The Eighth Doctor is still avoiding the Time War as we reach Series 3 of the titular range, and we finally (I guess?) get a good look at the backstory for his companion, Bliss. That being said, the highlight of this double bill is the second episode, away from her muddled continuity…
Bliss has lost her home, her family, and her friends – an orphan of the Time War. The Doctor attempts to find out where things went wrong. Across a multiverse of possibilities, Bliss discovers the many paths her life could have taken – but do they always lead to the Time War?
And if Bliss can save her past, will she destroy her future – and the Doctor’s?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Not much going on here cover-wise, but the actual story is really good!
The Famished Lands, the second episode of the two, was the true standout. It’s the kind of story I imagined being told in this early stage of the Time War. The Doctor and Bliss arrive on a planet where the population is literally starving to death thanks to the war having effected the trade routes that gave the otherwise barren planet its food and goods, so they hope to do some good and help them. Sadly, there isn’t much they can do, the elite few who can manage to actually eat enough to survive have put out a partially hallucinogenic edible gunge that tricks the population into thinking they’ve eaten a nice tasting meal and are full, despite actually still starving. Even worse, the few that don’t fall under the drug’s influence are rounded up and shot in a firing line. This is all done out of “mercy”.
This obviously horrifies our two travelling companions, and when The Doctor digs deeper (and has hallucinations of green bunnies and shadows chasing him thanks to inhaling toxic gas) he finds out that the drug not only tricks their minds, but it changes them into a pretty-much-completely-skeletal and easily controlled slave army, all to combat this warring race the local residents have heard about (not knowing it’s a war between two races due to hearsay). The Doctor shows this leader (whose name escapes me!) the true terror of the war, and that a small band of battle skeletons (?) would do very little if the war ever actually reached them. She is placed back on her home planet and told to undo her work as The Doctor promises to free the old trade routes to save the planet. It was a really good story, very downbeat but with some lighter tones to offset it, and was generally the kind of story that I thought we see more of thanks to the whole “The Doctor doesn’t want to fight in the war so is travelling around trying to save all he can” thing…
Well… “shots of the cast” is about all you can say about this one as well!
Episode 1, “State of Bliss”, isn’t bad per se, but it’s a bit of a mess. It’s framed in such a way that you see a point in Bliss’ life before the Time War where she meets someone who can view other universes in the multiverse, and then normally dies or is captured, before revealing we’re experiencing another Bliss being shown that previous scene in a multiverse viewer. This goes on a few times and starts getting old before we rejoin the actual Bliss and The Doctor as we find out that a former friend of Bliss’s that we’d heard during these multiversal scenes was responsible for pulling the different universes around until she got what she wanted, meaning Bliss doesn’t really know her own life still, and if she ever set foot on her home planet then all her friends would… die, or forget her? Maybe she’d forget them? Either way, it was a bit of a mess, and didn’t get me to care much more about Bliss than I already did, and I already didn’t particularly care about her. She’s still very bland, and having her backstory become so convoluted and mixed up, while appropriate for a Time War companion, only serves to just make me throw my hands up and go “well, whatever!”.
A far more exciting and interesting cover, with everything happening in the next two parts, presumably…
Not much to say here. The Doctor remembers Sheena, the companion who got erased in the first Time War story, “The Starship of Theseus”. Other than that, it’s just a few characters and references from earlier stories in the range, including Ollistra’s former pilot-turned-Major Tamasan making a few cameos, who I guess is replacing Ollistra here due to the passing of Jacqueline Pearce.
The third series of the Eighth Doctor’s Time War adventures gets off to a shaky, confusing start before levelling off with a really good story. Hopefully the second half, which features a “what was a Valeyard doing during the Time War” question getting answered, is more like Episode 2 and less like 1.
Episode 1: State of Bliss
Episode 2: The Famished Lands