Life Dur­ing Wartime

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RE­LEASED OUT NOW! 237 min­utes Direc­tor Ni­cholas Briggs Cast John Hurt, Jac­que­line Pearce, lucy Briggs-Owen, Car­olyn seymour

Pub­lisher Big Fin­ish

au­dio cd/down­load John Hurt’s griz­zled War Doc­tor was a fas­ci­nat­ing enigma when he first ap­peared. He was, we were promised, a new ver­sion of our hero – one so danger­ous that all of the Doc­tors since flinch at his mem­ory. The 50th an­niver­sary ad­ven­ture was won­der­ful, but if it had a flaw, it was that Hurt wasn’t that bad at all – in fact, he turned out to be rather love­able.

This set of three sto­ries is a chance to flesh out the char­ac­ter, as well as the Time War. Drama­tis­ing a con­flict that takes place across all of time and space and in dif­fer­ent di­men­sions would be dif­fi­cult on au­dio, so Nick Briggs’s script cheek­ily (and tem­po­rar­ily) im­pedes the Daleks’ time travel ca­pa­bil­i­ties – and leaves an in­jured Doc­tor on the planet Keska. “The Innocent” pairs him up with Re­joice (Lucy Briggs-Owen), a young woman who nurses him back to health in a sci-fi take on The English Pa­tient. It’s not long be­fore the war comes call­ing again, how­ever, and “The Thou­sand Worlds” finds the Doc­tor in a labour camp (very rem­i­nis­cent of “The Dalek In­va­sion Of Earth” – and that’s be­fore you find out what the pep­per­pots are up to). A clever twist here ties all three ad­ven­tures to­gether, with “The Heart Of The Bat­tle” pick­ing up im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, with the Doc­tor forced to op­pose an­other Time Lord, who is su­ing for peace with the Daleks…

In places it feels like the di­a­logue could have done with an­other pol­ish – the Doc­tor tetchily snap­ping, “Don’t call me that!” is re­peated far too of­ten. There’s also a weird bit where some poorly-cho­sen sound ef­fects ac­ci­den­tally give the im­pres­sion that the Doc­tor is beat­ing up his com­pan­ion – he’s dark, but not that dark. Still, Only The Mon­strous is solidly en­ter­tain­ing. There’s a de­li­cious irony in pit­ting the usu­ally paci­fist Doc­tor against a peace­maker, and Jac­que­line Pearce plays Cardinal Ol­lis­tra with camp glee. The set hinges on a tough de­ci­sion, and Hurt plays that scene with bit­ter ac­cep­tance. His in­car­na­tion isn’t a mon­ster – he’s a very like­able take on our favourite Time Lord, and it’s good to spend more time with him. Will Sal­mon

Hurt’s a very like­able take on our favourite Time Lord

The War Doc­tor’s ad­ven­tures in moral am­bi­gu­ity con­tinue in Fe­bru­ary with a sec­ond set of three sto­ries, In­fer­nal De­vices.

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