Theatre of War reviewed

theatre_of_warJustin Richards adapted his 1994 novel Theatre of War for the Big Finish Doctor Who Novel Adaptations range. A Seventh Doctor story, this has Ace and Benny as companions and is also notable for the first appearance of Irving Braxiatel (who has been important to the Bernice Summerfield range). The story starts as an archaeology story, then becomes a mystery, one Benny has to solve before it is too late…

The story

The Big Finish product page has this to tell us:

Years ago, an archaeological expedition came to Menaxus to explore the ruins of an ancient theatre. All but one of the team died. Now the only survivor has returned, determined to uncover the theatre’s secrets.

But then the deaths begin again.

The Doctor, Ace and Benny find themselves caught up in the very real events of Shakespeare’s greatest play. When they finally reach the theatre on Menaxus, the Doctor begins to realise that the truth about the planet may be far stranger than anyone imagined. With Benny doing research at the Braxiatel Collection, the Doctor and Ace head straight into an interplanetary war…

Of course the truth is far stranger than imagined, and in this story Justin Richards gives us the first glimpse of Irving Braxiatel whose plot to neutralise an interplanetary war is behind most of the events of the story. While the core plot is that of title, the power behind the throne and naked ambition, these are all a smoke-screen and in fact the story is about a manipulator more cunning than the Seventh Doctor who controls all from afar. The story ends with the conclusion of a war and the introduction of the Braxiatel thread, one Big Finish has explored in many ways over the years.

The storytelling

While Sophie Aldred (Ace) and Sylvester McCoy (the Doctor) put in a solid shift, this is about Benny (Lisa Bowerman) meeting Braxiatel (Miles Richardson) and Scott Handcock’s direction never loses sight of this. I do feel Ace and Benny work better when they are not both centre stage, and unlike other stories, Ace gets some credible action of her own as a space-suited action hero who risks all to sabotage an alien spaceship at close range.

An entertaining story, though released against a lot of big name titles.

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