Hello again to my readers! Last time I promised I’d review one more unrelated audio release before returning to Sir Terry and friends. After some consideration I’ve returned to Doctor Who once again but not one of a certain audio drama company’s releases. Engines Of War is a release by BBC Books from 2014 starring The War Doctor as played in the 50th anniversary celebrations – The Day Of The Doctor – by the late lamented Sir John Hurt.
For those of you who are unsure of The War Doctor, think of him as a version of The Doctor who – on the surface – has lost most of his idealistic tendencies and has become very jaded and worn by the atrocities of The Great Time War between the Time Lords and Daleks. Both sides have committed heinous acts and thousands of worlds have been turned to dust or killing fields.
But it is time to discuss the plot of Engines Of War. The Doctor – leading a flotilla of Battle TARDISes against one of many Dalek strongholds – is attacked and sent crashing to a planet down below. Moldox. But what’s happening on this world? Why would the Daleks round up the humans on this world rather than exterminate them all? They aren’t following any of their usual strategies. What are they planning? And what will be the consequences of informing the Time Lords when the plan will be revealed?
This story is a personal favourite of mine. The War Doctor is expertly written as the war veteran who just wants the fight to be over. He doesn’t feel worthy of his previous ideals. Can he bring himself to take another companion given the events of the war? And just how has it changed him? And that’s not even counting the companion for the story. I won’t give away too much about Cinder. In a way this story is almost more hers than it is the Doctor’s. She reminds me a lot of Ace in several good ways and acts as a good balance to this version of The Doctor. The writer George Mann has clearly put lots of effort into both their characterisation and his vivid descriptions which make the story an absolute joy to visualise even if the story itself is appropriately grim for the setting.
The narration is performed very well indeed by the ‘Voice Of The Daleks’ himself Nicholas Briggs. Mr Briggs does an excellent job with all the required parts. His narration as the War Doctor is perfect with exactly the right tone and level of sadness and bitterness and more than a little playfulness during some of his interactions with Cinder. His portrayal of Cinder is very good as well making sure that the listener is able to empathise with this new – and somewhat acerbic – character. Briggs also makes use of the same ring modulator technology to voice the Daleks in the audiobook as is used in the TV show itself. Their sadistic streak is more than apparent in Nicholas’s Briggs’s performance. Although my personal favourite performance by Briggs is his take on Rassilon the Time Lord President and – to a degree – great hero of legend. This version of Rassilon has been somewhat tainted by the war and is more than a little uncaring and vicious towards all others. All Rassilon cares about by now is Rassilon and to a lesser degree other Time Lord lives. His portrayal makes it clear that Nicholas Briggs practically relishes playing this version of the character and his and The Doctor’s interactions can be rather entertaining to say the least!
This story is extremely enjoyable even if Doctor Who isn’t your kind of thing normally. It makes a rather gripping war story with well executed motivations and good explanations for things if you have no context with Doctor Who lore and history. I really hope some of my readers will join me in reading or listening to Engines Of War as it is thanks to Engines Of War that I know of George Mann. He is genuinely one of those authors whose work I always look forward to and I’m always glad whenever a new story comes out – be it Doctor Who related, Holmes related or his original work – which I also highly recommend.
In conclusion if it sounds even slightly interesting to you or if you are just curious or if you are – or at one point were – a Doctor Who fan grab a copy and read or listen to your heart’s content. The story is more than worth it!
Next time I will return to Sir Terry and Neil Gaiman. Namely my originally planned review of the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Good Omens and then one more Pratchett review done – for the first time – by reader request.