Unlike the next story in the Audio / Comic Companion Debut marathon, this novel adaptation certainly makes sense in the audio category as Bernice Summerfield has made more audio appearances than she did during her initial novel run. Love and War is suitably dramatic and does a great job of introducing Benny, but the main thing was a rather nasty turn for Ace that sees her leave The Doctor is a huff… So let’s take a look!
On a planet called Heaven, all hell is breaking loose.
Heaven is a cemetery for both humans and Draconians — a final place of rest for those lost during wartime. The Doctor arrives on a trivial mission — to find a book, or so he says — and Ace, wandering around Joycetown, becomes involved with a charismatic Traveller called Jan.
But the Doctor is strenuously opposed to the romance. What is he trying to prevent? Is he planning some more deadly game connected with the coffins revered by the mysterious Church of Vacuum and the unusual Arch that marks the location of a secret building below ground?
Archaeologist Bernice Summerfield thinks so. Her destiny is inextricably linked with that of the Doctor, but even she may not be able to save Ace from the Time Lord’s plans. This time, has the Doctor gone too far?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor arrives on Heaven with a suspicion, a suspicion that all is not as peaceful as it seems. It all revolves around a book, and if he’s right, it will lead to far greater danger…
Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace has recently found out that her old friend had died back on Earth, and managed to get The Doctor to land the TARDIS in time for her to attend his funeral… She wishes this will be the last wake she attends this week, but she may be wrong on that idea…
Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman) – Bernice “Benny” Summerfield is a professor of archeology… or at least, that’s what she likes people to think. She is really into the field though, and is extremely interested in the original inhabitants of Heaven…
Jan Rydd / Aradrath (James Redmond) – Jan is a Traveller who is part of a group stationed on Heaven. He gained certain special abilities when he tried to get out of fighting the Daleks by being a scientific guinea pig…
Marie Mab Finn (Riona O’Connor) – Marie is a former Dalek Killer who now leads a group of Travellers on Heaven. She has been saving a Dalek gunstick with a single charge left in it for just the right, or wrong, occasion…
Christopher (Ela Gaworzewska) – A Priest of the Travellers who has undergone various experiments during the Dalek war. It’s left him genderless, but with extra powers, so… you take some, you lose some, I guess?
The Hoothi (Various) – The Hoothi are an ancient race of fungoid creatures that are brilliantly adept at strategy. They were defeated by the Time Lords thousands of years ago, but they have been slowly growing in strength, ready for a second attack…
Brother Phaedrus (Bernard Holley) – A member of the Church of Vacuum, an order that believes the universe was created by accident and there is no purpose in life. He has helped the Hoothi to grow stronger, and is looking forward to when he can finally die and join with them… Bit of knob, really.
A very striking cover, that’s for sure. Top work on realising the Hoothi!
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this may be Benny’s debut story, but it’s really more built around being an Ace leaving story. Now, sure, even if you just read the books you know she comes back, let alone all the audios set post-Benny, but it’s still a good story. Ace falls in love, and then acts annoyed when The Doctor seemingly doesn’t approve, but it turns out that’s because he knows Ace’s chosen love Jan is needed to sacrifice his life to defeat the Hoothi threat (more on that later). When he does, and Ace finds out that The Doctor knew about it, she doesn’t have it in her to forgive him, the rage at her love being killed and that surely the Doctor could have prevented it outweighed the fact that his sacrifice saved countless lives. It’s hard to hear, Ace properly shouting in tearful anger, and Sophie Aldred goes full force too. The Doctor wants to go after her, but Benny rightfully points out that it wouldn’t do any good. It’s good stuff.
All that being said, Benny is still well serviced in her debut. A sarcastic and often drunk archaeologist that doesn’t actually have credentials, but has a clear love of history and the want to solve mysteries unanswered in time. She plays off the rest of the cast well, and her joining The Doctor is met with cautious optimism rather than excitement, after she saw what happened with Ace.
I really liked the idea behind the Hoothi, simply put they’re another ancient and powerful race that once battled the Time Lords, but the fact that they’re strange fungi monsters, outwardly, but are actually clever and scheming is a fun twist. The idea that they set up Heaven as a place for Humans and Draconians to send their dead purely so they can feed on the corpses and very slowly make the soil of Heaven perfect for themselves shows an alarming amount of patience. Everyone they infect with their “fibres” become part of them, giving them access to all their memories, which is another frightening layer, although the massive coincidence that they had absorbed Ace’s friend on 1990s Earth in their past is… well, a hell of a coincidence, but hey-ho. I’ll let it slide! I liked how they were defeated as well (three of the four, anyway) as they absorbed the pyrokenetic Jan, who then ignited the whole of their unpleasantly described ball of muck they called a ship.
Being based on a book also lead to a good mix of side characters that felt well developed, despite the story obviously being condensed for the sake of keeping it to just over 2 hours. Finn the former Dalek Killer, Christopher the man with mental powers who had lost his gender and identity after going through the process of getting said powers, Brother Phaedrus and his evil Priest shtick, especially when he’s up against the Doctor… there are just loads of characters who are just better rounded characters than you often get due to the mostly smaller casts of the regular audios.
Although it lead to some good scenes, like The Doctor and Ace facing their ultimate fears (which was the time the Third Doctor died slowly of radiation poisoning and Ace’s mother, respectively) I wasn’t a big fan of the scenes in “Puterspace”. For a start, the name is annoying as hell, but secondly it somehow felt out of place. This is a minor thing, don’t get me wrong, but with all the imagery of Heaven and the Hoothi and so on, the idea of people putting on VR helmets and meeting in a virtual world just seemed… like I said, out of place in the story.
In the book The Doctor takes some sort of mind-altering drug in order to defeat the Hoothi, and that’s why he ends up so uncharacteristically uncaring towards Ace and her love, but in this adaptation he shows signs of not being quite with it, but we never really find out why, and that just makes certain scenes confusing…
The original book cover, because why not?
The Hoothi were actually first mentioned in the Fourth Doctor TV story “The Brain of Morbius”. The Draconians, who aren’t actually ever seen here, first appeared in the Third Doctor story “Frontier in Space”.
The Doctor’s worst memory is dying as the Third Doctor during “Planet of the Spiders”, though he claims he was in the time Vortex dying for 10 years before falling out of the TARDIS in front of Sarah Jane.
Ace would come back to travelling with The Doctor and Benny in the novel “Deciet”, which is unlikely to ever be adapted to audio. If we’re strictly speaking audio only here (and that is all my experience is here) then you just have to assume Ace rejoins them later “off-air”, so to speak, before the novel adaptation “Theatre of War”.
Love and War is a great story, it gives Ace a really good, personal story, it gives Benny a great debut, and The Doctor isn’t just written out either, as he’s given a good old fashioned ancient and powerful enemy to outwit. The rest of the cast are good in their roles and the characters nicely fleshed out too, leading to a very engaging and exciting two plus hours. It’s a fresh reminder that it’s a shame the novel adaptation range came to an end. This is highly recommended.