The Lords of Terror

Posted in Audio by - July 10, 2018
The Lords of Terror

Released July 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The introduction of the War Doctor for the fiftieth anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ introduced a man struggling to reconcile his ideals and title he once held so dear with the terrible courses of action he had pursued as the ravaging battle between the Time Lords and Daleks continued to escalate with either side becoming ever more indistinguishable from the other. Taking a step back in the Doctor’s personal timeline, Big Finish’s The Time War saga featuring the Eighth Doctor has introduced a man struggling to reconcile his ideals and title he still holds so dear with the terrible courses of action he is presented with but is trying so hard to avoid taking. This latter approach is understandably far more difficult to succesfully portray since it puts the Doctor into either a more passive role or one in he which he must upset any possible forward progress in the Time War in order to ensure his moral standards are maintained, a fact that The Time War 1 mitigated with the intriguing fallout of a temporal war and the rapid devolution of the Time Lords and that The Time War 2 looks to further capitalize upon as the inevitability of the Doctor’s future approaches.

Jonathan Morris opens this second set with ‘The Lords of Terror’ as the Doctor takes Bliss to her home colony, only to discover that the Time War has gotten there first and left an unrecognizable domed city filled with impoverished citizens in its wake. There’s hardly any time for Bliss to wonder about what has happened in such a short time period and whether her parents are still alive or if she has become an orphan of the Time War before the Doctor and she recognise the influence of Orwellian indoctrination through the masses as a fight against the Daleks is orchestrated via the construction of rockets. Soon finding themselves alongside a pair fleeing from guards who claim to be on their way to district seventeen where rumours of a resistance group that proves to be only a trap for the disillusioned lead, the two cover a remarkable amount of ground in a short period of time before discovering that the continuing Dalek attacks, the poisoned air, and the existence of only one city upon which this society led by its fearless Protector is predicated are all false.

Given just how frequently the darker shades of Time Lord aspirations to end this war have featured within this era, it comes as little surprise that the notion of the Daleks leaving one city standing and able to build a rocket to take the fight back to them after leveling the rest of the planet is a thinly-veiled Time Lord lie to cover the fact that an unsanctioned but nonetheless accepted Time Lord plot has altered the timeline to turn this world into a munitions factory with its members kept in line via constant fabricated attacks from the Daleks. Although Carvil’s desire for revenge for the death of his family is a serviceable if ultimately clichéd motivation heightened only by the temporal power at his disposal, far more effective is the notion of the Protector accepting that the Daleks are a worthwhile alternative and welcoming them to her world given that all she knows is the current state of deprivation and impoverishment under the current Time Lord regime. The lengths to which the Time Lords will go to win this war again call back to the opportunity the Doctor faced on Skaro so long ago, and the argument that the Doctor is responsible for all deaths that have since resulted because of the Daleks’ continued existence is one that clearly hits him deeply, making the latter argument about the ends justifying the means through different perspectives as the Doctor threatens to sacrifice this world to ensure that a merciless Time Lord empire does not spread through the cosmos all the more effective.

The performances and direction are uniformly strong even if Bliss doesn’t quite get the needed time to fully absorb and react to what has happened, but Paul McGann is given some particularly weighty and impactful material that he delivers with aplomb. With Ollistra still claiming the Doctor as a valuable wartime commodity as the Doctor tries to assuage Bliss about the fate of her world with hopeful visions of the future, ‘The Lords of Terror’ is a whirlwind tale that captures the turmoil and conflicting emotions of this time of the Doctor’s life well, limited only by its running time that unfortunately does not allow the multitude of plot developments, misdirections, and revelations to fully resonate.

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