God of War

Posted in Audio by - January 15, 2022
God of War

Released January 2022

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Now fully aware of what Adric’s ultimate fate will be, the Fifth Doctor now finds himself back in the company of Nyssa, Tegan, and Adric as they land near a Viking settlement in ninth century Iceland in Sarah Grochala’s ‘God Of War.’ As an ancient Ice Warrior threat re-emerges, however, the Doctor must balance the battle to save lives with the battle with his own conscience.

The Viking culture is surprisingly one that has remained relatively unexplored throughout the long history of Doctor Who, and although the brief running time of this two-part adventure doesn’t allow for a tremendous look at the nuances of these people and their beliefs, this exiled mother and her daughters led vocally by Belinda Lang and Matilda Tucker capably convey the strength, determination, and beliefs that fuel the everyday workings of this society. To that effect, their acceptance of an Ice Warrior as a returned deity as their population struggles to carry on with dwindling resources and with sacrifices that seem all for naught is perfectly fitting, especially given the inherent similarities between these two civilizations.

Nicholas Briggs is superb as Grand Marshall Xasslyr, and he imbues an incredible amount of both honour and emotion to the role of a figure trying to save his trapped comrades while coming to terms with the Doctor’s news that Mars is now barren with only a few survivors of the Martian race spread throughout the cosmos. This is a situation that individual Ice Warriors have experienced many times, and though Xasslyr takes the usual position of wanting to destroy humanity in order to start his civilization anew on Earth, the genuine sense of power and danger he is able to convey is suitably menacing and a strength of the script that has little time for filler. Unfortunately, his defeat is only because of an experiment of Nyssa’s that has never been mentioned before, one that ultimately boils a nearby lake and triggers a volcanic explosion. While this is another reminder of the overall intelligence and abilities of Nyssa and why she can co capably stand alongside the Doctor and the mathematical prowess of Adric, it’s still disappointing that the script relies on such a convenience and contrivance to wrap up its narrative.

Equally intriguing as the strong return of the Ice Warriors, however, is the knowledge that the Doctor now has regarding how Adric will come to leave his company. While it can be assumed that this plotline and, indeed, any effects of the Doctor jumping around within his timeline will be forgotten or erased by the end of Forty given how ‘Earthshock’ plays out, Peter Davison conveys an incredible amount of understated emotion as the Doctor gracefully treats Adric as the adult he has always wanted to be seen as. The Doctor is fully aware that he is unable to change what will ultimately occur, and although he is willing to allow Adric to make his own choices throughout the course of this story, he poignantly discusses just how bored with the lack of technology Adric would be should he choose to stay in the ninth century, knowing that inviting him to remain aboard the TARDIS will all but seal his fate. This entire shift in dynamics is perfectly played and a brilliant use of the Doctor’s displacement that the previous story never managed to capitalize on, and Matthew Waterhouse is fantastic as the young Adric continues to come more into his own.

‘God of War’ may not have been the centrepiece highlight of this first Forty box set, but although its story is fairly traditional by Doctor Who standards and the two-part structure doesn’t allow full exploration of some of the more intriguing elements raised, it features uniformly strong performances and a strong use of this set’s central conceit that reinforce just how strong this particular TARDIS grouping can be no matter the odds and danger confronting them. While it will be interesting to see just where the Doctor ends up next as his journey through his own life continues, ‘God of War’ is an excellent example of how the hindsight of forty years and the dedication to this specific era of the programme can create something wholly memorable and worthy of the celebratory cause.

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