By Will Barber – Taylor
In a time of war, every means of victory must be explored. In the Time War, the unthinkable must be thought, and neither side can afford to be squeamish about their methods.
When the destruction of an obscene weapon leads to the Time Lord once known as the Doctor uncovering a secret Gallifreyan initiative, he cannot believe what is being considered.
Cardinal Ollistra has her hands full studying the range of ancient and mysterious armaments the universe has to offer, but she makes it a personal mission to investigate a Dalek project.
On this dangerous assignment, there is one particular Time Lord she wants at her side – and he will be accompanying her whether he wants to or not.
But when he discovers the truth, the horrors of the Neverwhen will shock even the War Doctor.
Building on the previous boxset, Only The Monstrous, Infernal Devices creates an atmosphere of fear and intrigue from the start. Beginning with The War Doctor (John Hurt) arriving in the middle of an immense battle, Infernal Devices does no problem sucking the listener into the heart of the action.
Within the first few minutes, we are shown into the dark heart of the Time War and how the Time Lords will stop at nothing to defeat the Daleks. Like the previous instalment, the question of whether to user the lesser of the two evils to save the universe is put forward. Though he does not still call himself The Doctor, Hurt is still clearly the Time Lord we all know and love – he cares more for the individual than the greater good.
During his scenes with David Warner’s Shadovar in the first part, Hurt bristles brilliant as Shadovar’s plans to “help” the Time Lord win the Time War. The Doctor’s flat refusal to accept Shadovar’s idea shows how far this Doctor has yet to go before he becomes the man we saw in The Day of The Doctor. In all of their scenes together in the first part, Hurt and Warner sparkle against one another – Shadovar’s religious fanaticism against The Doctor’s hard scientific logic makes for electric listening.
The second and third parts build on the momentum of the first. Part Two isn’t as closely linked together as the first and third parts but none the less it keeps the listener’s attention. Part Two also gives a creepy new twist to the Daleks and their need to create new soldiers – like the first part The Doctor is appalled at the lengths species will go to further their own side for war. This theme of the lengths at which groups will go to satisfy their own need for vengeance is the boxset’s lynch pin. The time for this set to come out is also striking – with military action in Syria currently halted for peace talks, Infernal Devices shows us what both sides in a fight can do that destroy the values they are trying to protect.
The return of Jaqueline Peace as Cardinal Ollistra is a great addition to the set. Pearce brings Ollistra’s cold, sardonic nature to new heights in this set and makes her character stand out as one of the best Big Finish has ever created. Her intellectual dual with Hurt’s War Doctor is something to savour.
Infernal Device is one of Big Finish’s best Doctor Who sets. Not only does it have current political significance but it also shows a great understanding of why wars change people and how trying to stop an enemy can lead you down a path to becoming like them.
With thanks to Big Finish.