When we join the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 at the beginning of this latest adventure from Big Finish, they’re travelling to the Lake District in order to visit the Pencil Museum. Of course, no listener actually expects them to make it there. The time travellers in fact find themselves in a warzone populated by Sontarans, zombies, and zombie Sontarans. The rain’s similar to the Lake District, though.
Though the zombie genre may have been worn out a while ago, pitting Sontarans against the undead versions of themselves is an irresistible pitch, and regular Who franchise writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright get a lot of great material out of it.
It’s particularly interesting to have the Sontarans on the same side as our heroes for once, as Romana and K9 are left to treat the injured Field Major Lenk while the Doctor goes off with Sergeant Major Stom as a sort of companion figure. This pairing is a highlight of the story; Tom Baker and Dan Starkey are both naturally funny actors and the script makes fun of the Sontarans’ overly militaristic manner in a witty way, rather than resorting to wackiness like some recent TV appearances.
The second half of the story reveals the true villain behind this strange world. Though there is a nicely ambitious sci-fi idea here, this is where the story slightly falters, as the explanation is long and full of exposition, and the presence of the zombies doesn’t make quite as much sense as it perhaps should. Nevertheless, intercutting this sequence with the continuing battle in the Sontarans’ trenches keeps the story from feeling too slow-paced.
With its interesting new take on a familiar villain, a solidly witty script, and some great comic performances, The Eternal Battle is another strong entry in the Fourth Doctor Adventures range. It’s also up to Big Finish’s usual high production standards, with some excellent music building up the war-torn world.
THE FOURTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES 6.2: THE ETERNAL BATTLE (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: CAVAN SCOTT, MARK WRIGHT / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LALLA WARD, JOHN LEESON, DAN STARKEY, JANE SLAVIN, JOHN BANKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW