Big Finish: Doctor Who - Unbound: DOCTOR OF WAR 1: GENESIS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: Doctor Who - Unbound: DOCTOR OF WAR 1: GENESIS Review

Matthew Kresal discovers a tantalizing 'what if?'
In 2003, with Doctor Who off television screens as its fortieth anniversary approached, Big Finish marked the occasion with one of their most unique series. Across six releases, they turned Doctor Who, from its foundations to its very existence as a television programme, on its ear by asking a simple question: "what if?" Doctor Who Unbound (as the series became known) returned for two sequel outings later in the decade but has laid dormant ever since. That is, until now, with the release in April 2022 with the release of Doctor of War: Genesis.

As the title of the set and its artwork may hint at, Doctor of War's point of divergence from Doctor Who as we've known it comes out of one famous moment in arguably Classic Who's greatest serial. It's a moment that John Dorney dramatizes to full effect with Tom Baker effortlessly slipping back in time to 1975 alongside Sadie Miller and Christopher Naylor as Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan. Combined with Jack Townley's sound design and the music of Howard Carter, it's an incredible listen for any fan of Classic Who, with Dorney geting the ball rolling as the familair mingles with the different, and things get Unbound in a hurry.

And that's just the pre-credits scene.

Dorney's Dust Devil picks up from that opening and Carter's epic version of the Doctor Who Theme into a very different Time War and a new Doctor with a familair voice. Opening the episode proper with a monologue describing trying to make chronological sense of the Time War as "gauche," Dorney drops listener and a new version of Colin Baker's Doctor onto the planet Aridius. To say the narrative is non-linear is an understatement, but it's to Dorney's credit that he presents a story that makes sense along the way, treating the temporal hijinks and plot twists in a layered fashion. One that quickly sets up many of the themes and plot points of the set, including the fact that while faces (or rather voices) may be familiar, who lurks behind them aren't. The result is a heck of an opener, setting the stage for what's to follow.

Lou Morgan's Aftershocks, the middle story of the set, sees Colin Baker's Doctor of War (or The Warrior, as this incarnation comes to be known) in a familiar setting: on trial. Morgan's script isn't an Unbound take on Trial of a Time Lord, though there's, without a doubt, echoes of it. Instead, Aftershocks sees him thrown into a Kafka-esque series of encounters with Seán Carlsen's Narvin from the Gallifrey range and a version of Geoffrey Beevers incarnation of the Master, trying to make sense of charges unexplained and events that may or may have happened. It's also in this episode that, as befitting the title, the effects of the actions at the opening of the set make themselves known, all coming together in a conclusion that brings together performance, writing, sound design, and music all under the direction of Barnaby Kay in dramatic fashion. The result is an immensely satisfying and gripping hour of listening.

James Kettle brings Genesis to its conclusion with The Difference Office. With the previous episodes having spent much of their time out in the universe, Kettle's script centers the action on Gallifrey itself. Caught in the middle of a very different Time War, The Difference Office introduces listeners both to the Warrior as President but new incarnations of familiar Time Lord characters in the form of Rebecca Night's Romana and Sanjeev Bhaskar's Borusa. More than that, Kettle presents an Unbound Time War take on elements from a pair of Fourth Doctor stories, presenting a rich storytelling mix that brings the set to a close with a sense of just far it and the Doctor of War himself have come.

The entire Doctor of War: Genesis set, with its twists, turns and non-linear narratives, anchored by Colin Baker's performances. As this reviewer observed reviewing The Lovecraft Invasion in 2020, Colin Baker's Doctor has been one of Big Finish's biggest revelations over the years, handing in strong performances and making the best scripts majestic. That's especially true with this set where, unbound from "old sixie," as Baker calls his incarnation of the Doctor, his full range on his display. There's an elemental nature to his performance as the Warrior, frequently shifting between emotions and tones within even the same scene, ever-changing and never still, from fury and frustration to a crushing sense of melancholy. There's echoes of both the Sixth Doctor as Baker's played him and the late Sir John Hurt's War Doctor, certainly, but Baker's performance here is neither, in the same way he offered his own distinct take on the Curator in Stranded 4. Indeed, being released the same month as that and hot on the heels of Mind of the Hodiac, Spring 2022 might be one of Baker's finest times working with Big Finish, allowing him to showcase his talents and Doctor in all their glory.

Doctor of War: Genesis is a triumphant return to form for the Unbound range. It's an opportunity to let writers and actors alike showcase a new version of not just the Doctor Who universe but Colin Baker as the Doctor with non-linear storytelling and all the production values that have made Big Finish work stand the test of time. With a second set, Destiny, set to conclude the Doctor of War run this autumn, now's the time to discover the power of a simple question: "What if?"

Doctor Who - Unbound: Doctor of War 1: Genesis is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 June 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad