War has come to time. The Eighth Doctor, whether he likes it or not, has become part of these events. We saw how the Eighth Doctor bowed out of his time in the Time War in The Night of the Doctor, but now it’s time to hear how he fought through it. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story in the first Time War box set, Echoes of War by Matt Fitton.
Colliding with the full force of the Time War, the Doctor crash-lands on a jungle world with a ragtag band of refugees.
To stay alive, they must cross a landscape where time itself is corrupted. A forest which cycles through growth and decay, where sounds of battle are never far away, and where strange creatures lurk all around.
Luckily, the Doctor has friends: not only plucky scientist Bliss, but another, much more unlikely ally. Its name is ‘Dal’…
The opening of Echoes of War continues with the timey-wimey aspect of the Time War, only this time we get to see how horrific it can be for a Dalek. Within the pre-titles, Nick Briggs gives us yet another angle of Dalek portrayal, and it’s weird to almost sympathise with a Dalek. Almost.
The planet that the Doctor, Bliss and his band of refugees lands on seems to be effected by the Time War by accelerating the time on the planet rapidly, before going back to the beginning. It’s a shame that the Doctor doesn’t have his TARDIS, otherwise he could just get everyone on board and leave. Then there’s the matter of a rogue Dalek.
There’s a brilliant scene relatively early on, when the rogue Dalek reawakens, and the Doctor has the opportunity to potentially change history, all because of a slightly confused mutant in a bronze case. Whilst it highlights the Doctor’s ability to give anyone or anything a second chance, even a Dalek, it also highlights just how manipulative the Doctor can be. Personally, I think that this is a stroke of genius on Matt Fitton’s part, as it could potentially be alluding to the darker side of the Eighth Doctor a lot of people expect to hear in these Time War box sets.
Personally, I think that the overall feel of Echoes of War is like a classic war movie, with a band of mismatched people having to trawl through a jungle in order to find safety. Of course, it’s not that simple though, especially when the Doctor and a Dalek is involved.
Around midway through the Doctor is separated from Bliss, the Dalek and the refugees, and it really gives Bliss the opportunity to shine, Rakhee Thakrar superbly portrays a young woman who has to be a leader in the face of adversity, even though it’s not necessarily a role she’d want to take. It’s clear that Bliss is a woman who, like the Doctor, attempts to see the best in everyone and everything; and there’s a scene where she attempts to comfort the Dalek, which is something that not many companions would dare to do.
If somebody had told me that there might be a story where a Dalek with a form of temporal amnesia would be posing philosophical questions about destiny, purpose and meaning, I would have thought it would have been a ridiculous concept; Matt Fitton’s writing however makes it seem not only plausible, but almost as if it was meant to be.
The final act of Echoes of War drags the ragtag gang back through time into the heart of the battle, and Ollistra is there ready to collect the Doctor, to bring him into war. The Doctor, however, is keen to stay away from it as much as possible. Jacqueline Pearce’s portrayal of Ollistra is brilliant as always, and her cold and unrelenting manner is perfect for the character.
The conclusion of Echoes of War is similar to that of The Starship of Theseus, in that it seemingly leads right into the next story in this box set, The Conscript. The Doctor has been conscripted into joining the Time War, whether he likes it or not, and now he has to have the relevant training.
Overall, Echoes of War is another highly enjoyable tale that is more akin to a war story than it’s predecessor; we get the chance to learn more about Bliss’ mannerisms and personality traits, as well as seeing just how reluctant the Doctor is to have any part in the Time War. Matt Fitton has penned an extremely worthy and unique Dalek story, and it’s one that should go down in history within the Doctor Who fandom.
Should you want to purchase The Eighth Doctor: The Time War 1, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.