The first box (or Series, sorry…) of The Time War comes to a close with “The Conscript” and “One Life”, two very different stories, but both equally great. I had my doubts due to the up and down nature of the War Doctor boxsets, but these four stories have been a triumph, both in terms of the storylines and in actually using the Time aspect of the war so well. So let’s take a closer look at Parts 3 and 4 then, shall we?
Cardinal Ollistra has a new tactic to persuade the Doctor to join his people’s fight. With his friends locked away, he has been conscripted alongside fellow Gallifreyans to train for the front lines of battle.
Commandant Harlan has a reputation – his camp’s regime is harsh. He believes the Time Lords must adapt to win this war, but the Doctor is not easily intimidated.
Can there be any place for dissent when the Time War looms so close?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
It’s the overall boxset cover again!
The Doctor (Paul McGann) – After running from the Time War, The Doctor now finds himself training to fight in it… whether he likes it or not.
Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) – Bliss was taken to a secure location by the Time Lords after the events of the previous story. Whatever they want with her, she won’t go quietly…
Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) – Cold and harsh, Ollistra wishes to end with war with Daleks via a complete victory by the Time Lords, and is more than willing to sacrifice the few for the sake of the many…
The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – Emotionless killing machines … inside killing machines! Their only goal is for Dalek life to be the only life in the universe.
Rupa and Quarren Maguire (Nimmy March and David Ganly) – A seemingly normal couple that got caught up in the Time War…
A nice cover, again… although seeing Ollistra just makes me think of Servalan from Blake’s 7…
May as well start with “The Conscript”, which takes a look at the old unpleasant drill sergeant / break you down to build you back up trope, but with Time Lords! Seriously though, it was really good, with The Doctor inspiring fellow conscripts to have a bit of fun leading them to get punished with push ups and the like while the Doctor gets off Scott free (classic boot camp guilt trip!) and the difference in upbringing and class being meaningless in the face of war. Two cadets, one from the privileged background who takes everything super-serious and the other less qualified and classy, are a central focus here and both play their roles excellently. Norvid, the more “common” one, ends up dead when he tries to “be like The Doctor” and save his fellow classmates when a Dalek drone arrives, leading to Veeda, the snobby one, to blame the Doctor and mourn her fellow Time Lord. It’s all very effective drama, and a great side-note in the greater Time War.
It also features Ollistra searching through the survivors of the Theseus for reasons that will become clear in Part 4. It ends with a great cliffhanger as The Doctor and the refugees are heading for his ship, but Ollistra corners them and claims she will let The Doctor go but wants the others, and when our heroic Time Lord refuses, she is about to shoot him and cause enough damage to regenerate, hoping that the next Doctor to come along with be more agreeable. Now, it’s technically not an effective cliffhanger in that we know when and how the Eighth Doctor regenerates, but it’s still a good end to the episode anyway. Makes you want to continue on to…
One Life is a good end to the boxset. Peppered throughout the story are flashbacks to otherwise dull couple Rupa and Quarren Maguire, how they met, their marriage, etc. This all leads to the revelation that Quarren is actually a super-powerful Time Lord who had the power to alter the universe itself, but used a “bit of Time Lord technology that can change one’s physiology into that of a human”. The Doctor confirms that this is a reference to the Chameleon Arch from the Tenth Doctor era (which itself was taken from a book!) by saying that all that makes them Time Lord is stored in a locket. It was a great twist, and a really good use of continuity that hasn’t really been used since its debut on TV.
The Doctor tries to convince Quarren to keep the locket locked and then destroy it when he no longer needs to rely on the Time Lords to get him and his wife out of trouble, but the problem soon becomes that everyone is trapped on a planet in a Solar System that’s being accelerated forward in time by a Time Lord weapon, causing mountains to rise and fall, cities and whole races to form, rise, and crumble before their eyes in seconds. It’s another great Time War sequence that paints a great and terrifying picture. Quarren regains his Time Lord knowledge and saves The Doctor’s life, but then writes himself out of existence because no one person should have this much power and control. Top stuff, complete with The Doctor and Bliss (who has hung around in the background the whole episode) visiting Rupa and checking if she’s okay, but having no idea why or even who she was, but both feeling mysteriously better in knowing she is well.
As you can tell, I loved both of these stories, to the point where I pretty much just described what happens in their entirety rather than picking the good and bad!
Not a fan of what I assume are the people who played the Maguires… they look like they were posing for a staff photo rather than being part of the story…
As I mentioned in part 1, this is set during the infamous Time War, and Ollistra made her debut in the War Doctor boxsets. Exclusive to these two stories, the only continuity is the aforementioned Chameleon Arch, which debuted in the Tenth Doctor TV story “Human Nature”, which is an adaptation of the Seventh Doctor book of the same name. It is used again as a plot point in that same series’ episode “Utopia”, where it’s revealed The Master used one to vanish during the Time War…
Two different stories, but both great, “The Conscript” and “One Life” are perfect examples of great Doctor Who audio, and I feel the boxset overall is finally a chunk of story that gets the Time War right. It may not be filled with enemies with weird fairy tale-like names as Russell T. Davies often wrote it (and he made it up in the first place, so they obviously were a thing!) but it definitely got the “messing with time so bad the universe is being completely buggered up” bit right. I hope Series 2 can continue this trend next year!