The Horror

Posted in Audio by - December 19, 2022
The Horror

Released December 2022


With Gallifrey and Skaro each on the brink of destruction and the Doctor seemingly lost as the Time War ravages ever onward, Time Lords and Daleks alike converge on the realm of the Barber-Surgeon as he prepares to create his ultimate weapon in the concluding act of Robert Valentine’s He Who Fights with Monsters, ‘The Horror.’

Even within the setting of the Time War that caused the Doctor to renounce his moniker that carries with it such noble intentions, the Doctor always appears to act with a certainty that he can emerge victorious through guile and determination. Accordingly, it’s quite shocking to see how utterly defeated and helpless the Doctor is as this third instalment begins. He realizes that by all accounts he should be dead, and after losing friends, the Master, and even the TARDIS along his recent journey, he soon experiences an even more personal and intense torture as the Daleks attempt to collect information from the Doctor and hand him a shocking loss that is all but inconceivable. Jonathon Carley has excelled in every respect since taking up the reigns of the War Doctor, but the raw and profound emotions he pours into these scenes are a visceral reminder of just how much weight this incarnation carries on his shoulders and just how personally he takes every action as he continues to diverge more and more from his long-held belief system.

Following an odd diversion fronted by a subservient Dalek named D-9 to further accentuate this distortion of the Doctor’s life, the Barber-Surgeon offers something of a mixed bag in terms of narrative fulfillment. Ostensibly, this figure represents the darkest iteration of the Doctor who at some point crossed over an unstated and unknown moral line and who cannot return to the ideals the Doctor still holds in his hearts. He realizes that this war can be ended but not won even if the Doctor has not yet come to that conclusion, and he has no qualms eliminating the entirety of the Time Lord and Dalek races to bring peace to the universe at large. Unfortunately, with his last life nearing its end and his weapon still only a prototype, his motivations become some more nebulous than they should be as he reveals a persistent desire to determine if the Doctor truly is still the Doctor despite his protestations otherwise. Coming from the Barber-Surgeon who himself knows he cannot be redeemed, these tests to prove the moral fortitude of the Doctor allude to a continued optimism and better nature within the Barber-Surgeon as well and throw many of his earlier words and actions into a less effective light than maintaining this foe as an overt and explicit contrast to the Doctor leaning into the darkest elements of his hearts would have. While this desire certainly may hint at the fact that the Doctor will always be true to himself even when all hope seems lost, the Barber-Surgeon as a concept doesn’t quite live up to his promise despite an incredibly engaging performance from Nicholas Le Prevost alongside Carley that results in such reflection from the Doctor. Indeed, with a built-in reset button that means the Barber-Surgeon will never have existed and that all of his actions and resulting losses will be undone, too much possible drama is taken away from this figure who is ultimately nothing more than a footnote of little consequence since the audience knows that this Doctor ultimately will not heed the Barber-Surgeon’s pleas to always remember himself and the strong motivations for good that drive him.

‘The Horror’ features plenty of deep references for fans of Doctor Who including the likes of missing episodes in the Barber-Surgeon’s life and the moment being prepared for, but on top of not fully realizing the potential of that foe, it also doesn’t fully take advantage of the distinct Dalek factions and the Dalek Killer-Hunter beyond continuing with contrasting plans for taking control of the weapons factory. Nicholas Briggs and Jason Merrells again excel at bringing these facets of the Dalek threat to life, but ‘The Horror’ as a concluding third simply cannot live up to the immense setup of the previous two instalments once it chooses to reveal its truths and render this entire set superfluous despite memories of the previously lost friends and foes apparently remaining. There are so many strong and incredible components to this story, but it refuses to see any of them through to their full potential and results in something of an uneven and somewhat empty ending despite an introspective look at this most unique incarnation of the Doctor filled with truly immense performances.

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