Released in time for the 60th anniversary celebrations, Broken Hearts, featuring the Eleventh Doctor (voiced by Jacob Dudman), continues the events of Curiosity Shop, the third episode in All of Time and Space. The midpoint in the serialised “Series 7V” arc (thank you, Max Kashevsky!) which sort of acts as the second half of a two-parter, bringing 14 episodes in total; just like with Series 7 (both parts combined), if you count The Snowmen.
Valarie Lockwood (Safiyya Ingar) decides to leave the Doctor, as a result of blaming him for what he did which literally cost her cybernetic body enhancements. It’s an emotional, two-hander character study that neatly weaves into the overarching narrative. As someone who has been through depression and grief within the past few months, I can easily relate to Valarie. She has every right to resent, and so do the listeners, including Lisa McMullin who wrote this outstandingly heartbreaking, hour-long bonus episode.
The Doctor takes Valarie to Iptheus, a planet previously featured in The Famished Lands (from The Eighth Doctor: Time War 3), similarly written by McMullin. At the same time, two sentient rescue bots, Augustus and Lionel, also voiced by Dudman and Ingar, are on a mission to locate survivors on the devastated planet affected by the Time Lords’ empathetic weather – a weapon which identifies emotions and controls aggressive weather patterns, previously used against the Daleks.
With the Doctor and Valarie having to endure swimming in a thunderstorm, it’s as if they’re on the brink of drowning in sorrows (quite literally). Even later on, when the two are increasingly filled with rage, you can’t help but feel sorry for them both. The Doctor’s actions in the Time War had cost lives when he had a different face, which indeed explains the statue of the Eighth Doctor (as portrayed by Paul McGann, who doesn’t make a vocal appearance) being featured on Caroline Tankersley’s lavishing cover artwork. If you want to hear her go into detail about the statue, check out the bonus interviews.
As for the references to the Time War, the story perfectly pays tribute to The Day of the Doctor, and how it traumatically affects the Eleventh (and “final”) incarnation. (Feels like yesterday when the 50th anniversary special first aired, over a decade ago.) The atmosphere, the affliction, the anguish. Unimaginable concepts packed into a full hour, and spread out quite fluidly. I was so close to breaking down in tears at times, especially when the Doctor suddenly yells at Valarie. Dudman perfectly captures Matt Smith channeling his fury, which you can easily imagine the latter doing so onscreen. And Ingar couldn’t be magnificent enough with their layered performance as Valarie, who has already become one of my favourite Big Finish companions.
As Lisa McMullin is a devoted fan of Series 7V, we should thank producer Alfie Shaw for giving her the opportunity to bring some closure for Valarie, without leaving key aspects of her character arc unresolved. Despite her script being the very last story to be recorded in the Eleventh Doctor Chronicles range, it’s a real dream come true with fascinating results; “a story of healing”, which she describes in Who Review’s preview. And let’s give a warm welcome to Borna Matosic, who brilliantly composed the melodramatic score for Broken Hearts (with the music suite available as a bonus download). You’ll be hearing his music again in the final two volumes, Everywhere and Anywhere and Victory of the Doctor (yes, the multicoloured New Paradigm Daleks are back!), as well as the Eleventh Doctor’s new theme, Basically, Run.
Overall, Broken Hearts is one of the strongest entries in Series 7V, if not the best thus far – equally magnificent as Curiosity Shop. It’s more or less standalone, according to McMullin, hence why you don’t necessarily have to listen to this bonus episode to understand how it connects with the overarching narrative. Essentially optional.
“You don’t need to listen to this release to make sense of the series arc; I don’t want people to feel they must have it for the series to make sense.”
And my rating for Broken Hearts, by quoting the Eleventh Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks: “Out of ten? Eleven.”
Broken Hearts is available now from Big Finish, as a digital download only.