Director: Ken Bentley
Paul McGann, Rakhee Thakrar, Jacqueline Pearce, Nicholas Briggs
Released: Tuesday 31st October 2017
Running Time: 5 hours
Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, most notably, in audio, via the Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition sagas. Now, however, we journey back into a period of The Doctor’s canon that is largely undocumented compared to his classic incarnations, namely the war between the Daleks and the Time Lords, more commonly known as the Time War.
1.1: The Starship of Theseus
The eerie opening of this first episode evokes a time when Doctor Who, as a show, was less about the complicated story arcs and more about cybermen with silver foil suits. However, with cinematic ideals close at hand, we join a commander of a squad of Time Lords on a mission that, at this point, still leaves us in the dark. After an opening theme with sweeping orchestral tones, we are then hit by the comic relief of ending up in an unexpected scenario. Specifically, in a broom cupboard with The Doctor and an unfamiliar individual who is, ostensibly, his companion.
As per usual though, the unfamiliarity with characters is quickly surpassed by the potential for comedy, curiosity and confusion, even if things seem to remain unclear for a while. Eventually, however, the confusing and seemingly tenuously linked threads do converge and not really in the way you would necessarily expect. Not wishing to spoil anything, the opening story of this box set, whilst it starts off rather mundanely in comparison to some, has a conclusion that is worth waiting for.
1.2: Echoes of War
This episode starts out with a rather comedic opening that, like the story preceding it, seems to share vague similarities with The Sirens of Time. It also serves to make sure that the Daleks are in the foreground, as they rightly should be given the subject matter. The jungle world that The Doctor and those traveling with him land on is nowhere near as peaceful as they might like. Various elements of adumbration direct Whovians familiar with Dalek history to a particular train of thought that is unfortunately not explored further or quelled in any way.
Rather than an action-packed chase through the undergrowth, this is an interesting exploration of the impact of the Time War on those not directly on the front line. Briggs’ delivery of the Dalek lines is almost certainly the highlight of the episode, with the insight into the psyche of The Doctor’s greatest enemy being interspersed with moments of reflection on just how volatile that foe can be. We also gain a partial insight into the Time Lords determination to eliminate any opposition, regardless of the end result.
1.3: The Conscript
Instead of being a standard Doctor and an enemy story, this continuation introduces us directly to the Gallifreyan army and their training regimen. References to some of The Doctor’s television appearances are very much appreciated, with confident scriptwriting and delivery showing a great difference between those fighting the Time War and those caught up in the chaos. Whilst plot-wise, strictly speaking, very little actually happens, we as the audience get to see new sides to The Doctor and the Time Lords as a whole. Regardless of opinions on the actual plot of this episode, the resultant cliff-hanger is worth the wait.
1.4: One Life
A so far linear story now takes a turn into the confusing, with the concept of a Time Lord weapon and it’s ramifications on the timeline. Interspersed with flashbacks of two characters new to the Whoniverse, this final episode is very much the interesting denouement that is expected, even from a first box set in a series.
A well-formulated script, with several interesting twists and turns, combined with a cast who deliver their lines with a flare to bring this story to fruition. This installment, if nothing else, shows promise for the rest of the exploration of The Eighth Doctor’s adventures during the Time War.