The Heart of the Battle

Posted in Audio by - April 08, 2018
The Heart of the Battle

Released December 2015
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Concluding the first prolonged glimpse at the secretive exploits of John Hurt’s War Doctor in Only the Monstrous is ‘The Heart of the Battle’ in which the trapped Time Lord rescue force must find a way to escape and overcome insurmountable odds. As the countdown to the destruction of Keska proceeds and the possibility of the Daleks halting hostilities with command of the Null Zone called into question, a deadly and defining choice awaits the Doctor.

Only the Monstrous has proven that the Daleks are not averse to looking to their past actions that have resulted in both successes and failures to influence and craft their current plan that amplifies the scale of attack immeasurably, and the Doctor’s heavily sarcasm-laden statement that accompanies the revelation that the Daleks want to win the Time War and are not interested in peace perfectly encapsulates the underlying sentiment of the plot waiting to burst forth from the thin constraints of tenuous duplicity. Nonetheless, it’s a testament to the performances of John Hurt and Alex Wyndham that the war of words between the Doctor and Seratrix is so entrancing and emotional given that the Doctor is, of course, correct regarding his suspicions of the Daleks given all that he has experienced before. To his credit, Seratrix does make the point that the Doctor could be blamed for starting the Time War and has been fighting the Daleks on his own far longer than the Time Lords en masse, and the fact that the Time Lords gifted the Daleks the technology to create the Null Zone as a measure of good faith after the Doctor’s use of the Time Destructor on the Dalek time fleet adds yet another level of complexity for this incarnation who is still trying to reconcile his present situation with the actions of his past and the principles he once held so dear.

It’s admirable if ultimately foolhardy that the Time Lords appear to have the faith to believe that the Daleks will be content to remain in their isolated pocket of space-time after losing a powerful fleet, but it’s also telling that Ollistra is not publicly proclaiming this hope even to those under her immediate command. As Seratrix explains that the Daleks plan to insert hyperdrives in all of their thousand conquered worlds in order to build a defensive wall around the Null Zone, even enlisting a Dalek to explain that the inhabitants on the affected worlds will be offered alternative living arrangements when the surfaces are destroyed through transit, the Doctor is quickly able to outthink everyone and find a schematic displaying the Daleks’ true plan to launch the planets at Gallifrey at fifty times the speed of light to utterly destroy it. With a race against time to sever Dalek communications, destroy the Kreskan drill appraching the core, and handle the Taalyens, the tension and pace significantly pick up as all pretenses of Dalek niceties are dropped, culminating with the Doctor deciding that it must be himself who pushes the button that saves the day at the cost of innocent lives instead of allowing someone else to shoulder the blame and guilt.

With Rejoice once more proving just how dedicated to the Doctor she is as he comes under attack, the Doctor comes to ponder whether the punishment for his supposed moments of weakness is his continued existence. This is contrasted rather nicely by the cool, calculating nature of Cardinal Ollistra that Jacqueline Pearce plays to perfection as she reveals that she orchestrated this entire scheme to give Seratrix and his agents the means of brokering a peace deal with the Null Zone technology with the intention of simply eliminating all of them- friend and foe- before they could contaminate the rest of Gallifrey’s population with their ideas of peace. With Seratrix now a martyr and the Doctor’s true loyalties revealed, the Doctor detests Ollistra’s bloodthirsty but successful means of advancing the Time Lords’ desire to weaken the Dalek force, citing the cost of so many lives across so many worlds. Though the glimpse of a pastoral Keska in the future with a memorial to Rejoice who still stands as a symbol of peace and hope does temper his anger, Ollistra is all too quick to scold him for thinking of himself as sympathetic, firmly reminding him that he has committed himself to being a warrior and affirming his begrudging dedication to her cause.

Only the Monstrous is a confident and technically proficient production from beginning to end that makes the most of an incredible cast to begin shedding light on this darkest of hours for the Doctor. However, the stories presented are far too familiar in terms of typical Doctor Who and Dalek plotlines to fully achieve the true potential of such an awe-inspiring setting and the unspeakable actions known to have occurred. As such, ‘The Heart of the Battle,’ like its two preceding tales, forms a solid if ultimately far too safe introduction that hopefully only hints at the true grandeur of what Big Finish and the War Doctor have in store.

  • Release Date: 12/2015
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