For a long time, Big Finish had been prohibited by the BBC from doing any stories set during the Time War. I was pleased when that restriction was lifted, but disappointed when I found out I’d have to wait nearly two years before those stories would be released. Now my wait is very nearly over; the first set arrived in the mail today.

Initially, the Eighth Doctor Time War set was planned as a one-off complement to the War Doctor series. Sadly, the death of John Hurt means that there will be no more of those forthcoming. Soon it became clear that there was too much potential in the Time War to let the series come to a premature end. Soon there will be new series of The War Master (December) and Gallifrey: Time War (February). Also there are plans to up the Eighth Doctor box sets to three per year for the time being, one for the Time War and two for the Doom Coalition sequel.

According to Big Finish’s Vortex magazine: “There will be new regular characters in the Time War, too. When the saga opens, the Doctor is already travelling with Sheena (Olivia Vinall), who is a new companion for us but someone he has been with for a while. And then a second new friend will explosively enter his life—Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar), a refugee scientist. Listeners who follow our War Doctor stories will also need no introduction to Olistra (Jaqueline Pearce), here proving she has been a thorn in the Doctor’s side for far more years than we might have imagined.”

We have already heard some Eighth Doctor stories set during the Time War (in the Diary of River Song series and elsewhere), and we’ve seen him regenerate in the mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor”. As showrunner Steven Moffat once said of the audio range, “We saw how the Paul McGann Doctor died—now it’s time to find out how he lived.”

THE EIGHTH DOCTOR: THE TIME WAR
  The Starship Theseus - p1
  Echoes of War - p1
  The Conscript - p1
  One Life - p1

THE WAR MASTER
   Beneath the Viscoid - p1
   The Good Master - p1
   The Sky Man - p1
   The Heavenly Paradigm - p1

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR
   Celestial Intervention - p2
   Soldier Obscura - p2
   The Devil You Know - p2
   Desperate Measures - p2

THE EIGHTH DOCTOR: THE TIME WAR 2
   The Lords of Terror - p2
   Planet of the Ogrons - p3
   In the Garden of Death - p3
   Jonah - p3

THE WAR MASTER 2
     Call for the Dead - p3
     The Glittering Prize - p3
     The Persistence of Dreams - p3
     Sins of the Father - p3

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR 2
   Havoc - p3
   Partisans - p3
   Collateral - p3
   Assassins - p3

THE WAR MASTER 3
   The Survivor - p3
   The Coney Island Chameleon - p3
   The Missing Link - p3
   Darkness and Light - p3

THE EIGHTH DOCTOR: THE TIME WAR 3
     State of Bliss - p4
     The Famished Lands - p4
     Fugitive - p4
     The War Valeyard - p4

THE WAR MASTER 4
   From the Flames - p4
   The Master's Dalek Plan - p4
   Shockwave - p4
   He Who Wins p4

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR 3
    Hostiles - p4
    Nevernor - p4
    Mother Tongue - p4
    Unity - p5

SUSAN'S WAR
    Sphere of Influence - p5
    The Uncertain Shore - p5
    Assets of War - p5
    The Shoreditch Intervention - p5

THE EIGHTH DOCTOR: THE TIME WAR 4
     Palindrome, Pt. 1 - p6
     Palindrome, Pt. 2 - p6
     Dreadshade - p6
     Restoration of the Daleks - p6

GALLIFREY: THE TIME WAR 
     Deception - p6
     Dissolution - p6
     Beyong - p6
     Homecoming - p6

THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS
      Light the Flame - p6
      Lion Hearts - p7
      The Shadow Squad - p7

THE WAR MASTER 5
   The Edge of Redemption - p7
   The Scaramancer - p7
   The Castle of Kurnos 5 - p7
   The Cognition Shift - p7

THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS 2
    Consequences - p8
    Destroyer - p8
    Saviour - p8

THE WAR MASTER 6
   The Sincerest Form of Flattery - p9
   A Quiet Night In - p9
   The Orphan - p9
   Unfinished Business - p9

THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS 3
    The Keepers of Light - p8
    Temmosus - p8
    Rewind - p8

 THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS 4
    The Mission- p8
    The Abyss - p8
    The Horror - p8

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THE WAR MASTER 6 - KILLING TIME:

THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY:

"For centuries, the Stagnant Protocol has been forgotten by the universe: an empire populated by a race that can never advance... a race the Master seeks to seize control of. Unfortunately for him, he has a rival - Calantha - and she understands how to manipulate the system better than he could ever hope. His only chance of defeating her lies in the hands of some old acquaintances, whether they realise it or not. One thing, however, is certain. Whichever of them may win, the Stagnant Protocol is destined to lose..."

This story is set on the Stagnant Protocol, a planet upon which the populace is effectively immortal (except if they are killed), but they can no longer reproduce. This situation is due to an earlier story set during the Time War, but I don't think it was one that was ever actually told. (It doesn't sound familiar, anyway.) In any case, this makes them extremely reluctant to engage in war. there are two factions on the planet, the elite ruling class, plus another led by the selfless Calantha (see cover, far left). The Master has allied himself with the elite class (of course). In order to unite her people, Calantha manufactured a disease that she then cured. The Master uses the populace's belief that she really cured them in order to elevate her to power. Now he plans to unleash a real disease. "In order to win the war, sometimes one must lose a battle."

As you can see by the cover photo, this set also includes some "old friends," but they haven't entered the story yet. 

Four hour-long episodes.

First of all, forget what I said last week about Calantha being a good guy. Just because she's on the opposite side of the Master, doesn't mean she's good, per se. The fact that she purposefully introduced a disease she could control in order to unite the people should have clued me in, but I thought they were doing some kind of "end justifies the means" thing. these War Doctor/War Master stories are often painted in shades of gray.

A QUIET NIGHT IN: That fact that I waited an entire week between episodes wasn't a factor because this is an entirely different story... for the most part. It starts with Jo Jones (née Grant) visiting her uncle at his estate... only her "uncle" turns out to be the Master. He has a mysterious maid, plus Jo keeps meeting a professor, on of her uncle's guests, over and over but he never seems to remember her. Also, the configuration of the rooms keeps changing. Then the maid turns out to be a robot. Obviously, not everything is as it appears, and the Master is playing some particularly nasty mind games with Jo. Katy Manning turns in the performance of her career (as Jo Grnt Jones) here, hands down. At the very end we learn how this ties to the first story, and the Master expresses his intention to visit another of the Doctor's "old friends" next. 

[SPECIAL BULLETIN] - We interrupt this discussion to bring you the following special report.

I have been thinking about "The Abyss" lately (see previous page) and whether or not in contradicts "The Lady of Obsidian." Big Finish was given permission to set stories during the Time War in 2015 and they began with the "War Doctor" series starring the late, great John Hurt. "The Lady of Obsidian" was part of the fourth and final set of John Hurt "War Doctor" stories  (released in 2017) and featured the reunion of the Doctor and Leela. After John Hurts death, Big Finish began a series of stories set during the Time War which featured the Eighth Doctor. In 2021, they cast Jonathon Carley (who sounds remarkably like a young John Hurt) as a younger War Doctor in the "War Doctor Begins" series. "The Abyss" was released in 2022 and also, like "The Lady of Obsidian", features Leela. I had the distinct impression that the War Doctor was reunited with Leela for the first time in that one, so I listened to it again.

In "The Lady of Obsidian" (2017) it is revealed that Leela has been missing and presumed killed in the early days of the Time War; "The Abyss" (2022) tells the story of her presumed death. In "The Lady of Obsidian" (probably the deepest and most motional Leela story ever told in any medium), the Doctor mentions them traveling together "when [he] had a different face," but it doesn't preclude the possibility of her having met this version of the Doctor many years before. Very impressive continuity!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion.

THE ORPHAN: Nyssa is hard at work on a vaccine for a plague-causing virus when "Mr. Goodbard" arrives and introduces himself as her new assistant. Just as the fifth is not one of my favorite Doctors, neither is Nyssa one of my favorite companions, but there is one sequence toward the end when she slowly comes to realize that her "assistant" is actually responsible for spreading the plague, not curing it. the there is another scene immediately after that when she slowly comes to realize who her assistant really is (as the Master begins dropping hints about her father). As the Master leaves, Nyssa is infected with the plague. 

I always thought that Nyssa was the best of the Fifth Doctor's companions, as she was the only one that wasn't whiny (Adric, Tegan, Peri), shifty (Turlough) or pointless (Kamelion).

Jeff of Earth-J said:

THE ORPHAN: Nyssa is hard at work on a vaccine for a plague-causing virus when "Mr. Goodbard" arrives and introduces himself as her new assistant. Just as the fifth is not one of my favorite Doctors, neither is Nyssa one of my favorite companions, but there is one sequence toward the end when she slowly comes to realize that her "assistant" is actually responsible for spreading the plague, not curing it. the there is another scene immediately after that when she slowly comes to realize who her assistant really is (as the Master begins dropping hints about her father). As the Master leaves, Nyssa is infected with the plague. 

Oh, Nyssa is definitely my favorite of the Fifth Doctor's companions.

I like Peri better overall (whininess notwithstanding), but I consider her more of a companion to the Sixth Doctor. 

Sarah Sutton gave an excellent performance in that lengthy scene I described above. 

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