The Great War

Posted in Audio by - November 06, 2018
The Great War

Released November 2012

Following the traumatic conclusion to The Eighth Doctor Adventures in ‘To the Death,’ the Doctor is a lonely and broken man in turmoil desperately looking for hope. Instead, he finds himself on a mission for the Time Lords with the Daleks never far behind as he tries to uncover the truth behind Molly O’Sullivan, a seemingly random woman in Earth’s history who is somehow integral to a plot to destroy the universe.

Beginning the Dark Eyes saga with ‘The Great War,’ it’s fascinating to look back on just how much the Eighth Doctor has changed during his Big Finish tenure, tragedies and travesties erasing the more carefree nature and contentedness that were so effervescently present in his early adventures and creating a more despondent and fatalistic figure. As a testament to Paul McGann, his Doctor is equally enthralling and gripping in each situation, and the vividly pure emotion he pours into his performance as his character seeks perspective and hope at the forbidden end of the universe and then venomously attacks Straxus of the Time Lords while imploring them to leave him alone and forcefully trying to break the TARDIS of the Time Lords control’ is truly incredible to behold and opens up an entirely new layer of development for a character that has by now come to feature in so many tales.

Though the way the story is presented does not afford Straxus the opportunity to explicitly state what the Doctor’s mission is before cutting to World War I, the superb direction and sound design bring to life wonderfully this historical era that is so often overlooked within the universe of Doctor Who. Though the Second World War may be filled with a more recent and lasting iconography with the current generations still so impacted as the hope from that time continues to play out, the World War I is arguably a more intimately brutal period that presents the perfect backdrop for this darker version of the Doctor as the danger of the front lines comes squarely into focus and menacing tank-like beings glide by in the desolation speckled by a strange glowing gas. A story is often only as successful as its setting, and the explosions and gunfire that overtake the sounds of nature and Molly’s quiet accounts as she writes in her journal of the strangeness and atrocities she continues to witness make for a riveting and visceral experience.

Of course, a new beginning for the Eighth Doctor affords writer and director Nicholas Briggs the opportunity to introduce a new companion, and Ruth Bradley makes an instant impact as the no-nonsense Voluntary Aid Detachment member Molly O’Sullivan. This is a woman with a working class background who is unafraid to speak her mind and firmly knows the rules and regulations of what ought and ought not be done in her capacity of keeping the facilities clean and at times tending to the wounded despite the matron’s stern eye. Molly is completely comfortable with who she is, and although she quickly finds herself out of her normal comfort zone when the Doctor and his strange pennywhistle arrive and miraculous repairs, mysterious deaths, and strange captures occur in quick fashion, she never becomes overwhelmed and insists on asking questions about everything until she is satisfied with and can comprehend the answer in some capacity. Big Finish has done wonders with introducing dynamic companions over the years, and Molly seems certain to continue that pattern as she showcases her loyalty, bravery, and ability to reason in short order while the mystery of her importance to all of the universe begins to intensify.

Much of the lasting success of ‘The Great War’ will necessarily revolve around just what the truth behind Molly is revealed to be, but as an introductory piece to a bold new vision for the Eighth Doctor it succeeds on every level, making the most of its dangerous historical environment and sparingly using the Daleks for maximal impact while setting the pieces in motion for a spectacular central mystery encompassing all of creation itself.

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