The Edge of the War

Posted in Audio by - April 11, 2023
The Edge of the War

Released April 2023


Amidst the backdrop of the Maginot Line being constructed as a series of defenses against future invasion, the French village of Villy is a peaceful and contented locale in the summer of 1936. But when a young artist named Nyssa arrives in town to paint the landscape and finds lodgings in a local inn run by a young woman named Tegan, it’s clear that the famed detective from Paris known as the Doctor has an immense mystery to solve in ‘The Edge of the War’ by Jonathan Barnes.

The ability to play with historical settings and the passage of time is, of course, a tremendous asset that Doctor Who routinely explores, and Barnes quickly amplifies the mystery at hand by having his three leads unable to remember how they arrived in this locale at differing times. For the Doctor who is so used to being in control of situations or at least knowledgeable enough to work within the confines of the enemy’s plan, this presents a particularly bewildering conundrum that the apparitions appearing at the fortifications only further intensify. Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, and Janet Fielding always give immensely emotional performances, and their characters’ shared state of confusion and eventual frustration with the temporal fluctuations perfectly carries the weight of this plot, culminating after an explosive resolution with a momentous outburst from Tegan who has had to endure here for so much longer than her colleagues.

As another three-part story, ‘The Edge of the War’ follows the same outline as its accompanying story in this collection, spending two parts setting up the mystery and everyone’s role in it before finally delving into the truth behind this scenario in the third part. Strangely, despite a very slow and deliberate pace to amplify the mystery, there’s surprisingly little depth to the supporting characters or, indeed, the leads themselves. Every character has his or her role to play, but nearly everyone presented here is perfectly straightforward which, in turns, lends little depth to the mystery as a whole except for more bewilderment. This consequently causes a certain stagnation of the plot at points, especially throughout the second episode, and again creates a question regarding how much more tightly-paced and satisfying this may have been as a two-part tale. Nonetheless, the exception to the straightforward rule in this story is with the character of the Count, not because he is anything other than what he proclaims but because the story implicitly sets him up to be the villain before ultimately revealing him to be anything but. Indeed, his intentions to provide a safe haven for those around him are commendable even if the means of doing so are horribly misguided, and Alistair Petrie does well to add a needed nuance and earnestness to his performance to add a dynamic layer to the Doctor’s search for the truth that even sees him assume at one point that a Time Lord must be working against him here.

Indeed, the first and third episodes provide a suitably strong and gripping foundation for a story as both the initial intrigue and ensuing revelations work quite well. Unfortunately, the second episode does little except suggest that the story is too long, and there is far too little character development to make this story as a whole as memorable as the setting and the core mystery are. By no means is this a story that should be skipped, but both stories in Conflicts of Interest suggest that the three-part narrative is a format that Big Finish has not quite mastered given the glaring pacing issues that are prevalent in each.

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