DOCTOR WHO: ONLY THE MONSTROUS
Life During Wartime
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.