The chronicles of the War Doctor really land on their feet with this latest release, there’s no denying it. After a solid, if somewhat pensive, start within the first two volumes, events really start to take shape with Doctor Who – The War Doctor 3: Agents of Chaos.
In fact, this reviewer will happily state that this is the best set of stories that have been released thus far. Taking the Doctor from post war Berlin on Earth all the way to the centre of a battle TARDIS for a final and heart pounding final stand-off with the Dalek time strategist.
Whereas the first two volumes added a little background to the character of an unknown and unapproachable Doctor, Agents of Chaos paints a far more vivid picture of events during the Time War. Moving beyond the simpler mission statement of offering an audience more of the War Doctor and more of the Daleks, listeners are offered a look at some of the more nefarious strategies deployed during the dark days of the Time War.
Here we have John Hurt at his swaggering best, not so focused on the loss of his name or hammering home that he is no longer the Doctor in his own mind. Here we have our favourite Time Lord in full control of his solider element, making tough decisions quickly and not stopping to think of the usual ramifications of his actions. Causality and the integrity of the web of time are not high on his list and in negating these self-imposed rules that he followed in previous incarnations offers maybe the greatest insight into this particular Doctor’s mindset yet
Over the course of three hours we follow the Doctor and his fellow Time warriors on a journey against the Dalek time strategist, a creature of pure malevolence and disregard. This may well be one of Nicholas Briggs’ finest Skaro creations yet, the strategist is a self-assured egotist with a voice that purrs as well as mocks all that do not believe his chronicling of events are set in stone. The hubris pouring out of this particular Dalek is one of the most interesting aspects of the entire saga and certainly gives its recent television counterparts a strong run for their money. These are the kind of genetically engineered monsters that one would expect to be created for a Time War, not just soldiers and Supremes. Hopefully we’ve not heard the last of this arch schemer yet.
Cardinal Ollistra also gets more to do this time around as well but rather than have her character simply ‘reset’ to nasty Time Lord at the end of events, ready for the next round of war shenanigans, the listener is taken on a wonderfully constructed arc so that by the end of Eye of Harmony, you feel that she has grown somewhat as a person. It’s for the first time that you get to see the chink in the amour here, this isn’t a woman bread for war, no mere warrior resurrected to fight on the front line, this is a Time Lord that has been thrown in at the deep end and is doing her best to protest her planet and the web of creation. It’s not realised by a soppy scene of repentance or anything as simple as that, but merely certain small moments over the course of two hours that lead the listener to believe there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Running alongside the character development is the stunning plot that runs throughout the offered package. The Daleks schemes are audacious and events culminating in Eye of Harmony offer one of their most epic attacks against Gallifrey to date, something so clever that it stands strong against Void ships and reality bombs. We also get a glimpse of the Sontarans trying to muscle in on the Time War action. Their plans also hold up well, allowing the listener to peek behind the curtain to see how clever the little potatoes can really be when they want to.
Waiting around won’t do you any good, go out and discover this powerful set of stories yourself. They’re an excellent offering from Big Finish and a powerful diary entry regarding the days and horrors of the Time War.
Doctor Who – The War Doctor Volume 3: Agents of Chaos is available now from the Big Finish site on CD or Download for £20.