DW: Warlock’s Cross Review

DW Warlock's Cross

The trilogy originally billed as a “UNIT Trilogy”, but in reality is more a trilogy surrounding tragic UNIT soldier Daniel Hopkins, comes to a close with Warlock’s Cross, a story that also features the return of Big Finish sort-of-companion Elizabeth Klein. So how does the three-part story close itself out? The tone of the story may surprise you…

Official Synopsis:

It’s time the truth was told. About UNIT. About the Cybermen invasion. About the so-called ‘Doctor’. About what happened all those years ago, at Warlock’s Cross. About the man they keep locked up in a cage, in a secret prison…

It’s time. Because UNIT scientific adviser Elizabeth Klein is going to help ensure the truth is brought to light.

Today’s the day… that UNIT falls.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor has arrived in the mid-90s, a time he, for whatever reason, rarely visits. He soon ends up a prisoner of the greatly stripped down UNIT, and finds himself the neighbour to a familiar man…

Elizabeth Klein (Tracey Childs) – Klein is UNIT’s scientific advisor, with a long and complicated history behind her. She isn’t surprised to find The Doctor at the heart of a soon-to-be-deadly scenario, in fact she finds herself relieved…

Daniel Hopkins (Blake Harrison) – Daniel Hopkins once had it all in life, a stable job, a wife and child, then a house fire took the latter two away from him, and he was never the same. After a run in with the Cybermen left his brain further damaged and his body in a coma (by his own wish) he has spent the last six waking months locked away…

Linda Maxwell (Genevieve Gaunt) – Linda was a member of UNIT, and in fact served alongside Daniel Hopkins on several occasions. Sadly, at a mission in Warlock’s Cross, she went missing, but she didn’t die…

Colonel McKenna (Richard Gibson) – A Colonel in UNIT used to mean something, but now it just means sitting behind a desk with a fancy title. The 90s have been an unusually quiet time for alien invasions, and with it a lack of action for his men, and himself…

Gregory Lord (Tom Milligan) – Gregory Lord has heard the rumours, he’s seen UFOs for himself, and now thanks to a contact, he knows UNIT are holding aliens against their will, maybe even torturing them to death. He must act now and make everyone aware of the problem!

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Warlock's Cross Cover

The creature on the far right appears as mental images during the story, I just realised I don’t actually mention it during the review…

Warlock’s Cross is a strange story. It is far more cerebral and touches on themes such as the human psyche and suicide, all while using some previous established characters like Klein and Hopkins to show these effects. Daniel Hopkins, a man who wanted to become a Cyberman so the painful emotions of loss he was experiencing could be taken away, is now sitting in a cell, the process of removing the partially cyber-converted parts of his brain have left him nearly as cold and emotionless as if they’d succeeded. He is the lead villain, but even at that he’s not exactly mustache twirling. Not at all…

We see flashbacks to when a ship, only ever referred to as Ship, crashed into Warlock’s Cross and its sentient A.I. went crazy when its psychic crew died and sent a mental shock into it. Hopkins, at the time fresh off of his family tragedy, connected with it, and was therefore spared the fate that befell the rest of the soldiers at the time. Jumping to the current day and one of the soldiers thought lost at Warlock’s Cross, Linda Maxwell, returns with a manipulated rights protester Gregory Lord and his gang to free Daniel Hopkins, not for his own sake, but for Ship’s. You see, seven years alone has sent the ship suicidal, it either wants to escape the Earth (at the cost of the planet) or be destroyed, but it just doesn’t want to be alone any more. It remembered Hopkins and knows the pain he went through and assumed he’s be the person to “push the button” and end it all, but instead Hopkins was far more interested in playing a longer game…

Throughout the story Ship is constantly mentally interfering with people, Klein starts to doubt who she is due to her knowledge of being a reincarnation (of sorts) of a Nazi officer, Linda Maxwell was generally off-kilter due to the many years under Ship’s influence anyway, Colonel McKenna is sent into a paranoid fit, pulling his gun on everyone, and even The Doctor gets mentally pulled towards the past, Ship trying to get him to stop itself from crashing in the first place. Soon Hopkins watches on as a manipulated McKenna nearly causes a missile strike that would have either blown the ship up or set it free (at the cost of the planet), but thanks to The Doctor getting him to listen to what Ship was saying in his ear, McKenna realised his error and stopped himself, much to Daniel Hopkins’ disappointment.

The ending sees The Doctor and Klein, with Ship’s blessing, shut the sentient A.I. off so it can slowly run out of power in peace, while Hopkins is thrown back in his cell and eventually lets off a bloodcurdling scream as he is left to suffer alone once more. It almost gives off a vibe of suicidal people are better off being allowed to be killed, but I’ll ignore that in favour of just good tragic storytelling. I’m intreged that Daniel Hopkins is still alive though, I wonder if that will play into something down the line…

As you can see, it was a very different kind of story than you’d expect, but it was still really good. The scenes of everyone literally hearing someone whisper in the back of their head all their paranoid thoughts was unsettling, as was the fact that both “enemies” in this story just wanted to die, they weren’t evil, just emotionally dead. It was heavy stuff, so heavy I wouldn’t want this in my Who every month, but it was definitely an interesting listen.

The Bad:

There were times, especially in the first half, where it was a bit slow, but that was deliberate pacing in the end. Klein seemed to be there just for the hell of it, rather than for any kind of purpose, but that’s okay. It was good to hear her back, and at least she had some history to play off of for the whispering voices scenes. The more I think about the story, the more I like it… Scenes that seemed dull or slow at the time make more sense in the overall. It’s very well written and paced.

The Continuity:

As you can guess by the fact I called this the end of a trilogy, Daniel Hopkins appeared in two prior stories this year, namely Fifth Doctor story “The Helliax Rift” and Sixth Doctor story “Hour of the Cybermen”. Linda Maxwell also appeared in Helliax Rift, though it can’t have been a major role because looking back I don’t think I even mention her in my review…

Klein has a long history, from being a Nazi from an alternate “Nazis won the war” timeline in “Colditz”, to being UNIT’s scientific advisor from “UNIT: Dominion” onwards. Her super-annoying sidekick Will Arrowsmith is thankfully absent from this story…

Overall Thoughts:

Warlock’s Cross isn’t for everyone. If you’re expecting all out UNIT action then you’ll be disappointed, but if you looking for a slice of drama that will make you think and keep you guessing (unless you’ve read the spoiler thoughts of this review first…) then this story is indeed that. Slow and deliberate, it’s a tragic tale suiting an older, New Adventures-like, Seventh Doctor. Highly recommended, if you’re in the right mood…

5 Star Listen

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