‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The David Warner Unbound Doctor Begins

This is the first time I’ve ever listened to an Unbound ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama!

‘Sympathy For The Devil’ was released by Big Finish in June 2003. This was the second audio drama to be released in the ‘Unbound’ range of ‘Doctor Who’ audio dramas. The episode stars David Warner as the Doctor with Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier. It’s a 74 minute audio story by Jonathan Clements.

I have been avoiding these ‘Unbound’ audio dramas of ‘Doctor Who’ since I didn’t consider them as being a part of the established ‘Doctor Who’ continuity. That’s because these ‘Doctor Who’ stories provide us an alternative takes of what might have been had the Doctor gone in a different direction in his life.

So these stories are set in parallel universes. The Doctors themselves in those parallel universes don’t follow what’s in the already established continuity and take on a different path. In the case of David Warner’s Doctor, this audio takes place after ‘The War Games’ where he was exiled by the Time Lords.

The story ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ gives us the question of ‘What if…’ as is the case with many of the ‘Unbound’ stories in ‘Doctor Who’. The question here is ‘What if the Doctor had not been U.N.I.T.’s scientific advisor?’ This was an interesting question to discover and it gets unraveled in the audio story.

Instead of the Doctor being exiled to Earth in the 1970s or 80s in England as it was in the TV series, the Doctor gets exiled to Earth in 1997 on the eve of Hong Kong’s handover to the Chinese government. The Doctor also regenerates not into Jon Pertwee but into David Warner for this episode.

I have enjoyed this audio episode of ‘Doctor Who’. Despite it not being a part of the established continuity and set in a parallel universe, the episode mainly stuck to the rules of what ‘Doctor Who’ is about. It was also fun to hear David Warner playing the part of the Doctor as he excels in the role.

There is some strong language used in the episode that may be inappropriate for younger listeners of ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama. I imagine this episode would’ve suited the ‘Virgin New Adventures’ era of ‘Doctor Who’ in the early 1990s, since it has themes that do feel more adult and mature than usual.

Jonathan Clements has written some other ‘Doctor Who’ audio dramas by Big Finish featuring the mainstream Doctors. These include ‘The Destroyer of Delights’ starring Peter Davison; ‘Survival of the Fittest’ starring Sylvester McCoy; and ‘Immortal Beloved’ and ‘Brave New Town’ starring Paul McGann.

I found the setting and atmosphere interesting for this story created by Jonathan Clements. It feels downbeat and not reassuring since things have changed when the Doctor wasn’t U.N.I.T.’s scientific advisor during the 70s and 80s. It’s almost like an alternative version of ‘Turn Left’ featured in the tale.

The changes that have happened in the alternative universe without the Doctor with U.N.I.T. include the Auton invasions from ‘Spearhead From Space’ and ‘Terror of the Autons’; Mike Yates and a U.N.I.T. team sorting out the Silurians’ awakening and the ‘Probe 7 fiasco’. It feels pretty bleak in this universe.

Nicholas Courtney, ‘Sam Kisgart’, David Warner and David Tennant in ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.

David Warner stars as the Doctor in this audio adventure. I like David Warner’s Doctor in this. I’ve met David at conventions over the years and he comes across as a genuinely pleasant gentleman as well as a great actor. I can’t wait to tell David how much I’ve enjoyed his version of the Doctor in this audio.

I’ve heard David Warner in other ‘Doctor Who’ audio dramas by Big Finish before including ones with Peter Davison like ‘Circular Time: Summer’ and ‘The Children of Seth’. He’s also starred in ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’, ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ and the ‘TNG’ two-part story, ‘Chain of Command’.

David Warner’s Doctor from this audio drama became so popular that he’s had more appearances since ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. He did another audio adventure called ‘Masters of War’ with Nicholas Courtney and he has also done some ‘Doctor Who’ stories with Bernice Summerfield as his companion.

You could say David Warner is playing an alternative version of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in this audio drama. But I think David makes the role his own in this audio drama and I like how he interacts with the Brigadier as well as Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood and the Master when he has to deal with danger.

Nicholas Courtney stars as the Brigadier in this audio adventure. This is a different Brigadier compared to the one we know and love from the TV series. The Brigadier in this is a bitter, older man who didn’t have good fortune in those years when U.N.I.T. had been defending Earth without the Doctor around.

The Brigadier lost his job being charge of U.N.I.T. in the 70s and 80s because of the actions he took without the Doctor. So when the Doctor reunites with the Brigadier, the only times they encountered each other were ‘The Web of Fear’ and ‘The Invasion’. So the Brig does not know the Doctor very well.

It’s interesting how the Brigadier meets the Doctor in this version of events, since he’s not very happy to see him. He also doesn’t take the fact that the Doctor’s regenerated since the last time they met as sceptically as he did in the TV series. In this story, the Brig is in charge of a bar called The Little England.

I enjoyed Nicholas Courtney’s interpretation of an alternative Brigadier and how he essentially becomes the companion to David Warner’s Doctor. I like how the two of them interact with each other. The Brigadier gradually comes to trust the Doctor when they’re sorting out this deadly menace.

It was such a delight to hear David Tennant as Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood in the episode. Although, he’s not playing a particularly nice character in the story. David Tennant is well-known for playing the Tenth Doctor in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. He’s great to listen to with David Warner and Nicholas Courtney.

Colonel Wood is a jerk throughout the episode. He swears a lot and barks out orders like a typical army person in U.N.I.T. He dismisses the Doctor and the Brigadier and gets angry when things don’t go his way. He’s not a very pleasant ally for the Doctor and has this intriguing interaction with the Brig.

Sam Kisgart guest stars as the Master in this episode. Sam Kisgart is actually an anagram for Mark Gatiss. Clever! Mark Gatiss as the Master is superb in this. I enjoyed hearing Mark’s evil tones as the Master as he sounds charming and suave. He’s also out to cause trouble with encountering the Doctor.

It was interesting to discover how the Master ended up being stuck on Earth when he shares it with the Doctor. It was also an interesting parallel between the Doctor and the Master as well as the Brigadier and Colonel Wood in how they share various points of view when they tackle a crisis in China.

The cast and crew of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. From left to right: Peter Griffiths, Stuart Piper, David Tennant, David Warner, Liz Sutherland, Nicholas Courtney, Trevor Littledale and Mark Wright.

The cast also includes Liz Sutherland as Ling; Trevor Littledale (who I’ve heard in ‘Circular Time: Summer’ and ‘Vengeance of the Stones’) as the Abbot; Mark Wright as Marcus; Peter Griffiths as Captain Zerdin and Stuart Piper as Adam. All of the cast deliver good performances in this audio drama.

Throughout this audio adventure, I found myself interested into what was happening and how things had changed in the alternative universe for the David Warner Doctor. I feel though that the climax was rushed with panic happening and our heroes trying to stop the Master during the final showdown.

I would’ve liked it had this audio episode been given more time to explain what has happened when the Master was defeated before the Doctor and the Brigadier escaped into the TARDIS. Otherwise this was very enjoyable audio drama and I like how this parallel universe was depicted with David Warner.

And yes, you heard me right. David Warner’s Doctor manages to get the TARDIS going with the Brigadier joining him, despite the Time Lords having placed an inhibitor on his ship. It seems the Doctor managed to get out of his exile by the Time Lords too soon, though the Master had a part to play here.

‘Sympathy For The Devil’ is a pretty enjoyable ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama to listen to. I enjoyed David Warner’s version of the Doctor and his interaction with the Brigadier. David Tennant and ‘Sam Kisgart’ were also great too. I hope I’ll get to hear more ‘Doctor Who’ audios with David Warner’s Doctor.

‘Sympathy For The Devil’ rating – 8/10

The previous story

For the Second Doctor was

  • ‘Devious’ (DVD)

For the Brigadier was

The next story

For the Unbound Doctor is

  • ‘Masters of War’ (Audio)

For the Brigadier is

  • ‘Masters of War’ (Audio)
Return to The Unbound Doctor’s Timeline
Return to The Brigadier’s Timeline
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
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2 thoughts on “‘Sympathy For The Devil’ (Audio)

  1. Timelord 007

    Tim are you mind reading again because you summed up exactly what i liked and dislike about this audio drama, my main criticism was the ending it felt very rushed & didn’t give a clear explanation of The Masters fate, it always irks me when a interesting story build up drama & suspense to then deliver anti-climax conclusion, barring that i enjoyed it, great performances by the cast especially David Warner & Nick Courtney, although hearing David Tennant cursing is a little disconcerting but he does play the part extremely well.

    Another brilliantly reviewed audio drama Tim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.

      Yeah this audio had something going for it in the build up and it’s such a shame that everything felt rushed with how the Master was defeated by the Doctor and the Brigadier. Otherwise I enjoyed this audio episode with David Warner’s Doctor and Nicholas Courtney’s Brigadier with David Tennant and Mark Gatiss. Yeah, I didn’t like it when David Tennant kept swearing a lot in the story, but he’s a very good actor and I found his performance compelling here.

      This is the first time I’ve encountered David Warner’s Unbound Doctor. I don’t know if I’ll be reviewing ‘Masters of War’ very soon. But I’m glad I’ve done this one and I can always refer back to it should I forget what happened when it comes to hearing ‘Masters of War’. I’ve also got the story as a download from Big Finish. I’m going to see if I can get into the habit of that when it comes to getting stories I want to hear from Big Finish and not have them as physical purchases.

      Many thanks for your comments, Simon. Glad you enjoyed this review and that you concur with my thoughts on the story.

      Tim. 🙂



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