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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Love and War


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 024 4
Available 31 October 2012

On a planet called Heaven, all hell is breaking loose. Heaven is a cemetery world for both humans and Draconians - a final place of rest for those lost during wartime. The Doctor arrives on a trivial mission - to find a book, or so he says - and Ace, wandering around Joycetown, becomes involved with a charismatic Traveller called Jan. But the Doctor is strenuously opposed to the romance. What is he trying to prevent? Is he planning some more deadly game? Archaeologist Bernice Summerfield thinks so. Her destiny is inextricably linked with that of the Doctor, but even she may not be able to save Ace from the Time Lord’s plans. This time, has the Doctor gone too far...?

Yes, it’s another special release from Big Finish, and it’s another one (in common with UNIT: Dominion) to feature the Seventh Doctor. It’s as though Sylvester McCoy is making up for lost time following his return from Middle Earth! However, it is no coincidence that this particular incarnation of the Time Lord was chosen for this release, since it is an adaptation of Paul Cornell’s pivotal 1992 Doctor Who: The New Adventures novel Love and War. It marks the 20th anniversary of that book and of the recurring character it introduced: Professor Bernice Summerfield (Lisa Bowerman).

The importance of this moment in Who history cannot be overstated. Though we are now used to encountering new companions created by Big Finish, in 1992 this was a bold and daring move. Even more shocking was the way in which the Doctor and his previous assistant, Ace (Sophie Aldred), parted company. Licensed fiction doesn’t usually rock the boat in such a manner - at least, not when the parent show is still on the air. At the time, however, it looked as though Doctor Who might never return to our screens. The New Adventures sought to keep the flame alive and to move the series forward... which they did. Such a venture paved the way for the audio adventures from Big Finish - who got the gig by proving themselves via some New Adventures adaptations featuring a Doctor-less Bernice. When the weekly TV show finally returned in 2005, its writers included former New Adventures authors Cornell, Mark Gatiss and one Russell T Davies, and it continues to bandy about phrases such as “the Oncoming Storm”, and the Doctor’s assertion that he is what monsters have nightmares about - both phrases that originated in Love and War.

Because it is based on a novel, the plot of this audio release is a little more sedate than Big Finish’s usual output, even though it has been edited down by Jacqueline Rayner to fit on to two CDs (with a third disc containing extras). It plays somewhat like a Doctor Who movie, rather than the customary serial structure. There are lots of character moments, especially between the TARDIS crew and Bernice (Bowerman successfully shedding several years from her voice), and between Ace and her new beau Jan (James Redmond - though their intense love affair does come across as rather sudden). The alien threat builds fairly gradually... but when it hits...! The cyberspace (sorry, puterspace) aspects of the story are not as radical as they once were, but the nature of the Hoothi remains as potent and original a menace as ever. Novel in both senses of the word.

In the behind-the-scenes interviews that can be heard on Disc 3, some of the production team consider Love and War as taking place in an alternative universe to Big Finish’s main Doctor Who range. However, I regard it as part of the same continuity, albeit at a later point. As McCoy and Aldred both indicate, the character development of the Doctor and Ace in this 20-year-old novel is comparable to the direction in which their Big Finish adventures have been heading for years.

One voice that is conspicuous by its absence is that of Jacqueline Rayner, who doesn’t even provide any sleeve notes (which have instead been written by director Gary Russell). I would have liked to hear more about the process by which Rayner translated 80,000 words of prose into just over two hours of audio drama.

The third disc also includes an adaptation of the novel’s prelude, which originally appeared in Doctor Who Magazine - I recommend that you listen to this bit first.

Though I shall always consider the novel to be the “official” version of Love and War, there’s a lot to love about this audio presentation.


Richard McGinlay

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