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A Legion, Guile and the Neverwhen with the War Doctor
And we’re back again with the War Doctor by Big Finish!
I enjoyed listening to ‘Only the Monstrous’, the first box set of the War Doctor audios by Big Finish starring Sir John Hurt in ‘Doctor Who’. It was a good opportunity to check out the War Doctor in Big Finish audio for the show’s 55th anniversary back in 2018. It was an interesting, listening experience.
I hoped to hear more of the War Doctor by Big Finish soon. Thankfully, I was able to when it came to some special offers provided by Big Finish in their ‘Doctor Who Returns’ sale for Series 12 in early 2020. I purchased the second CD box set by Big Finish called ‘Infernal Devices’ and was very excited.
Over the years, I’ve grown to like the concept of John Hurt’s Doctor that fought in the Time War between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston. I’m not saying I’m an immediate fan, but thanks to the Big Finish audios, they’ve provided a very interesting insight into this version of the character.
And whilst I wasn’t keen on the idea at the time when it was introduced in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, I’ve grown to accept John Hurt’s Doctor as one of the main Doctors. Very recently, I’ve taken a chance to check out more War Doctor stories, including the ‘Engines of War’ book by George Mann.
I’ve also written my own War Doctor story for the ‘Zorbius’ series called ‘The Nightmare of the Warrior’ to be published in August 2020. So yeah, whilst I’m not 100% per cent keen about the War Doctor as a concept, there are aspects to him that I like especially in the performances by John Hurt.
I did wonder how Big Finish would keep up the concept of the War Doctor in terms of the stories and the characters. How could you keep up the notion of the Doctor rejecting his title and breaking the promise he made since he had to fight in the Time War to defeat the Daleks and soon Time Lords? 😐
Well, I knew Big Finish could do wonders with the stories they made in ‘Doctor Who’ and it’s no surprise that they’d be successful in telling the stories that featured the War Doctor. So I was keen to find out what would be told further through this interpretation of the character in ‘Infernal Devices’.
‘Infernal Devices’ is once again a collection of three linked episodes. They now have three different writers as ‘Legions of the Lost’ is by John Dorney’, ‘A Thing of Guile’ is by Phil Mulryne and ‘The Neverwhen’ is by Matt Fitton. Nicholas Briggs though gets to direct all three episodes of this box set.
Like with ‘Only the Monstrous’, ‘Infernal Devices’ is a 4-disc CD set with the three episodes on the first three discs. Disc 4 is a behind-the-scenes disc which focuses on the making of ‘Infernal Devices’ with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. Each disc should be very interesting to explore. 😀
The second ‘War Doctor’ box set stars John Hurt as the Doctor, Jacqueline Pearce as Cardinal Ollistra and Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks. What new adventures entail for the War Doctor in this exciting three-parter? Let’s find out. It’s bound to be terrible and dangerous as far as the Doctor’s concerned.
1. ‘LEGION OF THE LOST’
In the first episode of ‘Infernal Devices’ called ‘Legion of the Lost’ by John Dorney, John Hurt’s War Doctor visits the planet Vildar. He meets up with this female Time Lord soldier – Zoë Tapper as Collis.
Zoë Tapper has been in the 2008 remake of ‘Survivors’ and she’s married to Oliver Dimsdale who’s also in this CD box set. I enjoyed her performance of Collis and how her character turned out in this.
Collis didn’t want to be a soldier. When she meets up with the Doctor, she doesn’t behave in the typical arrogant Time Lord manner. She is also careful to not say the Doctor’s name once they meet.
Apparently, Collis was sent by Cardinal Ollistra to find the Annihilator, which happens to be a powerful temporal Dalek weapon. The Doctor has come to Vildar to destroy the Annihilator forever.
Despite Collis’ protests to the Doctor, she doesn’t stop him in his attempts to destroy the Annihilator. They also evade Daleks on the planet Vildar and come across the deadly Varga plants. 😮
It’s nice to have the links to previous Dalek stories in the ‘War Doctor’ series by Big Finish, especially in this episode by John Dorney. Collis’ visit to Vildar becomes fatal as a Varga plant touches her skin.
It was such a shame to hear Collis being killed early on in the episode since she seemed to be a nice person, even for a Time Lord soldier. Collis’ declarations of “Kill!” and her lust to kill overwhelm her.
Very soon, the Annihilator gets destroyed by the Doctor with explosive results. Thankfully the Doctor is still alive as he; some other Time Lords and some Vildarians are recovered on the planet Aldriss. 🙂
They’re recovered by two certain Time Lords including Jamie Newall as Co-ordinator Jarad and Robert Hands as Captain Solex. These Time Lords are in cahoots with the Technomancers on Aldriss.
The Technomancers are led by David Warner as Shadovar. They’re like advanced techno-magicians who can recover people back from the dead. It becomes disturbing for the Doctor who learns more.
It was great to hear David Warner in this ‘War Doctor’ episode with John Hurt. Having met David Warner at conventions, it’s amazing to think of him in the same league of acting as John Hurt here. 🙂
In fact, I’m surprised David Warner didn’t play the Unbound Doctor against John Hurt’s War Doctor in this episode. It would’ve been pretty interesting and fascinating to hear with these two paired off.
Shadovar of course is a different character to the Doctor that David Warner plays in Big Finish. Shadovar ends up being a villain as he helps to resurrect dead Time Lords to fight in the war again. 😮
One of these Time Lords is of course Zoë Tapper as Collis. I was astounded to find Collis alive again in this episode as well as John Hurt’s Doctor. The Doctor is shocked and appalled that this has occurred.
As the episode progresses, it turns out Collis isn’t the same woman that the Doctor knew on Vildar. She’s altered in having little compassion than she used to and even has more aggressive tendencies.
The Doctor later discovers that Jarad and Solex with Shadovar are resurrecting dead Time Lords to life with the use of Vildarian corpses. It’s much the same way as humans eat meat for their dinners.
There are also little traces of the ‘Horned Ones’ that Shardovar serves in the resurrected Time Lords. Greatly appalled by what’s going on, the Doctor storms in and demands everything to be stopped. 🙂
The episode’s conclusion features a confrontation between John Hurt’s Doctor and David Warner’s Shardovar. Shardovar accuses the Doctor for heresy as well as interference in the deadly schemes. 😐
Collis, coming to realise how much she’s changed, soon has ‘magical’ powers. She summons the Annihilator and soon gets to self-sacrifice herself once the Annihilator gets used to defeat Shardovar.
At the end, the Doctor’s TARDIS comes to rescue him, Jared and Solex from Aldriss. It’s Jacqueline Pearce as Cardinal Ollistra piloting the TARDIS and she’s come to arrest the Doctor as a war criminal!
‘Legion of the Lost’ is a thrilling beginning to ‘Infernal Devices’ and it’s well-written by John Dorney. I’m curious about what’s happening and why the Doctor is being arrested. Will he get out of this? 😀
‘Legion of the Lost’ rating – 9/10
2. ‘A THING OF GUILE’
The second episode of ‘Infernal Devices’ is ‘A Thing of Guile’ by Phil Mulryne. Like John Dorney, Phil Mulryne is an actor/writer in the worlds of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish. He’s done a number of things.
At the end of the previous episode, Cardinal Ollistra arrested the Doctor as a war criminal. In this episode, Ollistra enlists the Doctor’s unwilling help to undergo a special mission to some Dalek base.
The Daleks are developing a secret weapon on Asteroid Theta 12. Ollistra takes the Doctor, Co-ordinator Jared and Captain Solex with her to the asteroid to uncover more about the Daleks’ plans.
The relationship between John Hurt’s Doctor and Jacqueline Pearce’s Ollistra is quite complex in this audio series. Sometimes it’s strained, especially as the Doctor is unwilling to partake in her missions.
Ollistra has the War Doctor on a leash – specifically an artron leash. Should he be a great distance away from Ollistra, he’ll experience great pain. The Doctor is also given the prisoner number of 101.
It was intriguing to hear the many layers of John Hurt’s Doctor when interacting with Ollistra. Sometimes he’s flippant; sometimes he’s very angry. His anger is roused by Ollistra’s war obsession.
During their mission to the asteroid, Ollistra’s team loses Jarad. The Doctor complains that Jarad wasn’t a warrior. He didn’t choose to be one. Ollistra says that Time Lords are all warriors in the end.
This goes to show how callous the Time Lords have become in their endeavours to fight in the Time War. The Doctor wishes to not fight in the Time War, but Ollistra is so eager for the fighting to go on.
It was also fascinating to hear how different the characters of Jarad and Solex are. In ‘Legion of the Lost’, Jarad was confident whereas in ‘A Thing of Guile’, he’s panicky and frightful during the mission.
Solex is also different in ‘A Thing of Guile’ compared to ‘Legion of the Lost’. He sounds more confident in this episode and seems eager in the mission he is on compared to working under Jared.
In order to get to Asteroid Theta 12, Ollistra’s team have to go on a ‘Trojan horse’ ship which happens to be the mining ship called the Tempest. The ship is sent by Gallifrey to distract the Daleks.
Aboard the Tempest are Oliver Dimsdale as Commander Trelon and Laura Harding as Navigator Valis. These two become essential, making sure the Daleks don’t get wind of Ollistra’s team mission.
I enjoyed Trelon and Valis’ scenes together in the episode, especially when they said farewell to each other as they’re about to transmat off the Tempest. Trelon has this admiration of the Doctor here. 🙂
Incidentally, when on Asteroid Theta 12, Ollstra’s team gets attacked by eldritch worms. The Doctor knows what they are. From the look of them on the CD cover, they’re like gigantic tentacle snakes. 😮
Ollistra, the Doctor and Solex soon discover the Daleks’ plans in their lab on Asteroid Theta 12. Apparently, they’re creating Kaled-like humanoids that are formed from the Dalek mutant creatures.
I’m not sure why the Daleks are doing that, but the Kaled-like humanoid specimen seems to hate its existence. It wants the Doctor to kill it, but the Doctor is feeling reluctant to kill the Kaled humanoid.
Despite the Doctor disowning his title in his John Hurt persona, there are still undeniable traces of the old Doctor left in him. It’s fascinating how Phil Mulryne addresses that in this particular episode.
After ruining the Daleks’ plans, the Doctor and Ollistra escape – Solex sadly died. The Doctor also uses the Anima device (from the Omega Arsenal) in order to turn the Daleks against each other here.
The Doctor also gets to rid himself of the artron lease under Ollistra’s control and escapes in his TARDIS, leaving her behind on Asteroid Theta 12. But the Doctor is sent on a new mission by Ollistra.
I enjoyed ‘A Thing of Guile’, finding it to be an intriguing take on the War Doctor by Phil Mulryne. I’m curious about what will happen next. Where will the Doctor be sent to next under Ollistra’s control?
‘A Thing of Guile’ rating – 8/10
3. ‘THE NEVERWHEN’
The third and final episode of ‘Infernal Devices’ is called ‘The Neverwhen’ by Matt Fitton. Matt Fitton has become a renowned ‘Doctor Who’ writer over the years, writing many stories for many Doctors.
I must admit, I haven’t found ‘Infernal Devices’ a very consistent story for the War Doctor here. That’s down to this being by three writers. But then, the last three ‘Dark Eyes’ box sets were like this.
The theme of ‘Infernal Devices’ has been about the usage of terrible weapons of destruction in the Time War by the Daleks and Time Lords. The War Doctor and Ollistra have different reactions to this.
In the final episode, John Hurt’s Doctor is taken against his will to a place called the Neverwhen. It’s a place where it exists outside of normal space and time and is so dangerous for those living inside it.
I find it fascinating how Matt Fitton takes on the atmospheres of both Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat versions of the Time War in this episode. There are a number of complexities during the tale.
The Doctor soon finds himself allying with a number of warriors whom he believes to be Gallifreyians at first. They include Barnaby Kay as Commander Thrakken and there’s also Jaye Griffiths as Daylin. 🙂
Barnaby Kay is known for being married to Nicola Walker who plays Liv in ‘Doctor Who’ with Paul McGann. He was in one episode of ‘Dark Eyes 4’ with Paul and Nicola and was in ‘The Girl Who Died’.
Jaye Griffiths has also been in two episodes of the new ‘Doctor Who’ series including ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and ‘The Zygon Invasion’, both as Jac. Both Thrakken and Daylin seem to be nice at first.
But as it turns out, Thrakken and Daylin aren’t Gallifreyans at all. They’re Kaleds…who eventually turn into Daleks in the episode. That was a pretty mindboggling surprise as I listened to this episode.
I suppose it connects well in the ‘Infernal Devices’ story to have Kaleds turning into Daleks and back again as that was reflected in ‘A Thing of Guile’. Cardinal Ollistra even makes a reference to that fact.
Speaking of which, Cardinal Ollistra also manages to get to the Neverwhen to find the Doctor there. She meets up with Tim Bentinck as General Kallix and Tracy Wiles as Commander Barnac of Gallifrey.
The Gallifreyan soldiers have fought the Kaleds turning into Daleks in the Neverwhen for a very long time. Some want to get out of the Neverwhen, but it seems so impossible. Ollistra is callous about it.
This is where the relationship between the Doctor and Ollistra is at a point of breaking down. The Doctor is thoroughly opposed to Ollistra’s views. Ollistra wishes for the Doctor to do things her way.
She even uses the artron leash on him with a second remote control. It was fiery between John Hurt’s Doctor and Jacqueline Pearce’s Ollistra. The Doctor accuses Ollistra having two black hearts. 😐
Ollistra doesn’t see it that way and wishes to get her hands on the Neverwhen weapon. The Doctor makes an attempt to use the Anima device again to make the Time Lords and Kaleds really peaceful.
But it’s no use as the Kaleds revert to their Dalek thinking rather quickly and the fighting resumes. The Doctor is distraught by this and Ollistra reiterates how war is ingrained in the Kaled/Dalek mind.
It did get baffling by the tale’s conclusion once the Doctor managed to trick Ollistra as she wanted to have the Neverwhen weapon here. Ollistra is furious with the Doctor, using the artron leash on him.
By the end, after escaping the Neverwhen, Ollistra takes the Doctor back to her Time Lord base where she puts him in a cell. But the Doctor gets to use the artron leash against Ollistra and escapes.
As the Doctor escapes, he knocks out a Time Lord guard to get to his TARDIS. He soon departs, saying some bitter words to Ollistra as he leaves. I wonder what will happen to the War Doctor next.
‘The Neverwhen’ is a mindboggling conclusion to ‘Infernal Devices’. I enjoyed the concepts featured in this episode with the Neverwhen and John Hurt and Jacqueline Pearce’s performances are superb.
‘The Neverwhen’ rating – 8/10
Disc 4 of the ‘Infernal Devices’ CD box set is an in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the three-part adventure. It has behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew of this box set. This again has been an intriguing behind-the-scenes look into the War Doctor on audio.
The documentary begins with an introduction on how this War Doctor box set came about. There are interviews with producer David Richardson, writer/script editor Matt Fitton, John Hurt and director Nicholas Briggs. Everyone was enthusiastic about making the second War Doctor CD box set.
We then go into the making of each of the three episodes of the CD box set. First up, it’s ‘Legion of the Lost’ and we have interviews with writer John Dorney, David Warner and Zoë Tapper. I enjoyed hearing how David Warner wanted to meet up with John Hurt before he became cast as Shadovar. 🙂
Next up is a look into ‘A Thing of Guile’ and there are interviews with writer Phil Mulryne as well as with Jamie Newall, Robert Hands, Oliver Dimsdale and Laura Harding. Interestingly, Robert Hands was in ‘The Empty Child’/’The Doctor Dances’! I didn’t realise that before looking him up on tardis.wiki.
And then we have a look into ‘The Neverwhen’, featuring interviews with writer Matt Fitton, Barnaby Kay, Jaye Griffiths, Tim Bentinck and Tracey Wiles. Everybody speaks of high praise for John Hurt when talking about working with him and he did seem to be a pleasant person to work with. 🙂
The documentary ends with a teaser by producer David Richardson and writer/script editor Matt Fitton on what the third War Doctor CD box set is going to be like. I’m intrigued about this. I hope it won’t be so long before I listen to the third War Doctor box set featuring John Hurt. Sounds exciting!
Overall, ‘Infernal Devices’ has been a thrilling second instalment in ‘The War Doctor’ series of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish. I don’t think it’s as good as ‘Only The Monstrous’, but that’s down to the three episodes being written by different writers as opposed to one writer who had one story to tell.
The writing for the War Doctor and the Time War is still good however and I’m pleased John Hurt has been able to deliver varying layers to his character in ‘Doctor Who’. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the third War Doctor three-part epic adventure when I get to hear it. What will the War Doctor discover next?
‘Infernal Devices’ box set rating – 8/10
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