In Name Only

Posted in Audio by - April 19, 2024
In Name Only

Released April 2024


The celebratory Rutans vs Sontarans quartet of stories draws to a close with John Dorney’s ‘In Name Only’ as a Rutan attack on Gallifrey draws threats of Time Lord reprisal while the man who once called himself Doctor remains suspicious that something altogether more nefarious is occurring.

‘In Name Only’ faces an uphill battle from the start, needing to not only tell a satisfying story in its own right but also to tie together the many plot developments and lingering threads from the previous three stories with an incarnation of the Doctor and supporting characters who were not present for some or all of those events. For the most part, Dorney treads the line of recapping earlier adventures without grinding the overall pacing to a standstill quite well as events stemming from this Rutan attack build upon and further contextualize everything experienced so far in this series. Notably, when it seems as though the events on Taxodon and ‘Born to Die’ have been purged from the Sontaran records after the Doctor covertly heads to the Sontaran base of operations to discover for himself what certain powerful Time Lords may ultimately be scheming, the return of Skole who can validate the Doctor’s story and who again shows a unique sort of honour that is far outside the typical Sontaran remit offers a strong connecting thread that becomes all the more powerful and poignant as the Doctor uncovers multiple paradoxes that could threaten time and the entire universe should events proceed as intended. Dan Starkey has by default become the prototypical Sontaran in recent years for good reason, but his performance as Skole continues to shine even if the character is not quite as instrumental to affairs as in the previous story.

Of course, the momentous twist at the heart of ‘Born to Die’ naturally features here as well. While that very fact does in some ways dilute the shock factor here, the ultimate truths once revealed nonetheless serve ‘In Name Only’ well and highlight a startlingly effective means of attack given the susceptibility that even the Time Lords show. That the fluid causality should also better explain the strange behaviour of the Sonturions in this set’s opener is an added benefit, and the deus ex machina allowing all of these events to stand as fact in some semblance rather than being completely erased or rewritten maintains a sense of genuine drama and loss that is so often sacrificed in these types of stories to reset the status quo. With the Sontarans always looking for another battle and jealously looking at the Time War, these events with the Time Lords are particularly interesting and dynamic, and Jonathon Carley as the War Doctor gives one of his finest performances to date as his incarnation at this point in time seems to have come fully to terms with the fact that he is not the man he once was as he shows no reluctance to do what is necessary to avert further disaster even if some blood will be spilled and some lives will be lost along the way. He is never one to take anything at face value, and although he implicitly knows that he can never live up to his own true ideals even within this offshoot of the Time War proper, his internal resolve to nonetheless retain some sense of honour no matter how much he may loudly proclaim otherwise is a fascinating characterization that hopefully Carley will be able to continue to explore and develop in the upcoming The War Doctor Rises sets that cover ground beyond his earlier days shown in The War Doctor Begins.

‘Only in Name’ is by no means a standalone story despite Big Finish’s claims to the contrary, and it’s not necessarily the strongest of the Sontarans vs Rutans offerings given its split focus on contextualizing earlier events while telling a variation of a story already told, albeit one with even higher stakes. Nonetheless, it is supremely confident and stylish, and the supporting cast of John Banks, Debbie Korley, and Christopher Ryan combine alongside Carley and Starkey to present a genuinely engaging story that is never short on ambition or scope. The series as a whole certainly expands upon the established relationship between the two eternally warring races with previously-unseen tactics employed as that conflict continues to escalate, and as a whole it absolutely is worth listening to given its uniquely atypical and non-linear progression through the Doctor’s lives.

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