The Eighth Doctor continues to skirt the edges of the Time War in Doctor Who: Time War 3 and it’s no easy task. The latest instalment brings four more stories from Matt Fitton, Lisa McMullin, Roland Moore and John Dorney. We’ve Daleks, Time Lord trickery and, as the cover reveals, the Valeyard! It’s a mix with plenty of promise – does it deliver?
The previous volume I found to be quirky, intriguing and above all else entertaining. This volume I find to be much, much darker. Let me explain…
Let’s do the Time War (again!)
Matt Fitton sets events in motion with State of Bliss. As the (clever) title suggests, the focus is time war companion Bliss (played by Rakhee Thakrar). Via the TARDIS telepathic circuits we get to explore something of her past. Strap in – it’s some journey!
Bliss was introduced paradoxically in the first collection of stories, and seems to have moved from one-off to regular character. In this story Matt conjures a suitably complex background for Bliss, but while interesting I emerged feeling I still had little handle on who Bliss actually is.
Not to suggest the story is anything other than entertaining, you understand!
Things are far less ambiguous in Lisa McMullin’s The Famished Lands. The Doctor and Bliss travel to the Vale of Iptheus, where the population is starving and they have fragmentary awareness of the Time War in outline, though not in detail.
The plot moves from the Doctor and Bliss desperate to make a difference somewhere in the face of the time war, to how far a population will go when faced with starvation. Add to this dabblings in technology it only gets worse for those in charge of the Vale when the Doctor shows them a glimpse of the true scale of the time war. And this not after a spot of torture – I said this was a dark set of stories.
There’s a resolution but not without price and also those responsible for some of the worst aspects of the starvation solution move on unpunished. A rather bleak and rather compelling story from Lisa.
Roland Moore brings Time Lord chicanery to the fore in Fugitive in Time. There are Daleks, Major Tamasan and a hard-to-reach without crashing planet. The Doctor and team need to identify the mysterious Shonnath and solve the mystery of why she evaded the removal of her race from history. They also need to survive the locals.
Roland Moore’s approach to removing a race from history is based on genetics rather than altering history. It’s a little convoluted but does make the story work rather well. The story is also notable for the performance of Wendy Craig as Shonnath. Wendy has previously appeared on Survivors and Transference from Big Finish and is entirely splendid here.
Finally John Dorney brings us The War Valeyard. My initial thoughts were this might just be too far over the line into fan-fiction, then I started to become gripped by Michael Jayston’s performance. The story is simple: the Valeyard has been recruited to end the Time War; the Doctor and Bliss seek him out on a planet full of Daleks.
Then it gets strange and, frankly, rather brilliant. In a taut exploration of the Valeyard and with more than a nod to Day of the Doctor John Dorney has created what might just be the best Valeyard story so far. Period.
Another good set with plenty of ideas, darkness and dragging Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor ever closer to the maelstrom that is the Time War. Great stuff!