The Innocent

Posted in Audio by - April 08, 2018
The Innocent

Released December 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Time War will forever remain one of the defining events within the Doctor Who universe, actions in the classic series setting the scene for the ultimate confrontation between the Time Lords and the Daleks and events in the modern series dealing with the fallout both for the Doctor and for the universe at large. In a sense, having the Time War occur off-screen was a masterful decision in terms of building the character of the Doctor from Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal onward and letting the series reinvent itself without being tied explicitly to previous continuity, but that choice also left a glaring hole in the franchise’s overall mythology that short accounts could never fully explore. With the surprising introduction of John Hurt for the fiftieth anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ as an incarnation of the Doctor who had forsaken his name because of his wartime actions, the first glimmers of the actual fighting were offered, opening the door for further adventures with this mysterious figure in Big Finish’s own The War Doctor run of stories.

The advent of John Hurt to Big Finish’s lineup is a tremendous triumph both for the audio company and for Doctor Who as a whole, and he brings a tremendous gravitas to the role of a man who has experienced and taken part in so many atrocities with the worst yet to come. This dark incarnation of the heroic Time Lord is fueled by the paranoia that the Time War is following him in his steps, and he has learned to think of others’ emotions as secondary to the warfare strategies he can so casually list given how often he has been forced into action. Fittingly, as he arrives on the planet Keska where a parochial war has returned to trouble a civilisation after so many decades at peace, he agrees to help in the conflict between Keskans and Taalyens he believes is heading towards genocide simply because he hasn’t been forced to, and his actions remind him that he may yet be a good man even as he insists that he remains a monster who can no longer see the consequences for individuals as the war rages. Of course, the incredible guilt and regret Hurt is able to instil suggest that the War Doctor is anything but the monster he proclaims to be, but this dichotomy between sentiment and action should continue to result in wonderful character development going forward as the stakes continue to escalate.

After a bold opening statement with a Dalek assault on Gallifrey, the switch to Keska does significantly scale back the scope and bring the narrative into far more traditional Doctor Who territory while waiting for the planet’s inevitable connection to the Time War to reveal itself. It’s not entirely surprising that the first instalment should shy away from the full brutality of this temporal onslaught in order to develop its well-intentioned but jaded lead, but it does put a greater impetus on the remaining two stories of Only the Monstrous to take a more revolutionary path. Nonetheless, the search for the Dalek Time Destructor introduced in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ that can accelerate or reverse the flow of time is a profound connection to past events that again show just how long this epic confrontation between Time Lords and Daleks has been simmering in the background, and the War Doctor’s willingness to take the place of the soldiers charged with activating it and to thus sacrifice himself speaks volumes about just how this mysterious incarnation truly views himself while starting this burgeoning audio range out on a memorable note.

While Keska and its peoples’ lack of knowledge of the Time War may not represent the story expected to fully open up the Time War saga, it does serve to allow John Hurt to take centre stage as he explores the motivations and psychologies of his character alongside the audience and de facto companion of sorts, Rejoice, who plans to join the Doctor on his travels and reveal to him his good side before the Time Lords force her to stay on Keska when they come to retrieve the Doctor they now know did not perish. There’s a surprising amount of heart and warmth at the core of ‘The Innocent,’ and the strong direction and sound design help to bring this new shade of the universe to life ably as the War Doctor returns home to begrudgingly continue his fight.

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