Now, technically the War Doctor made his debut in a 30 second stinger at the end of “The Name of the Doctor”, but that would seem like a waste of that story for the sake of 30 seconds, so I decided to go down the Eighth Doctor route and do John Hurt’s first performance from start to finish in the role as the lead (as Day of the Doctor was covered last year…), meaning we get the first Full Cast Audio Drama to feature him: “The Innocent”, from the “Only the Monstrous” box set. Is it any good? Well… It’s alright, I guess. It’s nice to finally debut my War Doctor image template anyway!
As the Daleks mass their time fleet for a final assault on Gallifrey, something ancient is waiting for them at Omega One. And a sacrifice must be made.
Arch-manipulator and Time Lord strategist, Cardinal Ollistra receives shock news of the Doctor’s death.
Meanwhile, on the planet Keska, a parochial war has returned to plague a peaceful civilisation after decades of tranquillity. But how can such a war have any connection with the great Time War which, at any one moment in the whole of eternity, could threaten to tear the universe apart?
If only the Doctor were still alive.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Man Once Known as The Doctor (John Hurt) – Having been fighting in the Time War for a long, long time, the former Doctor has began to reach his limit, and so when he sees a Time Destructor about to be used, he jumps forward, not caring if he dies in the process…
Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) – Ollistra is obsessed with one thing: victory over The Daleks. It doesn’t matter if it costs 100 or 1000 Time Lords to do it, so long as it gets done…
The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – The Daleks were bred for evil, bred for war, and bred to kill. Now they have made conquering the Time Lords their goal they will see the Time War through to the end…
Rejoice (Lucy Briggs-Owen) – Rejoice is a Keskan, born and raised on Keska and having only heard stories about her race’s old enemies the Taalyens. When the Doctor, as he was once known, arrived injured, she’s more than happy to look after him…
Very striking cover, though for the very first War Doctor story they could have chosen a different picture than reusing the side-art one…
There are some fun concepts here, though some are a bit fan-wanky. The idea of the Time Lords using the old Time Destructor from “The Daleks’ Master Plan” is logical, and Ollistra ordering two people to detonate it at the cost of their lives is right up her alley (ignoring the ideals the two men shared, as revealed later in the set…)
Although it’s pretty on-the-nose, this story does at least hammer home the War Doctor’s whole deal, complete with him refusing help, having flashbacks to when he had made a hard decision that cost innocent people their lives, and getting angry when Rejoice believes he’s still a good man. It’s almost an insult to him, he knows he exists solely to bring an end to the war by any means, hence why he renounced his name as a Doctor. Like I said, it’s not subtle, but it’s fine…
At the end the War Doctor refuses to potentially damage a race to save them like he’s done a hundred times recently and tells them that they have to do it so it frees him of the guilt if it goes wrong. That’s a good spin, especially as he could have just done it at great risk to get across this version of the Doctor, but instead we instantly see this is the older War Doctor who’s started to get sick of his own actions. It’s a good ending.
As usual for a big momentous release like this, Nicholas Briggs has taken the role on, acting as writer, director and staring in it (though it is hard to do a Time War story without him, so I’ll forgive that much!) and once again it’s one of his average stories that neither annoys nor thrills.
Characters like Rejoice and her fellow people are rather dull and lifeless. Some of the dialogue is pretty poor, especially with the “don’t call me The Doctor!” stuff, which is far too over done here. Why did Rejoice, who didn’t know the Doctor’s name, suddenly start using it all the time despite his constant annoyance at it? Other Time Lords, sure, makes sense, but why did she instantly pick up on it and refuse to stop calling him it? There were also some long scenes of John Hurt making gulping noises as a pretends to drink some fruit juice that was just far too obnoxious for an audio story…
The Time Lords as well aren’t all that interesting (which is mostly accurate, I guess…) especially the two Time Lords, Bennus and Arverton, who are supposed to have some funny “straight man, funny man” banter but just… aren’t funny.
The overall cover for Only The Monstrous. I’ll get to the other two stories eventually!
As already mentioned, the Time Destructor first appeared in the First Doctor TV epic “The Daleks’ Master Plan”.
The War Doctor laments at his failure to wipe the Daleks out of existence when he had the chance during the Fourth Doctor TV classic “Genesis of the Daleks”.
Only the Monstrous, the indeed the War Doctor on audio in general, gets off to an average start. It has some good moments and some ideas that use this version of The Doctor well, but there are also so lifeless characters and poor dialogue that slows everything down and makes some scenes uninteresting. Average is the best way to describe this one, then!