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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Seeds of War


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 053 4
Available 31 March 2013

Humanity is emerging from a long, exhausting war, against an enemy so powerful, so implacable, that it seemed unstoppable... right up until the moment it stopped. Now, despite its “victory”, the human race is on its knees. The Doctor and Mel join its struggle for survival and try to ensure that it has a future. A race against time takes them from the Great Tower of Kalsos to the Reliquaries of Earth. In this epic journey, their fates are intertwined with one particular family. The Tevelers are to feel the effects of war more than most. The Doctor has a plan, but something is lurking... watching... waiting... a presence the Time Lord knows of old. Just how far does its influence pervade? The Eminence awaits...

I admit to being a little flummoxed as I listened to the opening instalments of this four-part tale. Here we are presented with a powerful entity, the Eminence (David Sibley), which the Doctor (Colin Baker) has clearly met on a previous occasion and fears greatly. However, I couldn’t for the life of me remember encountering this adversary before, either on TV or in another Big Finish release. In fact, as the CD extras reveal, The Seeds of War is a “sequel” to a story that we won’t hear until 2014: the Fourth Doctor adventure Destroy the Infinite.

It sounds confusing, but really it isn’t. Writer Matt Fitton, working from a storyline by Destroy the Infinite scribe Nicholas Briggs, constructs the narrative in such a way that it can readily be comprehended without hearing its “prequel” – though it will be interesting to have another listen in chronological order next year. The Doctor’s foreboding helps to build up the enemy’s menace, as does the devastation left behind by its occupation of human colony worlds, but the Time Lord doesn’t go into details about his previous encounter. That, as he says to Mel (Bonnie Langford), is another story. It’s really not much different to the Doctor’s return trip to the planet Karfel in Timelash, or his reunions with Commodore Travers and Hallett in The Trial of a Time Lord. We never had the “prequels” to those adventures, either... though now that I come to think of them, how about it, Big Finish?

The story is epic in scope, kicking off with a disaster movie of a first episode, in which the time travellers find themselves trapped in a derelict tower that is about to be demolished, then moves to a different space-faring setting with each successive instalment. Despite – or perhaps because of – this, the plot never truly catches fire. The Eminence’s awesome powers are introduced in dialogue during Part Two, but then little is made of them until the final episode. It is obvious to the listener, but not to any of the characters, what the villain’s plan is all the way through Part Three, but when the Eminence finally comes to fore it isn’t actually as unyielding a force as it had been made out to be.

In the story’s favour is the grounding presence of three members of the same family, Barlow Teveler (Ray Fearon), sister Sisrella (Ony Uhiara) and father Helgert (Stuart Organ), who provide an essential human angle in addition to that of Mel. There’s also some cutting satire that touches upon the politics of present-day austerity measures, with the government-controlled media (Beth Chalmers as the Announcer) proclaiming that “we’re all in this together”.

The Seeds of War sows seeds for future (and, in a way, past) development, but regarded on its own merits it is not a pre-eminent example of Big Finish’s work. However, I may revise my opinion when I have heard other encounters with the Eminence and they’re all on my iPod together.


Richard McGinlay

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