Tuesday 30 January 2018

The Time War Series 01

To call this box set “highly anticipated” would be rather an understatement.
The Time War has underpinned Doctor Who since its return in 2005 – it has been the driving force behind the series and was the focal point of the 50th anniversary celebrations and even gave us a secret incarnation of The Doctor in the much missed John Hurt – but above all this the Time War gave a sense of closure to the Eighth Doctor in his crash landing on Karn, and in that short 8 minute special we found out that Doctor number Eight had been helping those caught up in the Time War and that Time-lords were now almost as despised as The Daleks. But what did Doctor Number Eight actually do in the Time War, what was his part in the proceedings and how was he changed so much that on Karn he decided to choose his next incarnation as “Warrior” – the answers, or at least the beginning of the answers lie in this set.
To begin with, its not as epic as you expect it to be – yes it is galaxy and aeon spanning with battles galore, but despite all this it feels quite an intimate character driven affair, and at its centre there is a rather tragic love story, the story of Rupa (Nimmy March) and Quarren (David Ganley) a newly married couple on their honeymoon on the starship Theseus, or are they competition winners on the Cruise ship Theseus or are they refugees from the Time War escaping on the wreck of the Theseus? Answer they are all three and probably many more because the time war is not a war fought throughout time it is a war that constantly rewrites time again and again and again and even The Doctor and his companion Sheena, or is it Emma? or is it Louise? or was he travelling alone? are affected.
Its a bold thing to delve so deep in to the Time War and writers John Dorney and Matt Fitton have found an angle to explore it that I had not expected. If you are expecting a “boys own” adventure full of World War 2 cliches and derring do then you are in the wrong place, however if you are open minded enough to try something just a little bit different then this may be just the set for you:
  1. The Starship of Theseus by John Dorney
But it all starts with a holiday and a broom cupboard. The Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companion Sheena (Olivia Vinall) land in the broom cupboard of luxury star-liner the Theseus and decide that they deserve a holiday, they befriend Rupa and Quarren and are set for an evening of good conversation and good food when a mystery presents itself – passengers are going missing so the Doctor decided to investigate. And this is where things get complicated – listening as I do on my drive to work I thought I had missed a section or had not been concentrating because the Doctor was suddenly accompanied by his companion Emma and the ship was now a ship of refugees fleeing the Time War. And then his companion is called Louise and then. Well that would be telling. What an opening, just enough time travel shenanigans  to keep you interested but not all out Moffat level of confusing to put the listener off, in fact the listener is more in the know than the characters, we know they are suffering the effects of the Time War and are looking in on events from outside the bubble. Cleverly written and a fantastic opening chapter that paves the way for the journey that is to follow.
2. Echoes of War by Matt Fitton
Having crash-landed on a jungle world the Doctor finds himself leader of a group of refugees including Rupa, Quarren and Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) that he swears to protect from the ravages of the Time War that are tearing the planet apart, echoes of future or past wars, hyper evolution, the forest perpetually dying and flourishing and one other survivor of the war a damaged Dalek, thing is the Dalek doesn’t know who or what it is and has the ability and equipment to guide our heroes to safety, if only it doesn’t start to remember its past , its prime directive or the name “Doctor”. You can cut the tension with a knife in this episode and Nick Briggs comes in for a mention in dispatches as “Dal” the damaged Dalek imbuing it with a sense of pity and pathos that Daleks don’t usually get to display. Like the 2005 story Dalek you almost (note “almost”) feel sorry for the fate that befalls Dal. This story is an ordeal to be appreciated rather than enjoyed.
3. The Conscript by Matt Fitton
Is there room for comedy in the Time War? Maybe not but definitely there is a place for gallows humour of the sort that we got in Full Metal Jacket and The Long and the Short and the Tall. The Doctor has been conscripted to the Time Lord army, very much against his wishes but his compliance is there to ensure Bliss, Rupa and Quarren are well treated whilst being detained for debriefing by Cardinal Ollistra (Jaqueline Pearce) – the Doctor delights in his insubordination and will not be broken by the regime he finds himself in, he inspires individuality, insubordination and a small mutiny. But during a war is there a place for his whimsy and flippancy? In a regime where clean boots matter is there a place for The Doctor and his view on the universe? and will it all end badly? Throughout the flippancy you can sense a creeping dread, that there is a time and a place for silliness and this is not it, that The Doctor with all the best of intentions will lead the platoon to ruin – you will just have to listen to fins out if he does…
4. One Life by John Dorney
And so the threads come together, a happening in part one leads to a revelation in part four and even in the most terrible of times love can still beat war. And the Doctor can gain a new friend, or is it a friend he has always had?
A great collection of stories that form a very cohesive story – the Time War is not the be all and end all but the canvas on which this very character heave collection is painted. Witnessing the Eighth Doctor in the thick of the Time War made me revisit every episode of Doctor Who since 2005 and pose the question how could I ever have believed that he was the one that ended it all. Because he wouldn’t and he couldn’t because that’s not the man he was – even in the very worst of times Eight was always The Doctor. A very well deserved and are fought 9/10.

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