The Destination Wars

Posted in Audio by - December 30, 2017
The Destination Wars

Released December 2017
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Following his sterling performance in the fiftieth anniversary biopic An Adventure in Space and Time that so wonderfully brought both William Hartnell and the First Doctor back to life, it seemed only natural that David Bradley would be asked to reprise the role in Doctor Who when the opportunity arose for the then-current Twelfth incarnation of the Doctor to cross paths with his first with both on the verge of regeneration in ‘Twice Upon a Time.’ With many members of the televised First Doctor era still alive and contributing to Big Finish’s ever-expanding library of tales within that era, incorporating Bradley and his biopic co-stars for a run of new stories in The First Doctor Adventures was always going to bring with it the question of combining the distinct casts or to keep them wholly separate with Jemma Powell as Barbara being the only linking factor to Big Finish’s adored The Early Adventures that covers both of the proper First and Second Doctor eras of the programme. Probably wisely, Big Finish has chosen the latter and has relied on the talent of its writers to evoke the classic era while allowing its cast of David Bradley as the Doctor, Claudia Grant as Susan, Jamie Glover as Ian, and Jemma Powell as Barbara to reinterpret the roles while paying homage to the originals in a familiar yet uniquely alternative take on the beloved first TARDIS team thrust into brand new situations.

The First Doctor Adventures Volume 01 opens with Matt Fitton’s ‘The Destination Wars’ as the TARDIS arrives in a gleaming, futuristic utopia of Earth in 2003. In keeping true to the original era, Barbara and Ian are ecstatic to have arrived at a time so close to their own and to see first-hand just how quickly technology and people can progress. However, beyond the spectacle of hovercars and skyscrapers, the Doctor knows that this is not the natural state of affairs on Earth in this time, and the gradual revelation that this is instead a distant colony world known only as Destination works exceedingly well to keep the leads off balance without creating a major paradox around which the Doctor has to work. Instead, as a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Inventor’ is repeatedly mentioned and almost deified, it’s clear that something is not quite as it seems, and Fitton does well to subtly include elements of a totalitarian regime and society to press home this fact without ever intruding upon the simultaneous scope and very personal nature of the story and its society’s continuing progress through the ages. Once the Inventor makes his long-awaited appearance in this society that he has helped guide for so long, the subtle mystery and unease takes a far more overt turn as he is revealed to be none other than the Master in his very first incarnation.

‘The Destination Wars’ portrays the Master at his most dangerous, taking away any sense of verbosity and pompous vanity that sometimes overtakes the character and focusing only on the subtle art of manipulation that makes him such an incredibly dangerous foe. Richard Dreyfus is superb in the role, maintaining a calm but determined sense of power throughout that injects a true sense of dread as he hypnotises those in his immediate presence while using time travel and calculated appearances to shrewdly guide the denizens of the City and the mysterious Dalmari into war to stimulate scientific advances for his own nefarious means. This is the true might of the Time Lords, not to showcase an almighty and fearsome power but to co-opt time for one’s own gain, and this early look into the Master’s willingness to do so is a thrilling bit of foreshadowing for the more dangerous acts he has yet to commit.

While the Master’s suggestions that the Doctor’s companions throughout the ages have suffered from Stockholm Syndrome do bear a sort of Freudian significance and put a unique spin on the dynamic among the leads throughout the ages, the relationship between the Master and the Doctor in this story is an undoubted highlight, the two one-time friends coming to terms with the very different paths they have chosen to take since leaving Gallifrey. Indeed, it is the dichotomy of this relationship and that which he has with Susan and more recently with Ian and Barbara that forms the emotional crux of the story even more than the City’s unfortunate path toward atomic weaponry and all that that entails, and Bradley is able to bring out the more compassionate side of the First Doctor expertly, his burgeoning trust in his human companions being handsomely rewarded when all hope seems lost. Susan, Ian, and Barabara all have the chance to step into the spotlight to overcome the Master’s nefarious means along the way, and the portrayal of each memeber of this team and the qualities he or she brings shows the true potential for good that the Doctor and his companions hold even at this early stage in their travels.

Those looking for a pitch perfect recreation of William Hartnell’s time in the TARDIS will find that ‘The Destination Wars’ is something altogether different, but the celebration of how well distinct and familiar can coexist ends up being the strongest part of the first entry in this new audio range. The relationship between the lead characters is as strong as ever even as voices and inflections digress from known standards, and the true-to-period pacing and atmosphere created as new iterations of familiar characters are introduced lead to a very rewarding and satisfying science fiction tale that transcends any one specific era.

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