…
 2.3 The Neverwhen by Matt Fitton
 The Neverwhen Flux is an horrific weapon, it traps those in its field in a time bubble and evolves and devolves those in the bubble throughout their species evolution. It also does not allow the combatants to die. Eternal war, eternal death, no rest. pure Hell – For for Cardinal Ollistra an opportunity for victory – for The War Doctor an opportunity to stage manage peace. He may deny his heritage, but the Doctor of old has to be in there somewhere. This is a wonderful story. A difficult story, a harrowing story, a brutal story BUT, there is a glimmer of hope, because in the midst of all this hate, all this death, all this horror the War Doctor tries to find peace, tries to engineer a peace. Whether he succeeds or fails is immaterial the fact is he TRIES and this is a wonderful thing because after all his protestations he is deep down inside still THE Doctor what we know and love – he just isn’t ready to admit it yet. To admit it will take another weapon, a special “moment” – but that is another story….
 Tinged with the horror of war, overtly harsh and brutal and pulling no punches this is a very brave box set. By focussing on weapons and how they affect the people that use them a picture is painted of corruption on an epic scale of a once noble race ruined and brought low by a never ending war – but in this bleakness is the War Doctor, a guttering, flickering flame of hope, a candle that has nearly gone out, has nearly been made dark by the war. But not quite.John Hurt is phenomenal – he is utterly vulnerable, full of self loathing, and in denial of his actual nature and a perfect Doctor for the utter hell that is the Time War. It is not that difficult to see why the horror of the War made him want to use The Moment, but why the Moment made him hesitate and confront who he really was. Infernal Devices is a descent into the maelstrom of madness and a very worthy 9/10.