AUDIO REVIEW: The War Doctor Vol.1 - Only The Monstrous

The War Doctor - Only The Monstrous
Written by Nicholas Briggs

Starring John Hurt

Out Now - Buy HERE

Review by Emrys Matthews

The Doctor is dead. As the Daleks mass their time fleet for a final assault on Gallifrey, something ancient is waiting for them at Omega One. Meanwhile, on the planet Keska, a parochial war has returned to plague a peaceful civilisation after decades of tranquillity. But how can such a war have any connection with the great Time War, and who is this stranger taking up the Time Lord’s cause?

With the whole Big Finish team behind it, and the blessing of the BBC, The War Doctor, AKA John Hurt, brings his “not the Doctor” Doctor to audio, and boy does this story pack a wallop. It’s a dramatic and epic movie for the ears that sees the as yet untouched “years” of John Hurt’s War Doctor brought to life on audio for the very first time.

Firstly I want to praise this piece’s writer and Director Nicholas Briggs, who’s work for Big Finish has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. This, however is undoubtedly his best work to date. Taking his passion for war movies as an impetus has given this story a great grounding, but adding the War Doctor into that structure breaks the mould from the get-go. The three part movie-like story feels more like the three acts of a film than three individual stories, this works to the story's strength.

Starting at the very beginning, there is a really tremendous new version of the infamous theme music, that feels aptly epic to parallel the feel of the story. The adventure walks that perfect line between plot focused and character developing; it suitably supports the development of these first ever adventures of a new “Doctor.” There are some wonderful touches in the script harking back to previous Dalek adventures and possibly allusions to the War Doctor’s later regeneration.

John Hurt is INcredible. He totally gets that his War Doctor can be everything the other, regular incarnations of the Doctor cannot. He brings a real tempered sadness and resigned quality and clearly has a huge amount of respect for the role. Lucy-Briggs Owen and Carolyn Seymour also turn in first-rate, relatable and emotionally connected performances as the Doctor’s one-off companion for this story, Rejoice. Finally, Jacqueline Pearce as the Time Lord leader Cardinal Ollistra has wonderful chemistry with co-star and friend John Hurt.

One is truly hard-pressed to find any critique of this wonderful adventure, perhaps taking the War Doctor’s moral boundaries, or lack thereof, further in future stories would be the only suggestion.

This is a great jumping on point for new listeners; more than ever and doesn’t rely on having much prior knowledge. It is truly encouraging to see the burgeoning relationship between the BBC and Big Finish, with releases like The War Doctor, UNIT, Jago & Litefoot & Strax and the upcoming David Tennant/Catherine Tate audios, these two worlds of Doctor Who are growing closer and closer together.

The War Doctor Vol. 1 - Only The Monstrous hits the ground running and beautiful lays the ground work to take this totally untouched yet entirely official incarnation of the Doctor to truly fascinating places. The last line gives chills, and if the next part of this new series is handled as carefully and clearly as this, listeners will be on tenterhooks in anticipation.

Thanks to Big Finish

Review by Emrys Matthews

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