After meeting old friends Jago and Litefoot in last months Fourth Doctor release, The Beast of Kravenos, now it’s time to get reacquainted with some old enemies. The Fourth Doctor, the Sontarans, a war. It’s like it was always meant to be. But will The Eternal Battle be an eternally great story, or will it be a casualty of war?
The TARDIS has landed in a war zone. The Doctor, Romana and K9 find themselves traipsing through an inhospitable battlefield. Strange lights flicker in the sky, and stranger creatures lurk in the darkness.
When rescued from an attack by a Sontaran tank, the time-travellers discover they’re facing a far more dangerous foe than the battle-hungry clones. This terrifying fight has been going on longer than anyone can remember… and shows no signs of stopping.
With the TARDIS missing and their luck running thin, the Doctor and his friends’ only hope of survival is to uncover the truth about what is happening on this planet. If they can discover the secret of the eternal battle they might just survive… but it might just mean the end of them all.
Who’d’ve thought that we’d start a Doctor Who release with a stirring speech about bravery in times of war from a Sontaran? I certainly didn’t. Tell you what though, they’re bloody good at it.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is trying to take Romana and K9 to a pencil museum, because why not? You can probably guess that it doesn’t seem to be though, otherwise this would be a greatly average episode. If there’s one thing you can’t call the Fourth Doctor or Big Finish, it’s greatly average. It’s not long before the Doctor and his TARDIS team are being chased by an unfriendly humanoid species.
Something that has really piqued my interest (I’m typing this very sentence a mere thirteen minutes into the story) is how much of a character analysis of the Sontarans The Eternal Battle seems to be. There’s lots of interesting lines that are scattered that make you question if you really know everything about the potato-headed soldiers; it shows you that not everything is so binary.
I have to applaud Cavan Scott and Mark Wright for writing the Doctor and Romana as a sassy, sarcastic and condescending double-act who are using their words in attempt to rile the Sontarans into an unlikely confession. This is exactly what it would be like as a televised story, and I absolutely love it.
In previous reviews, I’ve talked about how I don’t often miss a trick in Big Finish stories, and I always have a sense of what any potential twist might be; I think that it’s safe to say that I have to stop saying I tend to work out a twist though, as the past few months I’ve been caught off guard left, right and centre. The Eternal Battle is no exception. What I loved though, was that this twist didn’t come right at the end of the first episode; it came about half way through.
Considering we had such a revelation midway through the first episode, the cliffhanger of the story appears to be adding another thread to the story, making the titular eternal battle a war involving three parties. Just like when you’re playing a multiplayer game and Player 3 comes to shake things up. Boy I like this story.
The second episode kicks off with the TARDIS team in a huge metaphorical pickle (although now I want the Fourth Doctor to end up trapped in a literal pickle. Any Big Finish writers that are reading this review, please make it so.)
Giving the Fourth Doctor a Sontaran as an interim companion is yet another genius stroke from Scott and Wright; as it creates a whole new Doctor/companion dynamic. Likewise with Romana and K9 having the task of looking after another Sontaran.
One thing that really interests me is how the second episode of The Eternal Battle genuinely feels like the latter half of a two-parter; whilst it continues the story from the previous episode, it also has a totally different feel, especially with the inclusion of a few new characters. All I will say is, if you like your video games, there’s a computer in the second episode that seems to have taken some lessons from a certain Aperture Science testing computer.
The conclusion of The Eternal Battle feels a tiny bit rushed if I’m being honest; but that’s the nature of having a story that’s only an hour long; unlike some endings though, this one really does feel like a satisfactory payoff. Everything is wrapped up in a bow. We even get a fleeting mention of one of the Doctor’s favourite soldiers. This is how a story should end.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Eternal Battle, it’s a fun Sontaran story that goes against convention and takes more twists and turns than a really indecisive snake. One area of the story that I really have to commend is the music and sound design; the music is rather prominent in this release, and I think it’s easy to see why. Jamie Robertson has once again done an absolute stellar job, and his work is gladly showcased. Readers will know that I didn’t really enjoy The Beast of Kravenos last month, but I think it’s safe to say that The Eternal Battle is a return to form for the Fourth Doctor.
Should you want to purchase The Eternal Battle, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.