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 Heart Of The Battle is the final 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?
Trapped in a citadel swarming with Daleks, the Time Lord rescue force must find a way to overcome insurmountable odds. With the Daleks apparently planning to rule the Null Zone, perhaps their thirst for universal conquest and victory has been quenched…
The War Doctor doesn’t believe so — but how can he prove it without destroying any chance of peace?
As the countdown to the destruction of Keska proceeds, a deadly choice must be made… A choice that will define this Doctor, and perhaps forever cast him in the role of ‘monster’.
As the concluding part to this amazing box set, having to review The Heart of The Battle is somewhat bittersweet. On one hand, it means we get a great story, but on the other hand it means we have to wait until February to get any more War Doctor stories.
This story really seems like a grand Doctor Who adventure; we have the Doctor and his companion, Rejoice fighting the Daleks; a misguided Time Lord, a purely evil Time Lord in Cardinal Ollistra and events that tie up the previous two stories, The Innocent and The Thousand Worlds.
I really don’t want to give too many spoilers for this story, as I wouldn’t dare ruin some of the twists and turns this story has to offer the listeners. If there’s one thing that I really appreciated in this story, it was how much Cardinal Ollistra seems to develop. I have to admit that in The Innocent she seemed a bit average for an evil Time Lady, with no real flare such as the Rani, however in this story she really does become a character that you can’t help but absolutely hating; I hope we hear much more of this character in the next War Doctor box set, Infernal Devices.
John Hurt’s performance in this story is, in my opinion, the strongest of this box set; it seems that he’s fully understood his character, the War Doctor’s motivations and how raw and rough he can make his performance. There wasn’t a moment in this story where I wasn’t convinced that this character John Hurt was playing was truly a Time Lord ravaged by the devastations of war. One thing I noticed whilst listening to this story was that I feel like we’ve seen flashes of the War Doctor before we were even aware that the War Doctor existed. The War Doctor portrayed in this story reminded me so much of the Tenth Doctor in his final two adventures, The Waters of Mars and The End of Time. Especially at the end of The End of Time when we see a Doctor who has just seemingly defeated the Time Lords and is still dying. I’m fully aware that Russell T Davis wasn’t planning this all along, however I feel that the Tenth Doctor who was capable of ‘so much more’ is very reminiscent of the War Doctor we see here.
Another Doctor that the War Doctor reminds me of in this story is Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, when he plays the manipulative fool around midway through the story; it’s great that this incarnation seems to show flashes of his past selves.
Even though he’s been a mainstay in this box set, both having written the stories and voiced the Daleks, I haven’t really mentioned him in these three reviews. Nicholas Briggs, I salute you. I know you’re not writing a story for Infernal Devices, but the foundations you’ve laid down in this box set is sure to be strong enough to make the next box sets as successful as yours. I also have to personally thank you for including my favourite line for a Dalek to speak; ‘What is happening?’ There is nothing I love more than hearing a Dalek that is bamboozled by some aspect they didn’t foresee.
After hearing this story, it’s fairly obvious that unlike the Dark Eyes saga, or Doom Coalition, these War Doctor box sets are more standalone. The majority of the loose ends from Only The Monstrous are tied up, bar one or two; however I think it’s good that Big Finish are dabbling in both box sets that the casual listener can pick and choose with as well as having episodic saga’s that require more commitment.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Heart Of The Battle , I will give a rating of: