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 - p7
   The Scaramancer - p7
   The Castle of Kurnos 5 - p7
   The Cognition Shift p7

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

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Now I'm going to have to decide to shelve Susan's War with  "Time War" *(War Doctor, War Master, etc.) or with "The Women of Who" (Charlottte, Lucie, Rose, River, Jenny, etc.). Decisions, decisions...

THE EIGHTH DOCTOR: TIME WAR 4:

"The Time War rages through space and time--two powerful enemies in a fight to the death. the doctor keeps to the fronges of the conflict, helping where he can. He is not a warrior. Not yet. But this war takes no prisoners, and friends and enemies will draw the Doctor ever closer to his destiny."

Pictured above (left to right): Dalek Time Strategist, Davros, The Doctor, Bliss, The General

NEXT: "Palindrome, Pt. 1"

PALINDROME, PT. 1:

"Gentle scientist Davros lives one day after another on the peaceful world of Skaro, with his loving wife Charn. But when those days begin to run backwards, and two mysterious strangers enter his life, Davros is drawn into a terrible future. Or is it a terrible past?"

This story takes place in an alternate reality in which Davos is a kindly Kaled married to a Thal. He and his wife have invented a machine capable of tapping into other realities. When the story opens, it has been four days since they first activated the machine. The next day, it has been three days and he realizes he's living his in reverse. Remember King Arthur's Merlin, who "youthened" and "remembered" the future? This is how that would look. 

His wife is killed, but when he wakes up the next day she's still alive, and it's been two days since the machine was activated. the Doctor and Bliss are there, too, trying to set things right. Then the Dalek Time strategist arrives and fills Davros' head with awful lies about the Doctor. the doctor and Bliss are both killed, but in order to save his wife's life, the time Strategist convinces Davros that he must kill himself.

So far, the story has been fairly straightforward believe it or not.

The title of the story is a hint as to what happens in part two.

PALINDRONE, PT. 2:

"The Doctor and Bliss fight the Dalek Time strategist's plan to rebirth the Daleks into the universe--into every universe. Davros must stand against his destiny to try and save all he holds dear. His creations are returning."

Davros allows the Time Strategist to talk him into proceeding with his plan. Davros has already see the Daleks kill his wife, but the DTS convinces him that the Daleks can be remade to be Good. His real plan, however, is to eliminate all alternate realities and combine them into a single universe which would host an Ultimate race of Daleks. Now Davros must relive the four days of part one, in correct order.

Because infinite versions of reality are constantly overwriting each other, Davos begins to change from fully human to hybrid human/Dalek form. But, for the same reason, the Doctor and Bliss return as well, from a reality (or multiple realities) in which they were not killed. In effect, during this flux period, no one in the merged reality can die.

Kudos to Terry Molloy (and the production staff as well, I suppose) for pulling off all stages of the transformation on audio.

DREADSHADE:

"The doctor and Bliss find the Time Lords recovering from a war they have no memory of fighting. As the General decommissions a host of terrible weapons, the Twelve sees an opportunity. In a universe where no-one remembers the Daleks, Time Lords are the monsters that everyone fears."

The Doctor and Bliss arrive on Gallifrey semi-amnesiac. Bliss knows her name, but that's about it. The Doctor knows who he is, but he remembers the Twelve (a woman in this incarnation) as the Eleven. The Time War is apparently over, and the entire galaxy has been subject to some sort of "time event" which has wiped everyone's memories... everyone except the Twelve, who was in cryo-stasis. The whole situation is a ploy of the Time Strategist, however, in order to resurrect the Dalek race.

RESTORATION OF THE DALEKS

"The Daleks are coming. As the dalek Time Strategist restores its forces from the multiverse, Davros has a new purpose, and it is far worse than either Daleks or Time Lords imagine. While Bliss does all she can to save a world, the doctor is set for a climactic confrontation."

I forgot to post a reaction to this one last week while it was still fresh in my mind. Whoops. There is a Big Finish range, I, Davros, which presents his origin story. It is not one I've ever been particularly interested in, nor do I plan to buy it now, but I gather this set is loosely based on it, at least in the respect that it presents an alternate version of events depicted in that series, I didn't have trouble following this set, but I think someone familiar with I, Davros would have gotten more out of it. 

Just as the Time War grew out of the Gallifrey series, so too did it grow from I, Davros.

GALLIFREY: TIME WAR 4:

Romana is lost to the Time War though Leela and Narvin still fight to survive.

A resistance, caught between Rassilon’s fury and the Dalek Emperor’s mania, have a desperate plan to stop the conflict.

Everything ends. And for some on Gallifrey, the Time War will soon be over.

DECEPTION:

"As the resistance scatters, Leela and an unknown ally embark on a rescue. But there are traps for the unwary inside the Vortex. Meanwhile on Gallifrey, Livia and Mantus are at odds, seeking to protect themselves as Rassilon's grip tightens."

After 13 months, I have clearly lost the narrative thread, especially since this episode begins in medias res directly from the end of the previous chapter (see "Unity," p.5). 

DISSOLUTION:

"With young Rayo in tow, Narvin looks for respite in an ancient bolthole and turns to an old mentor for help. But a Dalek has been hunting him through space and time, and it will not give up his trail so easily."

I decided to take a week off from this set and listen to music, then one week turned into seven and here we are. The gap didn't help me any in my hope of picking up the narrative thread, and I'm not even going to try to bluster my way through it. It seems as if each chapter is going to focus on one member of the scattered resistance, with them (perhaps) coming together in the final part. Part one focused on Leela, part two on Narvin and part three will be on Romana. 

BEYOND:

"Romana met her fate on Unity, but Braxiatel isn’t ready to give up on her. In a forbidden realm, he offers one last hope to escape the chaos of a universe at war. First, they must enter the Beyond and confront the ghosts and monsters within."

I once said it was as if the Gallifrey series was the original and all of Doctor Who was the spin-off. This episode alone pulls in not only the alternate version of Romana from that series, but the Ravenous as well. This is a pretty complex story (the "Time War") and I really need to go back and listen to the whole thing again (without the months-long gaps between sets). I'd really be doing a disservice to try to explain  everything that happened in a story I only half understand in the first place. 

HOMECOMING:

"Rassilon receives an ultimatum from an envoy of the Dalek Emperor while Leela and Narvin return with a dangerous strategy to end the Time War. All roads lead to Gallifrey. For some, this is where the fight will end."

All plotlines converge as the Dalek fleet attacks Gallifrey, pitting the God-Emperor of the Daleks against Rassilon. Leela and Narvin are on an unsanctioned mission of their own to destroy the Time Vortex. They know doing so will not end the war, but it will confine it to one time. what they don't know is that the Daleks are using a different method of time travel (instead of traveling through the Vortex, they are traversing Null space) and the destruction of the Vortex would cripple only the Time Lords.

When Leela learns that Romana is being held by the Daleks, she sets about on a solo rescue mission, much to the chagrin of Narvin. The highlight of this episode, fo me, is the reconciliation of Romana and Leela. Working together with Rassilon, they all manage to turn back the Dalek invasion fleet, but in the aftermath, Rassilon imprisons Romana. Leela forms a temporary alliance with Rassilon, just until the Time War can be won, then she vows to free Romana and kill Rassilon. 

Apparently, Volume Four was the last of the Gallifrey: Time War series and no more are planned. That makes sense in a way: many Big Finish series are told in 16-episode arcs in four boxes of four episodes each. But springing out of the old Gallifrey series, Gallifrey: Time War has a pedigree almost as old as Big Finish itself, plus the Time War may be time-locked, but it lasted hundreds of years (relatively speaking). "Homecoming" was designed to put the players in place for whatever Big Finish may decide to do with them next.

Leela is the character I find most interesting. Lousie Jamison has been active on and off throughout the whole Gallifrey series (including the Time War), she's active in The Fourth Doctor Adventures and she will later travel with the War Doctor (John Hurt version). But Big Finish has an Eighth Doctor: Time War series (which I assume is ongoing) and they've just started The War Doctor Begins, both of which could run indefinitely until the timeline gets to the John Hurt era. I haven't listened to tose in a while; I can't remember whether or not Leela had just met that incarnation, or if she had been traveling with him for a while. 

I suppose Gallifrey: Time War is going to meld, more or less, into the Eighth Doctor: Time War series, but I've been wrong before. I wouldn't expect Leela to fight alongside the Eighth Doctor, but it would be nice to see her in The War Doctor Begins series from time to time. Of course, she would eventually have to spend some time away during which time several hundred years would have passed for him, maybe 20 or so for her. Of course, she's already spent probably that long already on Gallifrey with Leela. 

THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS: FORGED IN FIRE

"The Doctor is no more. In his place, a warrior, finally joining the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. But how far will he go to end this conflict? What lines will he cross? How much of himself will he sacrifice? The War Doctor is only just beginning to find out who he is…"

Just last week I mentioned (in another discussion) that Big Finish doesn't like to tie its stories in to specific episodes. I should have said they usually don't, because there are exceptions (such as "The Last Adventure"). "Light the Flame" pick up immediately after the end of "The Night of the Doctor" because why not?

1.1 - LIGHT THE FLAME

"The Sisterhood of Karn have a guest, recovering from his traumatic regeneration. To do what is asked of him, the Doctor has rejected his name and his code. The Time Lords have plans for him and for Karn. Is he ready to light the flame of war?"

Someone on this board once pointed out that these Big Finish stories "aren't canon." I'd like to refute that if I may. I think they are as canonical as anything, even more so than the original series episodes in some respects. Whereas it is true that the BBC could contradict anything in Big Finish if they wanted (as if the new show has never contradicted the old), they haven't to the best of my knowledge. What's more, Big Finish strives to conform to all established TV continuity, both classic and new, to the best of their ability.

I'm about halfway through "Light the flame" at this point, but so far it is everything I had hoped for and more. What's more, Jonathon Carley sounds like a young John Hurt. I toyed with the idea of spinning The War Doctor Begins into a discussion of its own, but I like the idea of having all the "Time War" stories in a single thread. The precise timeline is up to the listener to determine. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that the Eighth Doctor's "Time War" stories obviously occur before The War Doctor Begins

And I thought I was happy when Christopher Eccleston returned as the Ninth Doctor!

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