The Eighth Doctor is back amongst the hell that is the Time War. This week, the second of four box sets was released, and today I’ll be reviewing the penultimate story in the set, In The Garden of Death by Guy Adams.
In a prison camp like no other, the Most Dangerous Man in the Universe is held in isolation. The rest of the inmates have no memory of who they were or what they might have done.
No memory even of their captors. Until the interrogations begin.
The Doctor and Bliss are being held prisoners in the middle of a jungle of death (or a garden of death, if you will), and neither of them have any recollection of what has happened to lead them here. It appears that between Planet of The Ogrons and In The Garden of Death, the Doctor, Bliss, and presumably the Twelve, have all had their memories wiped. Two Time Lords and a human, in the middle of one of the most bloody wars in time and space, and they have no idea why.
It’s not long at all before the Doctor is being transmatted to be interrogated by the Daleks, whilst the Twelve and Bliss are making friends in the prisoner camp that they’re being kept in. The idea that the Daleks are making it so nobody can remember who they are is fascinating in itself, but when paired with the anomaly that is the Twelve; and hints that her previous incarnations are all fighting to be heard, so she can learn the truth, you quickly realise that this memory wipe could be the Daleks greatest mistake in the Time War.
One thing I’ve realised in this release is that Guy Adams is a master at juxtaposition; a character says there’s no technology around, the next second you realise that there’s technology everywhere, a character says that the Doctor is probably fine, the next second, you hear him being tortured. What I love about Adams writing in this story is that he uses these juxtapositions in a way that is both humorous, yet a brilliant way of forwarding the narrative. It allows the listener to always be one step ahead of the characters in some regards, which makes for a really compelling story, in my opinion.
Another aspect of this story that I love, is the fact that we spend so much time with Bliss and the Twelve just talking to one another about what they can remember; and it really allows the characters to grow. Even though we’ve already had an entire box set worth of Bliss, I feel like this is the first time we get a real character study into her, and it’s a testament to Rakhee Thakrar and Julia McKenzie that these scenes of dialogue are so compelling to listen to.
Around the halfway mark, it seems that the Twelve has a bit of an identity crisis, and the scene of the Twelve talking to her previous selves is great fun to listen to; I wish Big Finish would record a video of McKenzie recording the lines, to see how her physicality changes for each incarnation that she has to play.
There’s a brilliant scene where (minor spoilers) the Twelve and Bliss bust out of their prison camp and go and find the Doctor in his private cell; whilst none of them have any idea who they really are, the Twelves former eleven selves are starting to take over, and there’s a massive conflict of interest.
It’s only really during the final few minutes that there’s a real sense of action; with the Doctor, the Twelve and Bliss attempting to escape, whilst the Daleks make their move onto the planet to stop them. If I have one quibble with this ending, it’s that everything is resolved rather quickly and with a neat bow.
The conclusion of In The Garden of Death is seemingly leading into Jonah, with Cardinal Ollistra attempting to draw the Doctor, the Twelve and Bliss into what is essentially a suicide mission. It seems that the next story will be a deadly one.
Overall, In The Garden of Death is a great character study, that mainly focusses on Bliss and the Twelve. Having a Doctor-lite episode was really refreshing, especially as there wasn’t much action either. I feel that the break in pace was needed within the Eighth Doctor Time War box sets. (Guy Adams did a similar thing with the War Doctor story Pretty Lies.)
I feel as if the idea of having none of the characters remember who they really were was interesting as well; as there was no real sense of trying to impress anyone, and you got to know the characters at their core, rather than what the characters wanted the other characters to perceive of them. I must admit, that this story finally made me feel as if Bliss was a proper companion; something that the previous stories didn’t really take the time to do, due to the fact that there was so much action going on throughout.
It will come as no surprise that this is another really strong story from both Guy Adams and Big Finish, and it’s helping The Eighth Doctor: The Time War 2 quickly become one of the best releases from Big Finish this year, as long as Jonah can live up to these high standards.
Should you want to purchase The Eighth Doctor: The Time War 2, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.