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

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PLANET OF THE OGRONS:

“Avoiding the Time War, the Doctor and Bliss are found by an old acquaintance: the latest incarnation of a criminal mastermind the Doctor knows of old. But unlike her predecessors, the Twelve has a handle on her previous selves’ unruly minds. There is a mystery to solve involving the Doctor’s TARDIS and its unusual occupant – and answers will be found on the Planet of the Ogrons.”

COMMENTARY: Teaser sequence: the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives on Gallifrey and out steps… an Ogron claiming to be the Doctor. Cue theme.

As the story proper opens, the real Eighth Doctor and Bliss are enjoying a picnic lunch when they are joined by a sweet old woman and an unusual Ogron. This Ogron has a perm, ginger hair, is wearing a cravat and drinking tea (although he does break the cup). The old woman soon reveals that she is the Twelve, the latest regeneration of the Timelord with a split personality because all of his previous selves co-exist. Most of them (except for number eight) are psychotic, but the Twelve reveals that she now keeps the others at bay by using a neural inhibitor. She can, however, turn it off to consult one or another identity which may have a specialty in a specific field.

She claims the Ogron in her company is the Doctor and even shares some of the Doctor’s DNA. Her companion is highly refined (for an Ogron) and wishes to be called “Doctor.”

“Won’t that be confusing?” asks Bliss. “”I’ll call you Doctor Ogron. How’s that?”

“Fine,” the Ogron replies. “I will call you Bliss Human.”

“I like him already,” quips the Eighth Doctor.

Obviously this is going to turn out to be some kind of “The Next Doctor” scenario, but what’s going on? The Ogron is killed at the end and the others are forced to abandon his body. After they are gone, he “regenerates”… back into himself. “Still ginger,” he notes. “Good!”

WRITER’S NOTES – Guy Adams

“Want write. Yes. Story of Ogron. Yes. Story of Ogron Doctor. Brave. New Doctor. Save world. It what Doctor do. Yes. Time War set grim. Stories of war. Sad stories. Stories with lot of angry shouting. Yes. Stories of bad things. Want make story about hero. About good man. Doctor. Yes. Doctor Ogron. Love him. He pure version of Doctor. All the brain. All the heart. All the ginger hair in plug hole. Ha ha. Ogron joke. Ogrons like jokes. Only if they are simple and funny. Ogrons do not like jokes that rely on complex grammatical structure or extended callbacks to other points of reference and contextual complexities that require concentration. Ogrons think this take fun out of it.

“Story also about understanding. About not judging by cover. Cover look like orangutan in bad mood. Or grumpy lady in tweed. Or Byronic hero in leather jacket with cold, cold eyes. Cover hide truth inside.

“Doctor Ogron love that you read his notes. Doctor Ogron love you all.”

I just realized I posted this to the wrong thread yesterday.

IN THE GARDEN OF DEATH:

“In a prison camp like no other, the Most Dangerous Man in the Universe is held in isolation. The rest of the inmates have no memory of who they were or what they might have done. No memory even of their captors. Until the interrogations begin.”

COMMENTARY: It’s been a week since I listened to this one, but I didn’t have time to write it up before I went offline. The main cast find themselves in prison with no memory who they are. It’s a common trope in science fiction, but enjoyable if well done, and this one is. They have all been fitted with personal memory dampeners, but the Twelve’s is interfering with her neural inhibitor. The actor who originated the role of the Eleven had a distinct voice for each personality, and was adept at switching between and among them at high speed, even without the use of audio trickery. I’m not sure this new actress has that many voices. I count maybe three. The Twelve really is “good,” though. I think I forgot to mention that captain Tamasan (from set one) is back, but has regenerated.

WRITER’S NOTES – Guy Adams:

“The Doctor, with no memory of who he is, looks at the force field around him, the gun posts, the lethal jungle, wall after wall, security measure after security measure, and he comes to a decision: he must be the most evil man in the universe to need such measures to keep him under control.

“Or, of course, one of the most dangerous.

“Prisoner of war stories are always interesting. Grim tales of endurance and fortitude, of being boiled down to one’s essentials. You learn a lot about someone’s character when they’re under extreme duress, you find the truth at the heart of them. In these stories of frequent moral complexity, I rather liked the idea of that.

“Also, how could I resist that nobody can ever truly forget a Dalek?

“I hope you enjoy your time in the heat, in the jungle, be glad you get to leave.”

JONAH:

“In the depths of an ocean world ravaged by the Time War, the weary survivors are pressed into service by Cardinal Ollistra. Something is hidden beneath the sea: the Twelve knows the truth, if only she could drag it from her jumbled mind. And when the Doctor becomes the captain of a submarine boat, all omens spell disaster…”

COMMENTARY: When Big Finish was given the go-ahead to write stories set during the Time War, they originally announced plans to do four box sets (16 stories) featuring the War Doctor and one set (of four stories) featuring the Eighth Doctor. I am thankful that John Hurt lived long enough to complete the initial flight of 16 stories. I personally believe that, from there, the plan would have been to continue with War Doctor sets at the rate of one or two each year. The Eighth Doctor would have continued with Ravenous sets, but after John Hurt died, those where scheduled along with additional Eighth Doctor sets set during the Time War as well as War Master sets.

Ollistra holds the doctor’s TARDIS hostage for until he agrees to do her bidding. “Jonah” is what the crew calls the Eighth doctor (long story). It’s a good story, but frankly it would have worked batter as a War Doctor one.

WRITER’S NOTES – Timothy X Atack

“Sometimes what you want from a Time War story is a mind-bending conundrum where each battle folds the fabric of reality itself. And sometimes you want to trap the Doctor and companions inside a tin can. I’ve always loved submarine stories. The music of a submariner’s life fascinates me; you can’t see anything much around you, you have to rely on your ears… perfect, then, for an audio adventure. It’s tense, it’s cramped, you’re surrounded by instant death, it’s a ludicrous situation. So of course, people go crazy, and that happens a lot in ‘Jonah.’ Even the Daleks lose it a bit.

“The other side of this story for me was the shadow passing over the Eighth Doctor, the intimations of the warrior he will become. Of course, this is the Time War, so we’ve no idea whether we’re five months or 500 years from the events of ‘The Night of the Doctor’—possibly both, simultaneously? The Doctor is forced by Ollistra into an unwanted position of authority, making life or death decisions on behalf of his crew, dragged deeper and deeper into a war he really just wants to run away from. What warnings does he receive? What terrible realizations, what denials, what scars will eventually lead to that life changing choice he makes on Karn?

“No matter how complex and cosmic the Time War gets, for me war stories are always about people fighting themselves—personal decisions, impossible moral choices—including the Doctor. ‘Jonah’ is the story of one of those descents.”

THE WAR MASTER — THE MASTER OF CALOUS

“A brand-new four-part adventure featuring the Master’s exploits in the Time War.

“On the mining colony Callous, Elliot King struggles to meet the demands of its governor, Teremon. The odds are stacked against him, and his options are running low. The world that once promised dreams now offers only despair.

“A wild Ood stalks the forests, carrying an antiquated phone. The caller promises much – he claims he can change the world – but he always speaks a devastating truth.

“He is the Master and the Ood will obey him... but to what end?”

1. Call for the Dead by James Goss
2. The Glittering Prize by James Goss
3. The Persistence of Dreams by Guy Adams
4. Sins of the Father by Guy Adam

I’ve been listen to all of the “Time War” sets. I’m caught up. But I’ve fallen behind a bit posting, so I’m going to post just a general impression of this entire set and leave it at that. Because, according to Russel T. Davies, the Derek Jacoby Master was not the Master of the Time War, Big Finish (with Davies’ permission and blessing) concocted a way for him to have been the Master during the Time War. This explanation involved the Master reverting to a baby at the end of the first set (rather than regenerating) so as to escape the wrath of the Daleks. This explanation allowed Jacoby to “grow up” to be Professor Yana.

One thing Davies requested was that Big Finish make the Ood scary again. I think they accomplished that. As we know, the Ood are somewhat susceptible to mind control, and when they begin chanting, “I am the… I am the…” the effect is positively chilling. “…and you shall obey me.”

So when does this story take place? At first I thought it was after the end of the first set because one of the main features of part one is the Master communicating with the Ood by means of an old candlestick telephone. I thought he might have been communicating from “within the fob watch” or whatever, but no, he later turns up in the flesh, so this must take place before the stories on the first set. The Master passes himself off as “Orman” when he joins the colony. He is genial, jovial and affable, but with a sinister streak lying just beneath the surface.

It’s almost possible to imagine him as the Doctor, except in his case, when he does do the the right thing, it’s usually for the wrong reason. One thing I liked about this set is that all of the characters are morally ambiguous in one way or another. Everything is a shade of grey. Next month, the Time War resumes with the second “Gallifrey” box set.

Director Ken Bentley says: “There’s more complexity and more continuity in the Time War series than anything else we work on I think.”

You’re heard of the War Doctor, you’ve heard of the War Master.

Now meet… the War Valeyard.

“Next week, I plan to continue on to set two of Gallifrey: Time War…”

That was four months ago (which gives some indication of how long I've been sitting on this set). I’ve got a lot of audios piling up, good ones, too, but I needed to take a break for posting for a while. I have been re-listening to some stories I’ve already posted about, but I’ve largely taken a break from listening, as well. Now that I’m back, I’m going to try not to be so… “verbose.”

GALLIFREY: TIME WAR II

“Rassilon has returned – summoned back from the dead, to lead his people through their greatest crisis. But the Time Lords will reap what they have sown, and the consequences of this resurrection will determine Gallifrey’s fate. And in among the schemes and strategies of war, Romana and Narvin are losing friends and allies, as they become ever more isolated…”

HAVOC by David Llewellyn:

“In the aftermath of Rassilon’s return, Romana finds herself at the heart of the War Council’s machinations, with the High Council, the CIA, and the Lord President’s new security force all vying for control. But then, a mysterious stranger arrives in the Capitol itself. And they bring a terrible warning from the future…”

PARTISANS by Una McCormack:

“When the world of Ysalus becomes a strategic target for the Time Lords and their opponents, Gallifrey takes an interest in the planet’s civil unrest. But the CIA and the War Council each have their own strategy. And, as good intentions only make things worse, the true horror of the Time War will be visited upon the people of Ysalus.”

COLLATERAL by Lisa McMullin:

“As the scavenging Sythes descend on Ysalus, Narvin discovers how far his people will go to protect their interests. The universe is discovering that no place is safe from the fury of battle. Every victory in the Time War comes at a price, and too often it is the innocent who will pay…”

ASSASSINS by Matt Fitton:

“Pushed to the brink by Rassilon’s actions, Romana is thinking the unthinkable. A new threat has breached Gallifrey’s defences. And its target is clear. A race of assassins has evolved at the heart of the Time War, dedicated to one purpose. The Sicari are coming for Rassilon…”

COMMENTARY:

Rassilon is given control of Gallifrey and, after he’s in office for a while, those who put him there come to regret it. (Hmm… sounds familiar.) Livia is still President and, for political reasons, Romana has been reinstated as head of the C.I.A. Over the course of the stories in the set, Livia and Romana become uneasy allies.

Braxiatel, Leela and Ace are all out of the story. Leela was swept out of the Master’s TARDIS into the middle of the Time War in set one, Ace is on Earth (I think), and Brax is who knows where. Romana and Narvin attempt to locate Ace, but something Rassilon has done has created contradictory backstories making her impossible to locate. (I think the reference to “contradictory backstories” is a wink to various novels, comics and whatnot in which Ace has appeared.)

Rassilon is played by veteran actor Terrence Hardiman. Romana and Narvin stage a coup and attempt an assassination. Rassilon is wounded mortally but not fatally, if you know what I mean. He will regenerate for the next set, but no word yet on who will play him. (The only thing I’m sure of is that it won’t be Timothy Dalton.) So as not to make them martyrs, Romana and Narvin are exiled in a reconditioned TARDIS (not a Type 40, but a Type 50 or 55). The TARDIS has been set to land them “in the middle of the Time War; they are not expected to survive. Their plan to is to find Leela.

Hardiman played "Hawthorne" in the Eleventh Doctor story "The Beast Below".

Yup, that’s him.

There’s one funny scene I want to relate. There are countless variations of “It’s bigger on the inside” on TV, and even more when you consider the audios as well. In “Partisans,” a refugee from the war-torn planet Ysalus enters Narvin’s TADRIS and is obviously impressed.

“It’s…”

“Yes, yes…”

“…so clean!

“What? That’s it? ‘Clean’?”

THE WAR MASTER 3: “Rage Against the Time Lords”

“With all of space and time in chaos, the Master plots his most audacious project yet. Only one other Time Lord has ever been able to stop him. But where is that Time Lord when the universe needs him?”

3.1 - THE SURVIVOR by Tim Foley:

“At the height of the Second World War on the planet Earth, Alice Pritchard wants for nothing more than the fighting to stop, and to do her bit for King and Country. But when the village priest [i.e., the Master] offers her guidance, her life will change in ways she could never imagine.”

The Master gives Alice Pritchard some shiny stones which he describes as “space shrapnel.” He tells her that if she holds the stones and prays, her wishes will come true. That stones really are to enhance latent psychic talent. With no training in how to use them, her subconscious desires become reality. The Master maneuvers the townsfolk to stage a tribunal, and manipulates them enough to make tham think it was their idea. He does eventually “save” her (after endangering her in the first place), for reasons of his own. As I have pointed out before, the “War Master” often does the right thing but for the wrong reason (as long as Gallifrey’s interests and his coincide), but he is completely amoral and unethical.

3.2 - THE CONEY ISLAND CHAMELEON by David Llewellyn

“When the carnival arrives on Coney Island, it brings with it the most incredible specimens that New York will ever see. Unfortunately for the acts, not all eyes on them are friendly. Enigmatic businessman TS Mereath has taken a shine to the Coney Island Chameleon, for example… and he will seemingly stop at nothing to acquire her.”

No sign of Alice Pritchard this episode. The Master (or “TS Mereath”) seems to have his sites set on someone else. “Esther” is an alien stranded on Earth who has the power to change her skin to match her background. She is working as a side-show freak for Giuseppe Sabatini, a showman who truly does have her best interests at heart. In fact, he has the best interests of all the performers in his show at heart. But the Master wants her and, in the end, he gets what he wants.

3.3- THE MISSING LINK by Tim Foley

“On a desolate world in the distant future, the Master embarks on his latest scheme, aided and abetted by a team of brilliant scientists. But who is he truly working for? And in a universe at war, is there anyone left in all the cosmos who can stop him?”

The Master has been collecting those with latent powers, such as Alice Prichard and Esther, and taking them to this this medical research facility in which the genetic material of beings with latent power is copied for replication in soldiers. Alice is back in the story, and she can read impressions from the Master’s mind even though she shouldn’t be able to because she’s in a shielded cell. In his mind, she sees impressions of the (Eighth) doctor, and sends out a mental distress call. When he follows it and breaks into her cell, she says…

“It’s you!”

“Yes. It’s you!”

“Wait. You know me?”

“No, I assumed that was a local form of greeting.”

Same old Doctor.

But the Master had purposefully let her read his mind in order to set a trap for the Doctor.

And he walked right into it.

As the chapter ends, he slips into unconsciousness.

I’d like to wrap-up “Rage Against the Time Lords” so I can move on to something else next week, but because I’m going to be offline tomorrow, I’ll have to post two summaries today.

3.4 - DARKNESS AND LIGHT by David Llewellyn

“With the Master’s plans near completion, his victory is threatened by the presence of his greatest friend and enemy: the Doctor.”

When the Doctor regains consciousness, Alice informs him that he’s just undergone an operation (but we won’t find out the significance of that operation until the end). The Master has created a new lifeform called “The Rage” from the genetic material of all the beings he has kidnapped. [His assistants are “Crantz” and “Stern” (as in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern”), BTW.] The Master loses control of The Rage and the Doctor has to team up with him to overcome it. They fight side-by-side throughout, but something has to be done to be done sometime to account for why the Tenth Doctor doesn’t recognize Professor Yana in “Utopia.”

As I was listening, I decided I was okay if they didn’t explain it this time around. They sometimes have to jump through hoops to explain why the Tenth Doctor didn’t recognize River Song in “Silence of the Library” when, from her point of view, she had already met all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations. Explaining it too soon might limit future meetings, and Big Finish doesn’t like to write themselves into a corner.

A potential reconciliation between the Doctor and the Master seemed to be in the offing when the Master revealed that he implanted a nanobot in the Doctor’s brain. When the ‘bot issues an electromagnet pulse, in about five seconds, all of the Doctor’s recent memories of the Master will be wiped. Presumably, this nanobot can be utilized in the future so that the Doctor and the Master will be able to meet time and again throughout the Time War.

I knew Big Finish would find some way to account for it, and I’m happy with this explanation.

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