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Reviewed: The War Doctor Volume Two – Infernal Devices

With a spectacular bang, the War Doctor returns this month with further stories to satisfy those who want to find out more about those mysterious lost years of the Universe in which the Time Lords and the Daleks fought the Last Great Time War.
Infernal Devices offers three tales of horror, loss, grief, hatred, scheming, betrayal, and suffering. You may be concerned that that’s too much for your average Doctor Who story but thanks to some top notch acting, stimulating writing and tender direction, Big Finish’s second set of War Doctor tales is a wonderful triumph.
It’s difficult to explain the entire story without giving away precious plot details and twists but suffice it to say that this is where the War Doctor really finds his own voice. First uncovering a Time Lord plot to ensure ground troops are always available for battle, then whisked into a nasty Dalek experiment that culminates in one of their nastier schemes before finally uncovering the secret of the Neverwhen, something first referenced in TV’s The End of Time (2009/10). All of these stories link together to form one colossal, horrific plan concocted by both Time Lords and Daleks alike.
The horrors of war are explored in great depth with these stories. How far will one side go to win a war? The answer, especially from the Doctor’s point of view, is too far. Alongside sumptuously written allegories to Earth’s two World Wars, especially its first in which weapon technology changed rapidly during conflict, it’s fascinating to delve deeper into these two mighty races and discover the underhand tactics that they used to try and win the Time War. The Time Lords looking to enhance themselves, shunt their physicality’s into a realm more useful for hostilities. The Daleks looking to their past in order to corrupt their future and find better ways to kill. These ideas have been explored by both sides on television before but to have them moved in to the context of desperation to win a war give it a far more repulsive aspect. With the final act of Infernal Devices, we discover exactly what the Time Lord stratagem has culminated to – and it’s far from pleasant. Technology has overrun an entire planet and something that was alluded to in The End of Time Part Two is presented in all its terrible reality. The path to peace is never an easy one when it comes to war, a Time War even more so it seems, as the awful truth is revealed of exactly what has been concocted by the nasty Cardinal Ollistra in order for Gallifrey to reign victorious throughout the Universe.
War Doctor Infernal Devices set
Effectively, Infernal Devices helps us to understand a greater depth of the pure evil that drove the Time War. The weapons that both sides used were always thought to have been the more unimaginable horrors beyond the concept of lower species; this second boxset explains in great detail some of those chosen weapons. It’s no easy thing to do, describing something that is indescribable but it’s handled well hear and serves to elaborate on the missing years of the Doctor and the war he fought. Whereas Only the Monstrous was a far more personal story for the War Doctor, this second set of tales takes on a far larger scale and at the same time completely delivers.
The War Doctor himself is also given a larger reveal and more time is put into explaining his rationalisation and reasoning as a man who has discarded his own name. Infernal Devices shows a Doctor truly in contempt of himself and at the same time unshackled from self-loathing in order to be the best solider that he can for his planet and his people. From callous indifference to characters, to final solutions that no other Doctor could live with, we finally start to get a flavour of this incarnation as someone who is simply not the man he was. It’s a glorious effort and serves to engage the listener all the more. John Hurts burns a brilliant colour with his performance as the Doctor: alike yet unalike, this is a War Doctor that serves to intrigue and sadden at the same time; one starts to see exactly the kind of weight he was carrying on his shoulders in the unknown years.
But despite the visceral setting of a Universal war, Infernal Devices has much to enjoy. Clever stories, sublime performances and the correct amount of Dalek interjection as well, not too much and not too little. It’s from this point on you can imagine where the later iterations of the Time Lords and the Daleks that we’ve seen on the revived TV show came from. The plotters, the schemers, the thinkers and the pragmatists. The Cult of Skaro, Rassilon’s High Council – you can listen to this set of stories and imagine them beginning to form.
This is an important and largely unexplored part of the Doctor’s past. Perhaps most of it should stay buried where it belongs, but with stories such as these, a little trip back now and then won’t hurt anyone.
The War Doctor: Infernal Devices is available as a CD boxset or via download from Big Finish.

Mez Burdett

Reviewed: The War Doctor Volume Two – Infernal Devices

by Mez Burdett time to read: 4 min
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