Big Finish: Doctor Who: Unbound: Doctor of War 2: Destiny, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Big Finish: Doctor Who: Unbound: Doctor of War 2: Destiny, Review

Matthew Kresal has had better destinies.
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 earlier this year when the first Doctor of War set was released. Spinning off an alternate outcome to Genesis of the Dalek's iconic "Do I have the right?" scene, seeing an earlier Time War and a new War Doctor with the familiar face and voice of Colin Baker known as the Warrior. Following that Genesis, Doctor of War reaches its climax in this second set. But what sort of Destiny will the Warrior face?

Perhaps surprisingly, the set kicks off with a Doctor (or is it Warrior?) lite outing. Picking up on how The Difference Office in Genesis mashed up and reimagined Fourth Doctor stories, Nigel Fairs puts his spin on The Face of Evil with Who Am I?. As knowledgable fans will know, that was also the introduction of Louise Jameson's Leela, which comes into play here as Fairs reimagines elements and iconic moments from her first appearance. What fairs does to give this an Unbound twist is to drop another Time Lord into the Doctor's role: The Master, as played by Geoffrey Beevers. It's an intriguing idea Fairs plays with, dropping the Master in place of the Doctor, and one that's popped up in fan works such as Master Switches. Hearing it done here, with Beevers and Jameson reprising their roles and with everything Big Finish brings, gives it a certain frisson, particularly in hearing performances as delicious as Beevers gives here.

The Warrior and the Master are traveling companions in the middle story of the set, Lizzie Hopley's Time Killers. Or, at least, things start that way as they arrive in the City of Mellennius on the planet Marinus, only to discover a city where time is money. Literally, time is the new currency. Hopley has fun dropping these two Time Lords, versions of characters that Big Finish listeners especially have come to know so well, into this situation and with the narrative shenanigans that ensue when one starts messing about with time. It also gives Baker and Beevers a chance to shine, each relishing finding new aspects to play. The only shame is that the choice of setting feels like an afterthought beyond a handful of references, which seems a shame given what the Unbound format might have offered from a Time War-affected Marinus.

Then there's Tim Foley's The Key To Key To Time, which is this set, and Doctor of War as a series, concluding installment. And that mouthful of a title is but a mere harbinger for the episode itself, where Foley returns to the reimagined Fourth Doctor era concept to present a reimagined quest for the Key to Time through a Time War prism. It's certainly an Unbound story and one that sees Foley give Gary Russell's Valeyard-centric He Jests at Scars a run for its money with its continuity references and a twisty narrative. Colin Baker speaking in the brief extras, describes it "politely" as a "mind scrambler," and he isn't wrong. Calling it a hot mess would also be a fair assessment, given the number of underused ideas and characters tossed into the narrative and the sense of endings piled atop one another. Indeed, it feels as though an entire box-set worth of stories are crammed into a tad under 80 minutes, leaving this a most unsatisfying and frustrating conclusion to the set.

Perhaps what ails this set, and its finale, especially, is something that benefited its predecessor: that it's a trilogy of standalone episodes. While that works for introductions, as with Genesis, Destiny feels like it's building up to its conclusion. Except that, by being preceded by two standalone tales, the actual finale feels, at best, rushed and ill-conceived at worst. It also leaves Destiny as a whole feeling that it's a Time War set that spends surprisingly little time dealing with the actual conflict but going off on tangents. It's a slight shame, given how strong the first set and the central concept were.

What isn't in doubt is the strength of its leading man. Colin Baker, unbound from "old sixie," has his full range on display here. 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 to frustration to a crushing sense of melancholy. There are echoes of both the Sixth Doctor as Baker played him, of course, and the late Sir John Hurt's War Doctor, yet Baker's performance here is neither, in the same way, he offered his distinct take on the Curator in Stranded 4. Indeed, between Stranded and hot on the heels of Mind of the Hodiac back in the spring, 2022 might be one of Baker's finest times working with Big Finish.

All of this makes it more of a shame that Destiny doesn't quite stick the landing.

Doctor Who: Unbound: Doctor of War 2: Destiny is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 October 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