One year on from this series’ beginning, and as we delve deeper and deeper into the recesses of the Time War, the more serious, dangerous and darker it becomes. This third volume, Agents of Chaos, tries to hammer home the fact that all actions have consequences that come back to haunt you, a theme which is the driving force throughout. We already know that the Time War was started because of the events of Genesis of the Daleks when the Time Lords sent the Doctor back in time to prevent the Daleks’ creation, but here we see so much more collateral damage, which includes the rejection of the Sontarans from the Time War, Heleyna’s own personal vendetta due to tragic events in her past as a result of the War, and resulting casualties that make the victories ultimately hollow.
In 2008’s epic two-parter The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, we learnt that the Sontarans wanted to take part in what they regarded as “the finest war in history”, even though both parties forbade them from taking part. That is delved into in great detail with the middle chapter of this volume, the absolute highlight of the set. Here, we see the Sontarans at their war-hungry best and using the rejection to their advantage against the Time Lords and the Daleks, plus we get to have a confrontation between the Sontarans and the Daleks that rivals the Dalek/Cybermen melee in 2006’s Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. Also, Dan Starkey is still the best Sontaran performer ever, fully capturing the essence of the nasty, brutish and short creatures and honouring their legacy as Nicholas Briggs does with the Daleks and the Cybermen.
Each story manages to have its own flavour despite being part of an overarching storyline; the first one, The Shadow Vortex, is almost like a spy thriller as we are shown the height of the Cold War with the War Doctor and another rogue time traveller/Dalek Agent in Neve McIntosh’s Lara caught in the middle, with Lara trying to manipulate and use it to both her and the Daleks’ advantage. It’s a solid cat-and-mouse game from writer David Llewellyn that brilliantly leads to Andrew Smith’s epic war story, The Eternity Cage, which further shows how skilful Smith is on all things Sontaran. Then we have the final story, Eye of Harmony, written by Ken Bentley, a reminder of how war changes everyone and everything, plus more context about the Eye of Harmony’s connection to the TARDIS given its brief showings in the 1996 TV Movie and 2013’s Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.
The War Doctor is a special series that perfectly bridges the gap between the Classic and Revived eras of Doctor Who, brilliantly capturing the essence of both eras, and this volume is definitely no exception. John Hurt is still phenomenal as the titular War Doctor and proves why he’s one of the greatest Doctors yet seen, as well as one of the best one-off Doctors rivalling the equally talented Paul McGann. Howard Carter’s excellent sound design and music adds a cinematic feel to the stories, with Nick Briggs cranking up both the intensity and tension as the story seems to be heading towards the inevitably impossible…
DOCTOR WHO - THE WAR DOCTOR VOL. 03: AGENTS OF CHAOS / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / WRITERS: DAVID LLEWELLYN, ANDREW SMITH, KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: JOHN HURT, JACQUELINE PEARCE, NEVE MCINTOSH, HONEYSUCKLE WEEKS, TIMOTHY SPEYER, HELEN GOLDWYN, GUNNAR CAUTHER / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (BIG FINISH SITE), 31ST DECEMBER (GENERAL SALE)