It’s odd to think that it was December of last year when the illustrious War Doctor made his Big Finish debut in Only The Monstrous; it’s three stories The Innocent, The Thousand Worlds and The Heart of The Battle were all superb for a vast array of reasons; now, a mere three months after that amazing box set, it’s time to rejoin the War Doctor during the Time War in the second box set, Infernal Devices. Comprised of another three stories, this review will focus on the first story, Legion of The Lost.
In a time of war, every means of victory must be explored. In the Time War, the unthinkable must be thought, and neither side can afford to be squeamish about their methods.
When the destruction of an obscene weapon leads to the Time Lord once known as the Doctor uncovering a secret Gallifreyan initiative, he cannot believe what is being considered.
Should victory be sought at any cost? Or are there worse possibilities than losing to the Daleks..?
After having Nicholas Briggs write all three stories of Only The Monstrous, it’s refreshing to let some of Big Finish’s other amazingly talented writers write stories for the War Doctor. In Legion of The Lost we’re introduced to a character that is seemingly Rejoice’s replacement, Collis, a Time Lady who was been sucked into taking part in the Time War. She’s on the hunt for a weapon of unfathomable power that the Daleks have their suckers on and the Time Lords want; the Annihilator. As the Doctor is on the path for the Annihilator too, he and Collis find themselves working together to try and obtain the Annihilator so the Doctor can use the weapon against itself so it has never existed.
Whilst trying to obtain the Annihilator, the Doctor and Collis find some Varga plants that originate from Skaro; once I heard the name of the plant, I was certain that I’d heard it before and, after some digging, it turns out that they were mentioned in Mission To The Unknown as well as in the Adventure Games’ City of The Daleks. This is one of the reasons I absolutely adore Big Finish, they can take small details from the past and inject them into the required moment, constantly building on the Doctor Who ethos.
David Warner as Shadovar is absolutely brilliant casting; he’s been recruited by the Time Lords to help them try and win the Time War. I love the fact that in these War Doctor stories especially, the Time Lords as a whole are shown as this desperate race that are trying to get help from anywhere in the galaxy to try and stop the Daleks; it also goes to show that the Daleks really are a seemingly unstoppable force. Shadovar is a somewhat mystical man, who has visions and understandings that even the Time Lords would struggle to comprehend, his people are known as Technomancers, people who use technology and magic in unison with one another.
John Hurt’s War Doctor interacting with David Warner’s Shadovar is absolutely stellar; the first interaction between them where Shadovar makes the Doctor a cup of tea using the Doctor’s memories of tea is wonderful, light hearted and goes to show that just because the Technomancers are seemingly the superior race to the Time Lords, it doesn’t mean they understand how everything works perfectly. I think it’s these small flashes of the War Doctor acting like the Doctor we know so well that really emphasise the contrast and how much he’s been forced to change due to the Time War.
Another great War Doctor moment is when he shows Co-ordinater Jarad his Psychic Paper and fools him into thinking that Cardinal Ollistra has given the Doctor full rights to ask any questions about what’s being planned and what technology is being developed to help the Time Lords fight the Daleks. I just love the idea that in the Doctor’s darkest hours, he still uses his Psychic Paper to get information is such a Doctor way to go about things. Other Time Lords could have easily just threatened Co-ordinater Jarad into giving them the information they require, but the Doctor being the Doctor always tries to use the most pacifistic route possible.
Whilst seemingly Shadovar and the Technomancer’s are using their power to restore the lives of fallen Time Lords and Ladies so that they can fight once more, the mentioning of the Horned Ones, the Technomancer’s god-like figure, appears to have much more dark and sinister undertones, which is complimented beautifully by the score of this release. The Horned Ones were brilliantly given just enough backstory from Shadovar to make them seem like this almighty power, this previously unstoppable force that should well be treated like gods, I really hope that John Dorney is given the opportunity to write using the Technomancer’s again, as I would be really interested to hear more about both their culture and their practices.
I mentioned before that I really liked it when Big Finish releases hark back to old stories, using slithers of information we’ve previously been given and expanding upon it; well I can say that John Dorney really has gone to town with referencing Time Lord lore from the shows past. The idea that all of the Time Lords and Ladies that have ever existed are all stored in the APC Net (or Amplified Panatropic Computer Net) was referenced in The Deadly Assassin and The Invasion of Time but has been expanded upon in Legion of The Lost. If I had a hat on, I would have to take it off to Mr. Dorney for scouring the back catalogue of Doctor Who stories and finding these threads that he could use in this release to show just how much the Time Lords are trying various ways of winning the war. For die hard fans, this story might be like Christmas has come ten months early.
One thing that I absolutely love about John Hurt’s portrayal of the Doctor is his thirst for knowledge and truth in a time of secrets, betrayal and bloodshed; the Doctor might not want to be known as the Doctor anymore, but that doesn’t mean that in his hearts he’s no longer the man he once was and will become again. When he asks Collis about what happened during her incident, which I’m not going to talk too much about, he’s not doing it to bring up bad experiences, but to gain understanding and the facts, as he suspects that something is amiss with what’s going on.
If like me, you’ve been listening to Big Finish for a while, you can probably tell what’s going on; I think I had it sussed for a while exactly what was going on. That doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the story though, as I love being proven wrong. The ritual that Shadovar completes to resurrect the fallen Time Lords is really bizarre, mainly because most people associate rituals with religious connotations and that of ancient tradition. The Technomancer’s rituals though, which involve a lot of computing power and technology just seem really odd in comparison as it’s not what you’d expect to hear; but I have to admit I absolutely loved it.
Collis’ character arc in this story is really exemplary; Zoë Tapper’s performance is so captivating, the fact she goes from a reluctant soldier to a seemingly brainwashed warrior who feels compelled to allow the Time Lords to try and win an advantage of the Time War, regardless of the cost to others is really interesting; it’s hard to get to know a character in an hour, but Dorney’s writing alongside Tapper’s performance not only gives you an understanding to Collis, but also gives her meaning, purpose and an arc that is one of the best I’ve seen or heard in any form of Doctor Who ever.
My favourite moments listening to the War Doctor are normally his quieter, more Doctorish moments, where he tries to empathise and solve a conflict peacefully; however in Legion of The Lost, there’s a moment when the Doctor gets rather… well, pissed off. Hearing John Hurt’s amazing, gravely voice get so infuriated, so annoyed at his people that he starts yelling at them is absolutely great acting on his part. He doesn’t let you forget that he is the Doctor though, as midway through yelling, he does pull out his Sonic Screwdriver. Old habits die hard I suppose.
The final act of Legion of The Lost is somewhat more calm and sombre than the first two acts of the story; there’s a lot of talking, discussion and debate between a number of characters. It’s an interesting narrative structure, having all the explosions and the chaos starting the story and seemingly winding down in pace instead of speeding up. In Legion of The Lost there’s no ticking clock, no impending doom; just the Doctor striving to understand as much of this impossible situation as possible.
John Dorney is absolutely brilliant at creating original, three dimensional characters who are flawed and as real as these fantastical people could be, I absolutely adore what he’s done in this release and what he’s brought to the War Doctor’s story. Every original character that Dorney has penned is brilliant and a mixture of loveable and loathable, making you question everyones motives and everyones reasoning.
Overall, Legion of The Lost is a great way to start the War Doctor’s second box set; the characters were phenomenal and I think that John Dorney’s interpretation of the Time War and the War Doctor is brilliant; it takes from the history of the show and develops it even more. Collis and Shadovar are two great characters that I really want to hear from again, and if anyone from Big Finish is listening, please try and make it so; either in another War Doctor box set, or even a spin off release, I don’t mind!
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Legion of The Lost, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to buy The War Doctor: Infernal Devices (and I highly recommend you do) then you can purchase it from the Big Finish website for £20 for either the download or the physical CD. Make sure you check back tomorrow for my review of the next story in the box set, A Thing of Guile!