Stricken with grief and rage from the losses suffered in the fight to free future Earth from the Daleks, the Doctor sets the TARDIS on a course for the end of everything, so he can “see how it all turned out.” The sudden appearance of Time Lord agent Straxus in the Doctor’s TARDIS does little to alleviate his rage. Straxus has a job for the Doctor, to investigate a massive shakeup in Earth’s timeline, an assignment the Doctor almost refuses to take until it becomes apparent that the Time Lords will allow the TARDIS to go nowhere else.
The Doctor finds himself on the battlefield in the first World War, and almost succumbs to a gas attack. He awakens in a triage tent, tended to by an overworked Irish VAD named Molly O’Sullivan. But soon the combat hospital has to be evacuated when the sound of bombing nears – but the Doctor recognizes that it isn’t the sound of any kind of earthly ordnance. The Daleks have returned again, but this time, his old enemies don’t seem to be after him – and it would appear that they have allies among the human race in this time period.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Ruth Bradley (Molly O’Sullivan), Peter Egan (Straxus), Toby Jones (Kotris), Laura Molyneaux (Isabel Stanford), Jonathan Forbes (Dr. Sturgiss), Alex Mallinson (Tucker), Beth Chalmers (Matron / Kitty Donaldson / Nurse Harriet), Tim Treloar (Lord President), John Banks (Hodgeson), Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
Notes: Though he is pictured on the cover of the individual CD for The Great War in his new costume, the Doctor is said to still have long hair and “fancy dress” for this story, and his sonic screwdriver is still said to resemble a pennywhistle. Straxus has regenerated since last seen in The Vengeance Of Morbius (though between that story and the Dark Eyes box set, yet another incarnation of Straxus appeared in the audio spinoff Bernice Summerfield and the Diogenes Damsel).
Timeline: after To The Death and before Fugitives and Night Of The Doctor
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The first in a tightly-connected cycle of four stories sold in the first Dark Eyes box set, The Great War and the other Dark Eyes stories were heavily promoted as bringing us a darker, more haunted eighth Doctor, one who is growing closer in both mannerisms and costumes to the ninth Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston in the revived TV series.
Where The Great War is concerned, however, it’s largely business as usual, though our first “glimpse” of the Doctor (someone really needs to invent an equivalent of “glimpse” for use in describing something that exists as sound only) is indeed of someone driven nearly insane by grief. Once the Doctor is back on the case, rummaging around in history, he’s back in his element, and one can be forgiven for thinking that not much has changed.
Ruth Bradley instantly steals the show as Molly O’Sullivan, a strong-minded Irish lass who’s had to grow calluses – quickly – over her feelings and sensibilities to play the role she must play in the war. Doctor Who, in any medium, has a long history of making incoming companions likeable; seldom has a new arrival demanded that the viewer or listener be so concerned about her, however. Molly is bottling up an incredible among of stress and remorse, enough to fuel a bout of PTSD that would rival anything faced by the men she’s helping to treat. This is one of the first times a new Doctor Who companion has instantly made me think “I’m worried about this one.” Bradley and McGann together spark off of each other nicely; far from impressing her with his quick thinking, the Doctor has really succeeded, for the most part, in getting on Molly’s nerves in this first episode.