Monday, 31 October 2016

THE WAR DOCTOR VOLUME 3 - AGENTS OF CHAOS

There have been a few game changers in the history of Doctor Who, mostly to do with the Time Lords if I am honest – the first regeneration, the introduction of the Time Lords in The War Games, the insight into their society in The Deadly Assassin all changed the nature of the show – but the Time War trumped all that, a mythical war that was the backdrop for Doctor Who since 2005, and then another game changer – the introduction of a secret Doctor who fought in the war played by none other than John Hurt – YOWZERS.
 I know that you are all more than familiar with this but I like to give context to my reviews and this being the third box set of adventures for the War Doctor tries to do something a little different from the first two – very “Boys Own” on one level with stories of treason, daring escapes, plucky resistance fighters and super weapons this is a lot more scaled down, a lot more personal. Its still epic and has a universal and trans temporal level of peril but at the heart of it is the sense of loss and devastation that a war can imprint on a person and what lengths those affected people will go to to try to put things right, or more accurately, what they see as right.
 This set also addresses the throwaway line from “The Sontaran Stratagem” about the Sontarans not being allowed to join the Time War – because this set features everybody’d favourite comedy Sontaran actor Dan Starkey, playing someone Sontaran General Fesk who, to be fair, sounds just like Strax, but without the comedy!
 From the streets of cold war Berlin to the battle fields of the planet Rovidia the War Doctor volume three takes us to places and situations not touched on in the Time War previously, and it all begins in Berlin…..
 3.1 The Shadow Vortex by David Llewellyn
 The new series of Doctor Who, especially the Moffat era has given us the concept of fixed points in time, and times where the future is in flux – one such flux point is the year 1961 on the planet earth. Earth is shielded from the Time War by a quantum shield, but this has been broken by Dalek agent Lara Zannis (Neve McIntosh) and the War Doctor is sent after her to retrieve the “Shadow Vortex” and preserve earth’s non intervention in the Time War – unfortunately both the War Doctor and Lara Zannis are captured by the East German secret Police and what follows is a sort of cold war espionage thriller as the Doctor and Stasi agent Kruger (Timothy Speyer) team up to prevent Zannis activating the Shadow Vortex and allowing the Daleks through the Quantum Shield. A fat paced beginning to the box set that deals with the themes of loss and the damage caused to once decent people by being involved in an horrific war, because like all the other stories in this set, behind the bravado, the thrills & the explosions are people who will never be the same due to their War experiences…..
 3.2 The Eternity Cage by Andrew Smith
 Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) has been kidnapped by the Sontarans and is being held on the planet Rovidia – the price for her release is simple, the Sontarans want to form an alliance with the Time Lords and enter in to the Time War. Unfortunately they have also kidnapped the Dalek Time Strategist and have made the same offer to The Daleks.
And so we reach the explanation as to WHY the Sontarans were not allowed to join the Time War – its basically because they are not equipped for a war on a temporal front. However the Sontarans are not taking this as a reason and have their very own Time Weapons and this story tells the tale of how they acquired them and the terrible cost that using weapons that you should not have. John Hurt is incredible in this story, giving the Sontarans chance after chance to back down and back out of their position of wanting to join the war before doing what he has to do rather than what he wants to do. The Eternity Cage itself is an horrific device – it should preserve life but is being used to deal death. This story sees the introduction of Josh Bolt as Rovidian freedom fighter Kalan – a pseudo companion who names the Doctor “Grey-Beard”, he has instant chemistry with John Hurt and they are a delight to hear together, somewhat like the Fourth Doctor & Leela – Kalan is intelligent but not educated and his knowledge of Rovidia is invaluable. We also have Dan Starkey as General Fesk – all brimming with overconfidence, arrogance and swagger as he is in complete control of the situation, his plan has layers and is a trap for both Time Lords & Daleks. With crosses, double crosses, treason and tragedy this for me is the strongest episode in the set
 3.3 Eye of Harmony by Ken Bentley
 After the cliffhanger from the previous episode the traitors plan is put in to action – its a universe changing strategy for a very small personal reason and could change the nature of the Time Lords forever.
Hurt & Bolt are simply exceptional in this story, a true classic Doctor/Companion pairing and with the threat level ramped up to 11 anchor the story in believability and add an extra dimension and reality to the threat. Not a lot more I can say about this episode as there are too many spoilers – but the payoff is magnificent and really is quite moving and small scale, because wars, no matter how massive and epic they are really do have an affect on the participants, their loved ones and on innocent bystanders.
 A very good box set with a slightly different emphasis that the previous two sets. John Hurt again shines, he effortlessly inhabits the universe weary battle scarred Doctor but Josh Bolt as Kalan for me is the star of the box set – a genuinely good person who’s world and life are ruined by the Time War, spouting more wisdom through his short experiences of life than any Time Lords possess. Universe and Time spanningly epic, but also very close to home and in the end about people and relationships – a very well deserved 8/10.