Pretty Lies

Posted in Audio by - April 15, 2018
Pretty Lies

Released February 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The introduction of the War Doctor in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ opened up an incredible wealth of potential development and drama for an ever-changing lead character centuries old and fifty years in the public consciousness. A shrouded incarnation who had forsaken the moniker of the Doctor because of his chosen life embroiled in the almighty Time War, John Hurt brought a gravitas and sorrow to the role in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ that added incredible nuance to his resolute determination and desire to do good and instantly made the War Doctor an undisputedly worthy addition to the canon. However, the fiftieth anniversary special would- by necessity- be the only televised episode to delve into this past incarnation’s exploits, offering a tantalizing glimpse of just what could have made his future incarnations shun him so fiercely. Fortunately Big Finish was willing and able to better fill that void in continuity, commissioning four three-story box sets to better highlight the character and era in question. With the unhappy news of the passing of John Hurt in January, the audio War Doctor era officially comes to a close in Casualties of War.

Stranded light years away from the forces at the heart of the Time War, the Doctor and Ollistra find that death and destruction inevitably follow in their wake as ‘Pretty Lies’ by Guy Adams opens Casualties of War. Hidden within the satirical but poignant look at wartime journalistic efforts through the efforts of Schandel, the Doctor’s personal demons and aversion to fame and admiration brilliantly come to the forefront as Joseph Kloska uses his character’s foreknowledge and unbridled enthusiasm of meeting his personal hero to look past what the Doctor is truly saying and cavalierly editing the nuance and intent of his words right in front of him into those befitting of a champion of legend and such renown. He, of course, brings with him news of the Daleks’ imminent attack on the innocent city in which they find them due to this being the site of one of the Doctor’s most important victories as well as the always important discussion about the sanctity of preserving the timelines when one comes armed with knowledge of the future, but it’s Hurt’s ability to portray the reluctance of a man who refuses to accept that any of his actions in this conflict can be seen as heroic that reaffirms the inherent internal conflict this incarnation always experiences while truly setting the narrative in motion.

While it’s unsurprising that the Doctor will always fight for the oppressed and besieged, ‘Pretty Lies’ does well in creating an insurmountable situation in which there is no hope for a bloodless resolution. With the Daleks approaching a defenseless population in full force and taking no prisoners, the Doctor begrudgingly accepts the necessity of casualties and simply tries to bide his time while minimizing the death count as much as possible. Perhaps because of this grim optimism and the Doctor’s drive to survive no matter the odds, Ollistra is finally beginning to soften up around the Doctor and offer her support even when she doesn’t quite believe what he intends to do is possible, showing that she does care about the repercussions of the Time War beyond the immediate effects on the Time Lords and Daleks despite her protestations and finally offering the Doctor a powerful ally as the Daleks continue to become increasingly more merciless in their attacks. Fittingly, the Doctor is at his most resourceful here as he makes use of the power of the media and the distinctly average technology at hand to take the fight and threat back to the Daleks on multiple fronts, but it’s also immensely satisfying to see the Daleks succumb to their need for petty revenge after discovering the truth, reminding everyone just how ruthlessly powerful they always remain.

‘Pretty Lies’ is an incredible opener to this final John Hurt series, using a patently commonplace setting to perfectly exemplify the relentless and inevitable nature of this dangerous conflict and to remind the Doctor and Ollistra of the beauty and importance of the everyday and mundane, perfectly capturing the dichotomy of this war and the general universe in which its effects take hold with humour, determination, and despondency in equal measure.

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