The Shadow Squad

Posted in Audio by - June 24, 2021
The Shadow Squad

Released June 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Closing out The War Doctor Begins- Forged in Fire, ‘The Shadow Squad‘ by Andrew Smith presents the War Doctor’s first direct conflict against the Daleks as the Time War continues to ravage on endlessly in every direction. Traveling to the isolated world of Atherea that is protected by a Dalek shield after intercepting a communication from the Dalek Time Strategist, the Doctor soon finds himself allied with Commodore Tamasan who has arrived with her own agenda, and when circumstances irrevocably change in an instant, the two Time Lords discover that all of their wartime efforts could be stopped before they have even begun.

The Time War as a setting has provided plenty of opportunity for tremendously powerful and grandiose weapons and ideas to feature as the Time Lords and Daleks alike continue to amplify their combative tendencies throughout all of time and space. ‘The Shadow Squad,’ however, introduces an incredibly simple and yet all the more chilling strategy to the equation as the Daleks have seemingly mastered the ability to surgically excise from existence individuals who were critical to Dalek defeats before their key actions came to pass. This, of course, presents the Daleks with a tremendous advantage and all but ensures that they will emerge victorious in every situation, and just as the eventual reveal of the Time Eradicator and the multiple timelines being monitored and contained is immense in scale and consequence, so, too, are the counteractions that the Time Lords have taken to attempt to regain a sense of balance in his eternal conflict. In fact, the Gallifreyan strategy of completely isolating a group of individuals so that no contact of any kind can be used to trace them for eradication is arguably more chilling simply because of the known and calculated sacrifices being forced upon unwitting souls who would come to be so wholly indoctrinated. This is an element that the final scenes bring into stark contrast incredibly effectively, and the Shadow Squad itself is a brilliant idea even if that notion doesn’t quite get to reach its full potential given how the ever-shifting events and timelines play out.

The Daleks are wisely used relatively sparingly in order to allow Atherea and the Shadow Squad to develop while also delving into the horrific consequences of the Time Eradicator. Nonetheless, Nicholas Briggs is utterly superb as the Time Eradicator, Time Strategist, and remaining Daleks who appear to be on the path to total victory. The imagery and soundscape truly allow this world and the Dalek scheme to vividly come to life, and Jonathon Carley once more provides a palpable range of emotions to recapture John Hurt’s powerful presence so capably. Even as the Doctor continues to insist that he is not the Doctor and that he is still trying to determine just how far he is willing to go to emerge victorious, this is an incarnation who is already incredibly self-assured and quick-thinking, and he is wholly unafraid to boldly insert himself into a situation in order to allow others to succeed as well. Big Finish already has plenty of experience with the complexities of the War Doctor, and the confident writing and Carley’s strong performance ensure that there remains an incredibly bright future for this mysterious figure who will continue to find himself more deeply entwined in the ultimate battle. ‘The Shadow Squad’ doesn’t quite manage to reach the energetic highs of this set’s opener, but it nonetheless ends the first The War Doctor Begins collection on an undoubted high that wisely gives the haughty Tamasan who unwittingly finds herself on the front lines plenty of room to develop as well.

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