The Difference Office

Posted in Audio by - April 15, 2022
The Difference Office

Released April 2022


Doctor of War: Genesis draws to a close with ‘The Difference Office’ by James Kettle, showing the Warrior as the President of the Time Lords while someone with the same face makes his way from the wilderness of Gallifrey to the heart of the Capitol itself.

Disregarding the cover art that tells of the Kraal presence and thus hints at the ultimate scheme, ‘The Difference Office’ spectacularly plays with expectations in two key regards, firstly by revealing that the Sixth Doctor drumming up support against the President is anything but and secondly by using a framing device that is set out of time compared to the story itself that results in an inevitability of which everyone except the villain is aware. To support both of these, the references to ‘The Invasion of Time’ and ‘The Android Invasion’ are particularly strong, and bringing back the Kraals and their prowess with androids and knowledge of virology presents a suitably menacing alien threat that offers a far more nuanced strategy than relying on sheer numbers or militaristic weaponry like most others. Yet as successful as the interrogation of Romana and the ploy to gain access to the Capitol ultimately are, the countermeasures taken to ensure Gallifreyan security as the overarching Dalek menace is again referenced are superb and perfectly highlight the scope and scale of this series. Indeed, the blunt refuting of the virus’s effectiveness due to these measures is perfectly delivered and dramatic, a key moment upon which the Warrior and Gallifrey can proudly build and celebrate.

As the Warrior increasingly seeks to gain knowledge from the Matrix, ‘The Difference Office’ again doesn’t use this unique portrayal of the Sixth Doctor quite as overtly as might be expected. He has come to realize that he is central to this Time War and certainly appears to have Gallifrey’s best interests at heart, but he is not out in the field or leading the charge- complicitly or not- as overtly as the War Doctor in the proper timeline. Nonetheless, his expansion of the powers of those in the Difference Office from simply studying paradoxes to actively hunting down and exterminating those who seek to create a paradox by altering previous events is a fittingly grandiose action that simultaneously seems set to ensure he remains in power, and the tension about two Doctors being present but not registering as a paradox is an engaging and sustaining mystery as the hauntingly familiar figure makes his way to the Capitol. In these dual roles, Colin Baker is again magnificent, portraying two uniquely determined characters with very different motivations that hint at how similar and yet wholly distinct the Doctor and the Warrior truly are.

Oddly, despite an incredible framing device and resolution, ‘The Difference Office’ doesn’t quite have the same momentum as its preceding stories in this series, several scenes artificially padded until the final twist and confrontation occur. While the continued questioning of oneself and others is warranted and wholly justified, too much of it is repeated too often and gives the sense that the story is simply waiting for the Doctor to arrive rather than creating any amplifying sense of tension from his impending arrival. Nonetheless, that final twist is a superb one and spectacularly elevates what to that point is a fairly traditional story, albeit one featuring truly wonderful supporting performances from Sanjeev Bhaskar, Georgia Mackenzie, Rebecca Night, and Rick Warden. Indeed, these newest iterations of Borusa and Romana acquit themselves exceedingly well within the context of this splintered universe and its war, and the Kraals are used magnificently to again lend a suitably unique spin to ‘The Invasion of Time’ while bolstering the strength of their own menace. ‘The Difference Office’ is certainly not the expected conclusion for this first Doctor of Time series, and although its ending is by far its strongest part that saves the story from falling into fully traditional and average territory despite some brilliant ideas at its core, its unique twist on so many familiar characters and ideas is another highlight for this range that obviously retains so much potential to explore and upend the very foundation of established Doctor Who.

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