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 - p7
      Lion Hearts - p7
      The Shadow Squad - p7

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

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I certainly think that the Eighth Doctor's shout-out to his aduio companions boosts their level of "canonicity".

Yes, I meant to make that point but forgot. Thanks! 

Light the Flame (conclusion):

Musch of this story deals with the Time Lords' alliance with the Sisterhood of Karn. I like the Sisterhood of Karn. They have been used more often on audio than TV, but still not overused in either medium. "Light the Flame" introduces a new Time Lord (Lady) to serve as the Doctor's... oh, let's say "prod." Cardinal Olistra had served that role for John Hurt's audio Doctor, and she later served that role for the Eighth Doctor's earlier in the Time War. The actress who played her was well-known and well-respected in the U.K., but she passed away. Now they can't bring the character back as having regenerated into another actress (or actor), so they had to create a new one. I like her, but neither Tracy nor I caught her name. 

LIONHEARTS: "Seeking out Gallifrey’s new warrior, Commodore Tamasan finds that the War Doctor has invited himself on a secret mission. The time-sensitive Tharils are in danger, and an old friend of the Doctor is trapped. But Biroc knows better than to trust either side in this war."

This one begins with a soldier, one of the Doctor's allies, on trial, then flashes back and forth to the events leading up to the trial. 

"Lionhearts" (continued): First off, it's not a trial, it's a debriefing. This story is very much a ground war between the Daleks and the Time Lords' respective allies with the Doctor inserting himself in the middle. The testimony builds to the point at which the Doctor apparently sacrifices that Tharils rather than let them be captured. (That is not actually the case, however, as it was with Captain Lorca on Star Trek: Discovery.) When the soldier gives her testimony to Commodore Tamasan there is a moment when one expects the Commodore to be shocked, but she is, in fact, delighted. Later, the Doctor reveals how and why he faked the Tharils deaths to the soldier. 

THE SHADOW SQUAD: "Tamasan is unconvinced of the War Doctor’s loyalties, though when their paths collide, both agree that the destruction of the Dalek Time Strategist could be the best route to victory. But on Atherea, the Daleks may have found a way to annihilate all plans to defeat them before they are even begun."

The Doctor sort of horns in on another Time Lord's mission to Atherea. The Doctor's intention is to destroy the Dalek Time Strategist, but Tamasan's orders are to keep him alive. No sooner do they meet their contact than she is erased from time. 

The Daleks have been recklessly exterminating their enemies in the past, before they become a threat, without regard to what this tactic is doing to the timestream. Tamasan's contact was one such future enemy. The contact's mission would have been to act on the information delivered by Tamasan, the location of the Dalek Time Strategist. There is a group of Time  Lords, the "Shadow Squad", whose actions are invisible to the Daleks and the Time Strategist because they were raised underground by AI, away from all outside influence. Tamesan is on the Daleks' radar, so to speak, but the Doctor is not. It falls to him to carry out the mission. 

The Doctor allows himself to be "captured" and it's pretty much all action from here on out. The Doctor does manage to "kill" the Time Strategist (by having his "molecules dispersed across all time, and no time"), then he eradicates the timeline altogether. Unfortunately, eliminating the timeline means that the time Strategist will have survived. OTOH, the Doctor meets one of the commandoes from the Shadow Squad. He has no memory of the eradicated timeline and is still a soldier in the Time War, but now he has a family of his own to fight for and wasn't raised in isolation, underground, by a machine. 

THE WAR MASTER: HEARTS OF DARKNESS:

"Recruited by the Celestial Intervention Agency to track down his oldest enemy, the Master finds himself thrown into a mission that will take him into deepest Dalek territory. Abandoned on the planet Redemption, he assembles a crew and acquires a ship – the journey that follows is certain to test them all... and not everyone will survive. But space pirates and living corpses are the least of their worries. Their biggest threat remains at large: a Time Lord who likes to call himself ‘the Doctor’."

5.1 The Edge of Redemption

5.2 The Scaramancer 

5.3 The Castle of Kurnos 5 

5.4 The Cognition Shift 

THE EDGE OF REDEMPTION:

The episode begins with the Master petitioning the Time Lords for a new TARDIS because the Doctor has apparently stolen his. It's been nearly two years (20 months) since the last "War Master" story, and I certainly don't remember that (not did I mention it in my comments on the previous set). The Time Lords refuse because a TARDIS would put him on their radar. He will have to use a conventional spaceship to track his TARDIS down.

This strikes me as a very "Star Wars" plot, in which "Obi-Wan Kenobi" (the Master) sets out to recruit a crew: "Luke" (a young man), "Han Solo" (the pilot) and "Princess Leia" (an acrobat). There first mission is to liberate the pilot's ship, which has been impounded. 

Despite several surface similarities, "The Edge of Redemption" doesn't have any more to do with Star Wars than Star Wars does with The Wizard of Oz (or Forbidden Planet with The Tempest). Ilya (the acrobat, who was a doctor on her homeworld) recognizes the Master as the time Lord responsible for the destruction of her planet. I'm not going to spoil the ending (unless it becomes relevant later), but the Master and Morski (the smuggler/pilot) do get his ship back. 

We had a little errand to run down the road a piece yesterday, so we were able to listen to three episodes in a row. Unfortunately, I was unable to jot down any notes because this is a pretty convoluted one, but it's delightful. I'm sure I'll get more out of it in subsequent listens, which is the kind of entertainment the best of these audios provide. 

THE SCARAMANCER: The "Scaramancer" is a woman who is hunting the Master because, at some point in the past, he forced her to abandon her own sister when he could have easily saved them both. She is now driven by guilt and revenge. But the Master doesn't remember having done that. The pilot explains to the Scaramancer that, as a Time Lord, the Master lives his life out of order and that hasn't happened to him yet. At this point, I expected the story to loop around to the events leading up to his decision to leave the sister behind, but the story went in quite a different direction.

At the end of this episode, the "Master" reveals that he is not really the Master, he's just "wearing his face." He is really the Doctor! At least that's what he says. the Master has certainly passed himself off as the Doctor before, and maybe that's what he's doing now. While I was rolling that around in my head and listening to the post-story interviews, the director revealed that it is really the Doctor. Spoiler! Luckily, I didn't have long to wait before that fact was revealed in the story itself.

THE CASTLE OF KURNOS 5: This story begins with some narration by the (Eighth) Doctor explaining how he and the Master came to have their minds switched. [The photo on the cover of the set (see above) now makes sense.] Actually, I didn't miss anything prior to episode one. That wasn't the Master petitioning the Time Lords for a TARDIS to pursue the Doctor who had stolen his, it was the Doctor in the Master's body asking the Time Lords for help pursuing the Master in the Doctor's body who had stolen his TARDIS. That means the first two episodes must be reevaluated in light of this new information, that it was the Doctor all along!

THE COGNITION SHIFT: This episode is when the Doctor (played by Derek Jacobi) and the Master (played by Paul McGann) come face-to-face. The thing is, the Master has used his mid-switching technology multiple times, so that, by the time they catch up to the Doctor's body, it is now inhabited by the Master's assistant, and by the time they find the assistant's body, it has been mind-switched with a bird. Or something. There were times, while driving, I had to take my mind off the story to concentrate on traffic. When my attention was able to be returned to the story, I'd often have to pause it and ask Tracy, "Now what just happened?" 

In an earlier post, lamenting the loss of John Hurt, I speculated how cool it would have been had his Doctor  been able tp play against Jacobi's Master, but then I thought, no, that wouldn't work or the Tenth Doctor would have recognized Yano as the Master. Now, however, we have the Eighth Doctor not only meeting the "War Master" but also inhabiting his body. I have no doubt Big Finish would be able to write such a story (in The Diary of River Song series, they accounted for the fact that she had had adventures with Doctors One through Eight, yet the Tenth Doctor did not recognize her in "Silence in the Library") explaining why the Tenth Doctor did not recognize him in "Utopia", but I don't need hear such a story. For one thing, it "ties things up" which could eliminate future story possibilities, and for another, one of those "possibilities" is a meeting between Jacobi's Master and Jonathon Carley's doctor in "The War Doctor Begins" series. 

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