This. Means. War! This week, we’re being thrown back into the middle of the Time War with the War Doctor. Today, we look at the second release in the third box set with the War Doctor, Agents of Chaos, entitled The Eternity Cage…
Sontarans are the ultimate warriors – so they believe – and the Time War the ultimate conflict. Denied that glory by Skaro and Gallifrey alike, General Fesk of the Eighth Sontaran Battle Fleet employs a dangerous strategy to draw both sides to the planet Rovidia and prove his forces worthy…
Meanwhile, the War Doctor leads a rescue mission, aided by Rovidian street-urchin Kalan. Neither Daleks nor Time Lords expect the Sontarans to be so fearsome a foe, until they uncover the secret of the Eternity Cage.
I love the Sontarans. As long as they are Sontarans. As in warriors. But that’s a rant for another day. We start where The Shadow Vortex left off; Heleyna has told the Doctor that Cardinal Ollistra has been kidnapped. Even for the Doctor, this isn’t good. Whilst Ollistra isn’t the Doctor’s bestest friend ever, it’s always good for the Doctor to know where she is and what she’s doing. From the off, the basic premise of The Eternity Cage seems straightforward; the Doctor has to find and recover Ollistra.
We quickly learn who has kidnapped Ollistra too; if you look at the cover of this release, it shouldn’t be too hard to work it out. It seems that the Sontarans are going to use Ollistra as a bargaining chip; a great tactical move by any rate. (Within the first two minutes of the story, I was internally thanking Andrew Smith for nailing how to write the Sontarans. This is how it’s done, people! Take note.) Understandably though, the Doctor isn’t too fond of the idea of rescuing the woman who has brandished him a war criminal; but with the Doctor being the Doctor, he can’t say no.
With this being a Doctor Who story, it’s evident that this can’t be a straightforward rescue; the Sontarans didn’t just attempt to negotiate with the Time Lords. They’re so desperate to be a part of the Time War that they’ve also offered Ollistra to the Daleks if they allow the Sontarans to fight in the war. Suddenly, the stakes seem a hell of a lot higher, and we’ve not even got to the title sequence yet…
After the title sequence, things don’t calm down either; with a full on attack from the Daleks on the Sontarans; the only thing is, the Daleks don’t seem to be winning, which shouldn’t be possible. Could it be that the Sontarans would in fact be the missing piece to either side winning the Time War? Have these dome-headed warriors got something up their sleeve? It seems that only time will tell…
There’s a great scene between the Daleks and the Sontarans whilst the Sontarans are attempting to come up with an agreement that is ver reminiscent of the scene between the Daleks and the Cybermen in Doomsday. The Daleks don’t compliment very well at all. Nor do they manage to fall with grace. I must say, it’s obvious when Nicholas Briggs is having fun playing a Dalek; and a Dalek being killed sounds like the best day ever for Mr. Briggs. Never before has death sounded so delightful.
Once the Doctor, Heleyna and the Time Lord recovery crew arrive on Rovidia, they soon meet a local called Kalan who tells them all about the moonheads and the robots that have arrived on the planet recently; Kalan also knows about a lady who the moonheads are keeping prisoner, and soon the Doctor (now known as Greybeard) and his gang decide to use Kalan’s knowledge to assist them. If you ask me though, it seems that Kalan’s knowledge is more than likely a bit more than a coincidence…
Since the Dalek Time Strategist and Ollistra are both now prisoners of the Sontarans, it seems like the perfect time for these two to sit down (can Daleks sit? Or are they always sitting?) and have a nice chat. Time Lady to Dalek. Just as it should be. It’s odd and discombobulating but in the best possible way. Having these two extremely powerful figures in the Time War reduced to doing what they were always going to do. Sit down and talk! (Sound familiar?)
Whilst Greybeard is on his way to rescue Ollistra, he stumbles upon a Battle TARDIS (which is extremely useful if you ask me) and he gets a mysterious pain in his head that is seemingly leading him to Ollistra’s whereabouts, or so he thinks. Is anyone else getting a Harry Potter vibe, or is it just me? Like how Voldemort planted thoughts into Harry’s head. And John Hurt is in it. It’s only a matter of time before we get an article asking is Ollivander a Time Lord? The answer is no, by the way.
Once the Doctor discovers where the source of his head-thoughts are coming from, things only get more and more complicated. Which I have to say I’m glad of; I prefer stories where I have to think and scratch my head. Especially when the story is in the Time War; I want timey-wimey and complicated. It turns out that the Eternity Cage that the title refers to, is almost like Schrodinger’s box.
The final act of The Eternity Cage is incredibly complex and meticulous, showcasing just how much of a genius that the Doctor really is; and how his judgment is more or less always best. Hearing John Hurt’s incarnation of the Doctor attempt to still be the Doctor amidst everything that’s going on around him really solidifies this incarnation of our favourite Time Lord as one of the most Doctor-like ever. It would be easy for the Time War to make him merciless; a violent murderer who shoots first and thinks later. But he isn’t. I love him for that.
The conclusion of The Eternity Cage is really a rollercoaster ride of emotion; from relief to fear to relief to utter shock. This is how you do a cliffhanger.
Overall, The Eternity Cage is an extremely strong story, which, in some regards, could also be a second part to Andrew Smith’s earlier release this year involving the Sontarans in the Time War in The Sontaran Ordeal from Classic Doctors, New Monsters. The Eternity Cage also perfectly sets up the final release in this box set, Eye of Harmony and Andrew Smith is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers for the Sontarans.
Should you want to purchase The Eternity Cage, it’s currently available as part of The War Doctor: Agents of Chaos box set from Big Finish which can be purchased here for £20.00 for either the CD or the download.