This is it. The untimely end of an era. The last War Doctor story starring John Hurt that we’ll get. Nicholas Briggs is at the helm, ending the series that he started; it’s nice in a way that the War Doctor has come full circle. Truth be told, I can already tell that writing this final review is going to be difficult. Honestly, I realise I’m stalling now; so let’s do this, shall we?
The Dalek Time Strategist has a new plan to ensure final victory in the Time War. As its forces gather for a huge assault on the enemy, ahead of the fleet something hovers above the planet of the Time Lords. And on Gallifrey itself, shadows move among the Cloisters. The Time Lords face a threat alien to their entire universe. To save their world, the War Doctor and his allies must enter the Enigma Dimension…
It seems as if the Time War may be coming to a close; and, even though we know the outcome, you can’t help but wonder if the Daleks might somehow change the timeline we know and actually win.
The Doctor, Ollistra and Leela are back where they belong; in a TARDIS, and not just any TARDIS, it’s the Doctor’s TARDIS. This is how it should be, the Doctor and his companions in the TARDIS. Admittedly, I’d rather that the trio were off to Peladon to go sunbathing or finding a rogue Zygon a new home, instead of getting ready for a colossal battle throughout time and space, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m not even four minutes into the story as I’m writing this, and I already love the way that Briggs has written the dialogue between the Doctor, Leela and Ollistra; it just feels right.
Once the TARDIS trio land on Gallifrey, we get to hear the more strategical side of the Doctor; something that extremely suits John Hurt’s War Doctor. Having a Doctor who is able to plan strategically for war is something that is so different to any other incarnation of the Time Lord, it really reminds you just why John Hurt’s War Doctor always will be so special.
Leela’s special perception regarding the Enigma is a really interesting plot device, especially when it’s parried with Ollistra’s reluctance to believe that Leela is able to sense something that the Time Lords cannot. The idea that someone who is a savage could arguably be more perceptive than her really grinds Ollistra’s gears, and I love Jacqueline Pearce’s bitter sarcasm.
The revelation as to what the Enigma is is absolutely brilliant, and really takes the story in a totally different direction to the one you were expecting (or at least, it did for me). It’s strange to hear that the Doctor seems to almost have given up on Gallifrey, and is so nonchalant about it all, but I think it totally fits the character and is a genius piece of writing by Briggs.
As the Doctor, Leela, Ollistra and the Enigma arrive in the Enigma Dimension, there’s a beautifully small scene between the Doctor and Ollistra, where they seem to forget their reluctance of one another and become like friends. To me, this scene is the moment when the War Doctor is most like the Doctors that both proceeded and succeeded him; you can almost hear the Doctor smiling for the first time in ages. Ollistra too seems to mellow somewhat, realising why the Doctor had travelled with so many people in the past; because they wanted to be like him as he is, regardless as to what he currently thinks, a good man.
I’m fully aware that there’s a large chunk of this story that I’ve not really talked about, (I’m aware this is becoming somewhat of a theme for the final story in Big Finish box sets) but it’s purely because I don’t want to spoil anything major. That and I totally got lost and so invested in the story that I forgot to write anything. It’s strange in a way, because I expected this release to be a full blown action episode, a full frontal assault of the senses as the Daleks waged war with the Time Lords; but instead, we got a much more scaled down, personal and intimate story revolving around the Doctor. Considering that this is John Hurt’s last performance of the character, I can’t help but feel that this was the right way to go in regards to the narrative.
During the closing minutes, as the Doctor seems to accept that the Time War will never end, I have to admit that I was close to tears. Nicholas Briggs really knows how to tug on those heartstrings. I hate to say it, but this really is the end of the War Doctor’s adventures.
Overall, this story is nearly perfect, the pacing, the characterisations, the sound design, the performances, the narrative, the twists and turns, everything is stellar. Coming into this box set, especially this story, knowing that we sadly won’t be hearing John Hurt’s amazingly gravelly voice grace our ears made me pray that this final trilogy of stories would serve well as a testament to the character he portrayed. The Enigma Dimension is the culmination of everything that the War Doctor had been through; and it really ends the War Doctor’s new stories on a high. Well done to all involved, and I’ll say it again, we’ll miss you, John Hurt.
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.