The most illustrious Doctor ever; the War Doctor has been in one full episode, the amazing fiftieth anniversary special The Day of The Doctor, he made a cameo at the end of the Series 7 finale, The Name of The Doctor and we’ve had an amazing novel dedicated to him in Engines of War. Sadly, for Whovians, that’s all we really expected we’d get of John Hurt’s incarnation of our favourite Time Lord, but thankfully Big Finish banished those nightmarish scenarios and has brought him back and flung him into the depths of the Time War itself. With four box sets announced, each with three hour long stories, we can expect at least twelve hours of the War Doctor.
The Thousand Worlds is the second act in the first box set, entitled Only The Monstrous. The question is, will these stories meet the exceptionally high expectations of the Doctor Who community?
With the high-ranking Time Lord Seratrix behind enemy lines, the War Doctor finds himself assigned to a rescue mission. But any room for manoeuvre is severely restricted by an area of space known as the Null Zone.
Times have changed on Keska, and a countdown to destruction is beginning.
But who are the Taalyens and what is their part in the great and terrifying Dalek plan?
In some ways, the first part of this box set feels as if it’s a prequel; the calm before the oncoming storm (see what I did there?). The Innocent felt more as a piece establishing the War Doctor with the listener again and beginning to understand his motivations. If that is the case, then The Thousand Worlds is certainly more of the action side of the story. I listened to The Innocent and immediately wrote the review, without looking at any of the synopses for the other adventures in the box set. If you remember, I was distraught that at the end of The Innocent, Cardinal Ollistra removed Rejoice from the War Doctor’s TARDIS as it appeared they were ready to embark on a whole new adventure. Thankfully for me, the beginning of this episode sees the Doctor return to Rejoice’s planet of Keska, albeit unintentionally in a much worse state than he left it in. He did say that every planet was slowly being consumed by the raging Time War, and he definitely wasn’t wrong. When he returns to the planet, he finds that the Daleks are rife on the planet, using slaves to help mine to the planet’s core. The Doctor is here on a rescue mission, as a fellow Time Lord called Seratrix appears to be missing in action.
One of my favourite parts of this story, along with any Doctor Who story, is when the Doctor doesn’t fully understand either where he is, what’s going on or why he’s been brought here. If there’s one thing I love seeing, it’s the Doctor not knowing everything. As a character, that’s exactly who he should be; someone who enters a situation unknowing of all the facts, then they find out the hidden truths and takes a moral stand to bring justice to wherever and whenever he is. It’s great to hear John Hurt’s amazing, gravely voice asking questions and being rather sarcastic in the process. The scenes early in the story when he’s asking where and when he has landed gave me great delight, as we saw flashes of both the Fourth and Sixth Doctor’s in his taunts.
The perk of ‘coincidentally’ being landed back on Keska is that it means there’s a rather large chance (this is Doctor Who after all), that we’ll stumble across some old friends we met in The Innocent. Hearing the return of the could-be-companion, Rejoice was an absolute delight. It turns out her story is similar to Amelia Pond’s in Series 5, however the outcomes were totally different. Whereas the Doctor’s lack of reappearance made Amy somewhat spiky and resentful during The Eleventh Hour, Rejoice seemed overjoyed that the Doctor was back, especially during their hour of need. After finding out that the Daleks are supposedly mining a thousand worlds (which is where the title stems from), the Doctor tries to find out exactly what the plan is. A common Doctor Who plot device, but one that works exceptionally well here.
I thoroughly enjoy when we get new versions of any villain in Doctor Who, whether it be a new incarnation of The Master/Missy, a new upgrade for the Cybermen or a reimagining of the Ice Warriors, I always watch attentively to see how this change will affect the worlds of Doctor Who. When it comes to the Daleks though, there’s only really one person whom I know I fully trust. Nicholas Briggs. Despite being the voice of the Daleks, as well as many other nightmarish monsters from the show, Nick also writes for the monster exceptionally well in the Big Finish Productions. My first experience was during Dark Eyes when I was introduced to the Dalek Time Controller; an absolutely fascinating creation that should be in the TV series. In this story, Briggsy (I’m allowed to call him that because he’s tweeted me and I interviewed him for my college A-Levels) again decided to add another rank of Dalek to the already existing canon; the Prime Dalek. This new Dalek seems to be another Dalek leader, akin to the Supreme Dalek or the Dalek Emperor, but on a smaller scale. Who knew the most evil pepper pots in the universe could micromanage?
There’s a revelation around the Eighth chapter in the story that I won’t ruin for anyone wanting to listen to, but I will say that it’s not totally unexpected if you have any history with the Time Lords. The thing that really shocks is when the extent of what this means is revealed in the final chapter of the story. A brilliant piece of storytelling from Nick Briggs.
The Doctor and Rejoice though work exceptionally well as an older team, and I hope that this could-be-companion quickly becomes an actual companion, not only for the concluding part of Only The Monstrous but the rest of the War Doctor releases from Big Finish.
This story has made me desperate to listen to the concluding part of this box set, The Heart of The Battle. But one thing’s for certain, after the previous two instalments, this concluding story has a hell of a lot to live up to.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Thousand Worlds, I will give a rating of: