The Time War rages on in The Eighth Doctor: Time War 4! Read on for my thoughts on each episode.
1. “Palindrome” by John Dorney
The set opens with Palindrome, a two-part story by John Dorney. Following on from The War Valeyard in the previous set, which saw the titular character end the Time War by wiping the Daleks out, this opening installment of the set deals with the Dalek Time Strategist’s plot to restore his race and continue the fight against the Time Lords.
To do this, he seeks out a parallel version of Davros (Terry Molloy), who, unlike his counterpart in the prime universe, is not an evil dictator, but rather a kindly scientist. For much of the first part of Palindrome, we follow this iteration of Davros, exploring how different his life is and meeting his wife Charn (Isla Blair). It’s great to see a different side to such an iconic character, and Molloy brings this new version of Davros to life with a brilliant performance.
Of course, the pace is soon picked up as Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) begin to appear in this universe, and the Doctor (Paul McGann) and Bliss (Rakhee Thakrar) turn up on the scene, and what follows is a gripping, exciting adventure that sees our heroes try to prevent the restoration of the Daleks.
Palindrome takes place over five days, which we experience backwards, starting with Day Five and ending with Day One. This reminded me a lot of the recently-released movie Tenet, which similarly deals with people moving backwards through time instead of forwards. Like that film, Palindrome can be slightly hard to follow at times, but this didn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the story, instead keeping me wondering how everything would fit together at the end.
Overall, Palindrome is a very strong start to this set, and could well be one of the strongest installments in the Time War series so far.
2. “Dreadshade” by Lisa McMullin
The next story is Dreadshade, written by Lisa McMullin which, after the multiverse madness of the previous episode, takes us back to Gallifrey and the Time War. Struck by a bout of amnesia, the Doctor and Bliss must work with the Time Lords to try and remember the war, splitting up and dealing with
For much of this story, the Doctor is partnered up with the General (Ken Bones), who makes his Big Finish debut here. Bones has great chemistry with Paul McGann, just as he did with Peter Capaldi in Hell Bent, so it was great to hear the character return, especially as his appearance here really helps to tie this audio version of the Time War with the TV series.
While the Doctor remains on Gallifrey, Bliss travels elsewhere with Cardinal Rasmus. Previously played by Damian Lynch, Rasmus is portrayed here by Chris Jarman, who makes a strong debut as this new incarnation of the character. As with the Doctor and the General, Bliss and Rasmus have great chemistry, and there are some fantastic scenes where she takes him to task over the Time Lords’ actions in the war.
The Twelve (Julia McKenzie) returns here too, freed from stasis after the events of Jonah in Time War 2. As in that boxset, she puts in a great performance, excelling both at the kindlier aspects of the character and at the multiple manic personalities of her previous selves. She is joined by the Dreadshade (Suzanne Procter), a creature who uses fear as a weapon. It’s a great idea for a new monster, though perhaps a little underused.
Overall, this is another strong story, succeeding most in its exploration of the various main characters.
3. “Restoration of the Daleks” by Matt Fitton
The set closes with Restoration of the Daleks by Matt Fitton. After two rather different Time War stories, this one returns to the status quo somewhat, giving us a more traditional Doctor VS Daleks story. This is refreshing after the more experimental opening episodes, but this does make it rather predictable at points.
The highlights here are, once again, the performances. Paul McGann and Rakhee Thakrar are on top form as usual, with Terry Molloy returning as Davros and Nicholas Briggs rounding off the cast as both the sinister Dalek Time Strategist and the booming Dalek Emperor.
There’s also a game-changing twist that completely redefines the Eighth Doctor’s journey… but, of course, I won’t get into that here. It does, however, bode well for the next series of Time War adventures with all the possible story possibilities it throws up.
Overall, this is definitely the weakest installment in the set, but it’s still quite strong, and leaves me excited for where the series will go next.
All in all, this is one of the strongest Time War boxsets so far (tied with Volume Two), excelling on the way it brings lots of exciting new characters into the fray and pushing the series in a new direction. All three stories are great, with no real weak links at all, and, with brilliant direction from Helen Goldwyn and strong sound design from Benji Clifford, this set comes highly recommended.
The Eighth Doctor: Time War 4 is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com