Since the end of 2015, Big Finish Productions launched one of their biggest Doctor Who series starring John Hurt’s War Doctor, who was introduced during the legendary 50th Anniversary back in 2013. These four volumes were meant to expand upon the War Doctor’s journey through the Time War, diving into recesses of it and showing just how dark and dangerous it was. This fourth and final volume sends the series, and most of all John Hurt’s War Doctor, out with a bang as it presents new threats that endangers the whole of time and reality, as well as the long-awaited reunion of the Doctor and his “savage” companion Leela.
Envisioned as an Eliza Doolittle-esque character back in 1977, Leela was a savage that was armed with impeccable vowels. While she was primitive and violent, she had a fierce intelligence, and her adventures with the Fourth Doctor became some of the most beloved stories amongst fandom, including “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”, “Robots of Death”, and so on. However, with “The Invasion of Time”, she didn’t receive the strongest of stories to go out on, choosing to stay on Gallifrey after falling in love with a soldier, which came completely out of nowhere. Apart from a trilogy of audio stories from 2010 surrounding Leela’s fate, little was known for what happened to her during the Time War, yet this story fills in most of those blanks by showing us a Leela that has been somewhat “damaged” as a result of the war. Her character development here lines up perfectly with what has gone before for her character with Louise Jameson giving a performance that’s truly powerful on an emotional level, and her interactions with John Hurt is something special.
Speaking of which, like the entire run, this volume is a true testament to John Hurt, who sadly passed away earlier this year. A pantheon of Doctors may have graced our screens, but it was John Hurt who bridged the gap between all of them. When he was introduced back in 2013 as the War Doctor, there were fans who had serious doubts about this Doctor based on the continuity and how he fits well within his own regenerative timeline. Despite all that, he proved be a phenomenal Doctor, and even though he was the oldest actor to have played the Doctor, he truly brought an energy and vitality that made him outclass even the likes of Paul McGann and so on. Hurt brought real life and passion into his various iconic roles such as Caligula in I, Claudius, Professor Broom in the Hellboy films or Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man, and with the War Doctor, not only was it one of his most iconic portrayals yet seen on TV and in audio, but he proved he was as much the Doctor as Tom Baker and David Tennant, and that really is an honour like no other.
It’s no surprise then that this volume is fantastic in every way; the individual stories by Guy Adams, Andrew Smith and Nick Briggs have tension to them that keeps you on the edge of your seat, the performances are amazing, and the cinematic feel to the stories is present thanks to Howard Carter’s excellent music and sound design. But if you haven’t picked up the previous instalments, it is important that you do so, even if you’re just a casual Whovian. The War Doctor audio range is among the very best Big Finish has accomplished, bringing real integrity and depth to the Time War and to the War Doctor. But most of all, it gave us the chance to spend more time in the company of Sir John Hurt, who was a true legend like no other, and will never be forgotten in the years to come.
DOCTOR WHO - THE WAR DOCTOR VOL. 04: CASUALTIES OF WAR / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / WRITTEN BY: GUY ADAMS, ANDREW SMITH, NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: JOHN HURT, LOUISE JAMES, JACQUELINE PEARCE, JOSEPH KLOSKA / RELEASED BY: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (BIG FINISH); 30TH APRIL (GENERAL RELEASE)