The Time War is coming for the Eighth Doctor. With the first box set of the Time War due next month, Big Finish is giving us insights into how the devastating event affects some of the people that the Doctor has travelled with in the past. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first of these two Short Trips, A Heart On Both Sides, featuring the Eighth Doctor revisiting Nyssa.
After her medical work on Terminus, Nyssa is now the controller of a hospital ship, the Traken. As the universe burns in the crossfire of the Time War, she and her assistant travel to a planet close to Gallifrey where they are needed more than ever. A long time ago, Nyssa knew a Time Lord and understood his people. But it seems they can change…
Nyssa has moved on from her life with the Doctor, she’s now the controller of a hospital ship, known as the Traken. It’s always nice to revisit companions after they’ve left the Doctor, to see what kind of impact the Time Lord has had on their life. There’s something comforting in knowing that the Doctor’s past companions tend to march on in a similar vain and try and help where they can.
The pre-title sequence is a nice set up, letting you know where Nyssa is in her life and in regards to the Time War. It’s pressing in on her, Doctor Foster and the nurses on the Traken, but they’re trying their best to give aid in any way they can. They’re an innocent party trying to make things a little bit better in the universe. Of course, with this being in the middle of the bloodiest war in time and space, nothing is going to stay too peachy for long…
What’s interesting about A Heart On Both Sides is that we get an insight onto the darker side of the Time Lord society in the Time War. We’ve only really seen the Time War from the Time Lords point of view, in direct opposition to the Daleks. We got to see hints of how it affected the rest of the universe in the War Doctor box sets, but ultimately we were still following the Doctor’s story. In these Short Trips however, it seems as if we’ll get to see the events from the bystanders point of view, which is really engaging. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but it’s easier to relate to someone caught in the crossfire of the Time War than it is trying to be as godlike as the Time Lords or as unrelenting as the Daleks.
There’s a great twist at the end of the first act that genuinely came out of nowhere. It seems that there’s more to Nyssa’s pal Doctor Foster than you may expect. Someone has been going undercover for potentially nefarious purposes. When we learn the truth about Doctor Foster, everything seems to make more sense. As if a crucial piece of a puzzle has finally fallen into place.
Even though A Heart On Both Sides doesn’t really feature the Eighth Doctor a great deal, it instead focusses on Nyssa and Doctor Foster and their relationship after his revelation comes to light. The conclusion of the story is extremely bittersweet; a theme that I feel may run through a lot of the releases that involve the Time War. It seems that this story could have easily been called Mistaken Identities too, as two of the leads are not who they seem.
Having Nyssa be the anchor in this story, the moral compass if you will, is a great move by relatively new Big Finish writer Rob Nisbet, who, as far as I can tell, has only penned this and The Edge for the Second Doctor Companion Chronicles. His writing was enjoyable to hear performed, and I can’t wait to see what he get’s to tackle next.
Overall, A Heart On Both Sides is an enjoyable tale that focusses on one small, seemingly insignificant moment of the Time War, but shows you just how resilient the Doctor’s companions can be. If next months Short Trips release, All Hands On Deck is as entertaining as this to listen to, I’ll be one happy fan.
Should you want to purchase A Heart On Both Sides, it’s currently available as a download from Big Finish for £2.99 which you can purchase here.