Well what do you know? A Time War story that actually has time-altering jeopardy instead of just Daleks and Time Lords shooting at each other! This is what I was hoping given this series (of series!) is set during the opening stages of the war, where Time Travel was the weapon of choice rather than on-ground combat, as it was during the War Doctor’s boxsets. So let’s look at the first half of the first set, containing “The Starship Theseus” and “Echoes of War”, shall we?
The Doctor and his companion, Sheena, land the TARDIS on the glamorous luxury space-liner Theseus just as it’s about to leave the Jupiter space-port. An opportunity for a holiday presents itself – and it’s one they’re very glad to take.
But when a disturbance catches their attention, they realise sinister events are taking place on board. Passengers are vanishing on every trip. And unless they’re careful they may be next.
Can the Doctor and Emma solve the mystery? Or is there something else they should be worrying about?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The overall box cover… Makes you wonder how long before they run out of “new Eighth Doctor” pictures… Then again, they rode the TV movie version for over a decade, so…
The Doctor (Paul McGann) – The Doctor is doing his best to avoid the Time War, taking his companion Sheena to places in the universe where the effects haven’t reached… yet.
Sheena (Olivia Vinall) – Sheena has been travelling with The Doctor for some time, but sadly it’s time that may be her undoing…
Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) – Bliss is among the refugees that end up following The Doctor around after the Time War catches up with everyone. Her knowledge is handy when The Doctor isn’t around to explain things…
Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) – A high-ranking Time Lady who will stop at nothing to win the war against the Daleks.
The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – Souless creatures inside slide-y hover-tanks. They like to exterminate all non-Dalek life, but are currently focusing on the Time Lords…
Rupa and Quarren Maguire (Nimmy March and David Ganly) – A couple who were enjoying the free cruise on board the Theseus… by which I mean, they’re a couple who were among the refugees on board the Theseus…
A very flashy cover! Nice ship design too…
As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, I love that this shows the Time War at its most … time-y. The first episode has The Doctor and new (but already experienced) companion Sheena avoiding the Time War, but it soon catches up to them and Sheena’s name changes, then she vanishes and then the luxury cruiser becomes a refugee ship… It’s crazy, but it’s great. This is the kind of universe-altering Time War that we were told about. Part 2 continued the craziness, with everyone running through a forest that’s constantly dying and regrowing and dying again.
Sheena was a bit by the numbers, but she had to be as she needed to feel like a regular companion so her being written out of time would have more of an impact, given it was happening in the opening episode. Bliss is a pretty good stand-in, temporary companion (at least as of writing, she may have a bigger role in the second half!) and it’s refreshing that she is actually rather intelligent herself. It gives the usual dynamic a bit of a kick. Although she only appears at the end of Episode 2, Ollistra is still as cold and harsh as ever, well, within the confines of the start of the war. She was developed a bit towards the end of the War Doctor stories, but that’s obviously later, timeline-wise.
The idea of a “good Dalek” isn’t new, not by a long shot, but having a Dalek help the survivors during their treacherous trek through the time-distorted forest was a good side-story to the main story of survival. The idea that once they found a “temporal safe zone” he’d turn back to his wicked ways gave it a bit of an edge, at least.
Paul McGann is sill great to listen to, especially in the scenes where the Time War begins to effect his memory of events, and the panic it causes when he realises what’s going on. It’s interesting to think if this isn’t the start of the war, and that The Doctor just found himself in the middle of the war like it’s been going on for ages, like everyone else. When you think of Episode 1 like that, it takes on a whole new feel…
Not a lot, if I’m honest. Although it ends on a cliffhanger, these two episodes set everything up perfectly for what is hopefully an equally good second half. My only complaint is a few of the other survivors weren’t very interesting. The Captain of the Theseus was on the dull side, and the couple, Mr and Mrs Maguire, are also not very interesting. Still, doesn’t take away from the story much!
Oh, actually, the “time or space Trolls” that appear in Part 1 sound far too cartoony for me. I know that was the idea as they were compared to trolls under a bridge in fairytales, but still…
Looks like a simple enough cover, but I keep seeing more and more little nods to the story in it every time I see it…
Well, apart from this taking place in the earlier stages of the Time War, the conflict that will cost the universe greatly and specifically cost The Doctor his Eighth and Ninth regeneration (the Ninth being known as The War Doctor, which then leads into the Ninth Doctor… *sigh*, you know what, never mind…) there isn’t much to say beyond obvious call backs to other Dalek or Time War stories (Ollistra, for example, debuted in the War Doctor sets).
The Doctor mentions having a similar experience of having people vanish at an airport, alluding to the Second Doctor TV story “The Faceless Ones”.
A great start to the Paul McGann era-Time War boxsets. The war is still in its “screwing up the Universe with time travel” stages, and so instead of Daleks and Time Lords shooting at each other, we get lots of interesting and unique time-related shenanigans, and it works brilliantly. A few uninteresting character and creatures pull this down from a 5, but it’s pretty damn close!