Big Finish: Doctor Who THE WAR DOCTOR BEGINS: WARBRINGER Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad


Matthew Kresal hears the sounds of war.
It's hard to believe it's been over eight years since the reveal of Sir John Hurt at the end of The Name of the Doctor surprised Doctor Who fans the world over. Given a prominent role in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, Hurt's Time War Doctor found an instant following and eventually four Big Finish box-sets before his untimely passing in 2017. Then, earlier this year, Big Finish released the first of the War Doctor Begins sets, with Jonathon Carley sliding on the War Doctor's bandolier in the earliest days of this Doctor. Having proven the concept, Big Finish slips into high gear with Warbringer, the second set in the series, and with an intriguing story in its own right.

Perhaps the biggest thing that separates Warbringer from Forged in Fire, which was released back in June, is the stories it tells. Whereas that first set was essentially an origin story for this little-seen Doctor in three standalone episodes, Warbringer aims to be more serialized. With three episodes penned by as many different writers (Timothy X Atack, Andrew Smith, and Jonathan Morris), Warbringer is essentially a three-part serial. It's an approach that, likely coincidentally given this set's recording over a year ago, echoes that of the recent Flux season on television and which Big Finish puts to effective use here, telling the story of a Time War skirmish.

And what a skirmish it is. Atack opens things in Consequences, essentially the box-set in the middle of its arc. A move echoed by the status of the character of Case (Ajjaz Awad), who wakes up with cybernetic implants, amnesia and, like the listener, has little idea what on Earth (or, in this case, Tharius) is going on as she encounters the familiar characters of Beth Chalmers' Veklin and, of course, the War Doctor. With Atack's script having handled the lion's share of world-building and introductions, Smith's Destroyer gets to build the set to an apparent climax, with the morality of this Doctor put to the test by events already set in motion and a devastating choice to be in the midst of the Time War. Except that things are, in proper Who fashion, not always explored in their chronological order, as Morris' Saviour reveals when it presents what is essentially the first third of Warbringer's story as its conclusion. It's an intriguing way to tell a story, a fitting one given the Time War setting, and which both the writers and director Louise Jameson tackle with aplomb.

That confidence carries over to its leading man, as well. Having made an impressive debut in Forged in Fire, Jonathon Carley builds on that performance here. Carley again excels at capturing the sound of early eighties Hurt in films like Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Osterman Weekend, sometimes uncannily doing so. It also helps that Carley, under Louise Jameson's skillful direction, presents this younger War Doctor as being a fully-formed character in his own right. Carley captures an almost manic yet melancholic feel to this incarnation, a man trying so hard to bury his past selves while nonetheless drawn to do what he can to follow in their footsteps. It's a performance that builds on an impressive debut and takes it even further, to the credit of actor, director, and production alike.

Like many Big Finish releases, this set goes a long way to give its Doctor backing. The cast, for example, is populated by Jameson with solid performers and Big Finish veterans. They range from Chalmers as Time Lord agent Veklin to Awad (who impressed this reviewer as Katarina in the 2019 Early Adventures release Daughter of the Gods) to John Banks, Angela Bruce, and Nigel Fairs in various supporting roles. The sound design of Jack Townley and the music of Howard Carter had to the grand feel of the production, taking in everything from action sequences on hellish battlefields to Dalek control rooms.

If Forged in Fire launched a War Doctor renaissance as I suggested when I reviewed it this past June, then Warbringer starts to deliver on that promise. Building on an impressive opening set, Warbringer offers one of the best War Doctor stories yet told with an epic tale of wartime morality and consequences. One that fits this Doctor perfectly, offering a performer still new in the part another chance to showcase himself in the role.

And with a third set confirmed for May, now is the time to light the flame and let battle come down as the War Doctor Begins again.

Doctor Who: The War Doctor Begins: Warbringer is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 28 February 2022, and on general sale after this date.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad