The Doctor and Ollistra have moved on, stowing away in the Editor’s time machine; there’s a scoop about a story, about a guerrilla force who’re fighting against the Daleks. The question is, who is The Lady of Obsidian? From the cover, I think we have a fairly good idea; but there’s only one way to find out…
As a Dalek Strike Fleet heads to destroy another defenceless world, the Doctor seeks help from a shadowy guerrilla force. The Time War leaves many casualties in its wake, and inside the Obsidian Nebula the monstrous Unlived are held at bay only by the ‘Lady’ and her dwindling band of fighters. The War Doctor soon finds himself at the Lady’s mercy, and two old friends face new revelations…
We start the story a small period of time after Pretty Lies, as the Doctor seems to have been doing his homework. I have to say right from the off that I enjoy the fact we’ve had a small passage of time left out between the events of the two stories, as it gives the listener the opportunity to draw their own conclusions, and gives more time to the meat of the tale. We learn that the Doctor is looking for the titular Lady of Obsidian; and there’s an absolutely brilliant flashback, something that Big Finish rarely does, which of course is filled with the Doctor’s humour and lack of tact.
There’s a nice bit of exposition about who the Lady of Obsidian is; we learn that she’s incredibly compassionate and fighting against the Daleks, saving many lives. It’s not long before the Doctor learns that the Lady of Obsidian is (and possible spoilers here, although not really) Leela.
I must admit that one thing I found rather interesting in the early scenes of this release is how Cardinal Ollistra’s character seems to have changed somewhat; going from a Time Lady who just wants to get results and give the Daleks a good thrashing in the Time War, to being someone who is more compassionate, and seems to care (even if she’s hesitant to show it) about the repercussions of her actions on the innocent people that are being dragged into this war.
Personally, I think that The Lady of Obsidian is real tonal shift from Pretty Lies, and to an extent, to the rest of the War Doctor stories; I can’t quite put my finger on it, I think it might be because the Dalek Time Strategist is playing much more of a predominant role, but this story has a real sense of foreboding, which I absolutely adore. This is real edge-of-your-seat stuff.
The moment when the Doctor and Leela reunite, it’s an extremely moving moment, especially due to the circumstances of which it happens. The Doctor might have finally found a friend amidst the Time War, but that doesn’t mean everything is going to be rosy from now on. It seems that Leela has too been a casualty of the Time War, in a way that I honestly didn’t expect. This isn’t the Leela that you’re familiar with.
Louise Jameson gives one of the most heart wrenching performances I’ve ever heard from her; of course, the performance can only ever be as good as the scriptwriting, and Andrew Smith has done a stellar job. You really do get a sense that the Time War has changed everyone, from the Doctor to Ollistra to Leela.
If there’s one gripe I have with The Lady of Obsidian, is that the action scenes involving the Daleks are fairly run of the mill. I know there’s only a limited amount of ideas you can have when battling a militaristic fleet of pepper pots that have a tendency to just shout one word over and over, but part of me wishes you could have a battle with the Daleks that felt a little more original.
During the concluding minutes of The Lady of Obsidian, we get a lot of payoffs, for the Doctor, Leela and Ollistra. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because why would I? But they’re very satisfactory payoffs indeed. It’s a shame that there’s only going to be one more War Doctor story starring John Hurt now, it’s going to be somewhat bittersweet to review the final part of this box set, The Enigma Dimension, which will be arriving tomorrow.
Overall, The Lady of Obsidian is a good story that reintroduces Leela into play very well; Andrew Smith obviously has a knack for writing harrowing soliloquies that really resonate and makes you empathise with the characters. Leela gets an absolute rollercoaster of an arc in this hour alone, it truly is a feat of acting on Louise Jameson’s part coupled with Smith’s writing. John Hurt and Jacqueline Pearce yet again knock it out of the park, and I cannot wait to see what the ultimate payoff in the last story is tomorrow.
Should you want to purchase The War Doctor: Casualties of War, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time on both digital download, and the CD box set.