Big Finish: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Mutally Assured Destruction Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Mutally Assured Destruction Review

Matthew Kresal says "Yippee ki-yay, Daleks!"
As 2020 draws to a close, so does Big Finish's trilogy of Eighth Doctor audios for Time Lord Victorious. The last two months have been a wild ride for Paul McGann's incarnation of the Time Lord, taking him from a space-western to a teaming up of the Doctor with the Daleks. So how do you round off the trilogy? Perhaps by doing "Die Hard on a Dalek time-ship," which is what Mutually Assured Destruction delivers.

The thing to say about this audio right at the top of this review is this: it starts in medias res. Contrary to this reviewer's expectations last month, this audio doesn't directly follow-on from The Enemy of My Enemy. Instead, as producer Alfie Shaw alludes to in the extras, it picks up on the Eighth Doctor's strand in the novel All Flesh is Grass. As a result, there's perhaps some missing context as the story opens. That said, writer Lizzie Hopley offers enough context clues that it works even if you've not read the second novel in the arc yet as dialogue firmly establishes what the listener needs to know. Once you learn the alliance between the Doctor and the Daleks has collapsed, and both are aboard the damaged time-ship hurtling through the vortex, you're good to go.

Not to mention in for a treat. Hopley takes the pitch, "Die Hard on a Dalek time-ship," and runs with it as far and fast as she can. To stretch the analogy for those who've seen the classic action movie, the Eighth Doctor is John McClane, the Daleks are the terrorists, and the TARDIS is a hostage. That isn't a one-for-one match, of course, and Hopley also has an extra pair of characters to cause further complications in the latter half of the script. Not to mention that while the Doctor and the Daleks are facing off, the Daleks themselves are at odds, especially the Time Commander and Strategist. Even so, there are moments of both tension and great fun to be had along the way. That includes the surreal image of having the Doctor dancing in zero-gravity with a Dalek while singing a tune. Hopley creates a claustrophobic, narratively contained, and immensely thrilling Doctor Who action movie on audio that makes for one heck of a listening experience.

An experience heightened by the strength of the cast. As with the earlier entries in the trilogy, it is very much apparent that Paul McGann is having a ball performing these scripts. From zero-gravity Dalek dancing to his McClane-like conversations with the Daleks, McGann is always present and engaged, brimming with energy and presence. It's as electrifying and energetic an Eighth Doctor performance that harkens back to McGann's earliest days at Big Finish and one that is an absolute hoot for fans of his Doctor.

The other key player here is Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks. Voicing an army of Daleks is no easy task, and Briggs more than proves up to it here. Tking his cue from Hopley's script, it also allows him to play them not as cannon fodder but as actual characters. Of them, the Time Commander and Strategist come across the strongest, as much adversaries to one another as they are the Doctor himself. It's a showcase for Dalek fans and Briggs as the actor bringing them to life.

With action set pieces and solid performances from McGann and Briggs, Mutually Assured Destruction plays out like a big-budget action movie without the pictures. As a result, it means this trilogy goes out with a mighty big bang. More than that, it lets the trilogy go out as strongly as it started while showcasing the scope of storytelling Big Finish brings to listeners. Something which, with new audiences finding their work thanks to this arc, is all the better for both creators and fans alike.

In short, a victory lap, and a well-deserved one.

Doctor Who - Time Lord Victorious: Mutually Assured Destruction is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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