When the line up for this set was announced, I was more than a little surprised at the inclusion of the Sontarans, given that they made their debut in 1973 (before at least one of the New Doctors was even born!). However, they very definitely received a makeover for their appearances in the 21st century – not just physically, but in their attitudes and culture (and I’m not just referring to the “Sontar-ha!” routine). They may have become a little bit figures of fun thanks to Dan Starkey’s performance as Strax, but Andrew Smith’s script takes us back to the warriors of their first Nu-Who appearance, and marries that with the set-up of the classic years.
Josette Simon joins the Big Finish audios, playing Sarana Teel, a character driven by motivations that aren’t commonplace in such stories, but ones that can push people to go further and ask more of themselves than they would normally do. Sarana will do whatever it takes, and goes head to head with Paul McGann’s Doctor throughout the story. We’ve seen McGann during the Time War, and you can imagine the events of this story – from his utter disbelief and anger at being ignored at the top of the tale to the brutal way in which it ends – being key in creating the man who won’t get involved that we met in Night of the Doctor.
Starkey’s Jask is a well-written and very well played character (and make sure you listen right to the end!), driven by forces that gradually become clear; Christopher Ryan’s General Stenk is similarly well-written and played – and in this centenary of the Battle of the Somme, there are some echoes of the worst excesses of men at war.
Once again, director Barnaby Edwards maintains the right energy levels for the scenes, reining in the actors where they need to be and allowing Howard Carter’s sound design and music to tell the story where appropriate. A hallmark of the set as a whole has been a consistency of approach, and attention to detail – something that Edwards, script editor Matt Fitton and producer David Richardson can justifiably be proud of.
The box set also includes a documentary on the making of the series, which is filled with interesting material. I particularly enjoyed the way in which anecdotes were “shared” between those telling them (the Peter Davison/Matthew Kelly stories are a great example), and even if you’re often tempted to skip the behind the scenes stuff, give this a listen.
Verdict: A fine capping stone to one of Big Finish’s best box sets. 9/10
Click below for the reviews of the other stories in this set: