The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 6, Episode 2 - The Eternal BattleBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 - Reviewed by Matt Tiley
The Fourth Doctor Adventures: The Eternal Battle (Credit: Big Finish)

Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana) 
John Leeson (K9) 
Dan Starkey(Field Major Lenk/Sergeant Major Stom) 
Jane Slavin (Captain Nina Albiston/Sycon Computer) 
John Banks (Brennan/Trooper Varn)

Producer David Richardson Script Editor John Dorney Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs

This review contains spoilers!

Sontaran zombie eat flesh!

Now, if that short sentence doesn't send a thrill down your spine, I don't know what will. The Eternal Battle finds the Doctor, Romana and K9 aiming the TARDIS for the Lake District, where the Doctor wants to go and visit (much to Romana's joy) a pencil museum. However, they find themselves stranded on an alien no mans land, in the midst of a great war, a war that nobody involved seems to really know quite how long has has been raging (here is a small clue faithful DWN reader: the story is called THE ETERNAL WAR).

Our space and time traveling trio are saved from certain death by a rather large Sontaran tank, the occupants of, when they find out that they have rescued the Doctor, insist on killing the enemy of the Sontarans there and then. Can the Doctor sweet talk himself out of this one? Of course he can. Before you can say "Probic vent" there is an uneasy truce between the Doctor and the Sontarans as he strives to help them in a rather strange war against humans.....and undead Sontarans.

Just to make things matters worse, the TARDIS has rather handily gone missing, and Romana and K9 are trapped in a bunker with a dying Sontaran (the zombie rules are pretty standard - in this story, you die, then come back hungry for flesh).

I really enjoyed The Eternal Battle. What a great idea to have the Sontarans, the greatest warriors in the universe, fighting undead versions of themselves, whose masses will only grow as more Sontarans die in  battle. Brilliant. Plus, just to complicate matters more, the dead humans turn into zombies as well. 

The writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright have really struck gold here, with a fantastically original spin on rejuvenating an old foe. As the art work on the cover suggests, these are classic seriesl Sontarans, two of whom, in the extras, Dan Starkey himself says are based on Linx from The Time Warrior and Styre from The Sontaran Experiment, the similarities to those two classic characters are very evident, especially in the calculating way that they react to a situation. Scott and Wright have truly taken the Sontarans back to their roots, away from the more comedic characters that they have become.

Talking of Dan Starkey, he really does steal the show. He has perfected Sontarans in a way that Nicholas Briggs has done with perfecting the daleks. I have absolutely no problem at all with Strax, the Sontaran that Starkey plays in New Who, I think his comic timing is absolutely spot on - but here he proves that he can play old school.

Of course Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and John Leeson come across as if they are having a whale of a time, and this carries into the story's extras. Ward seems particularly overjoyed to have her version of Romana finally meeting the famous 'Potato Heads'. As always the trio of leads play off of each other very well, creating some classic moments (Romana's enthusiasm for the pencil museum is indeed a classic moment that would have been at home in any of her televised episodes) The rest of the cast, most notably Big Finish stalwarts Jane Slavin and John Banks are all excellent also.

Directed by Nicholas Briggs himself, The Eternal Battle is a joy to listen to. A thrilling ride that I would definitel, most highly recommend.

 

The Eternal Battle is available now from Big Finish.