‘A Heart on Both Sides’ is the first foray of the Short Trips range into Doctor Who’s Time War, that was timed to coincide with the launch of a new strand of Eighth Doctor adventures set in that era.
The focus of this particular adventure though is Nyssa, late of Traken and the TARDIS, who is now the controller of a neutral medical vessel. Named for her lost homework, Nyssa’s floating hospital which roams the stars bringing relief to the innocent. While the Traken is primarily crewed by robotic sisters, able to scan and dispense treatments, Nyssa is aided by an assistant – one Doctor Foster who she picked up on her travels.
Rob Nisbet’s cleverly titled tale begins with an explosion on the ‘service station’ planet of Reeve, close to Gallifrey. As Nyssa opens her doors to the wounded, she is also forced to open her eyes to the murderous tactics of the Time Lords who wish to claim exclusive use of the planet’s resources.
With a small cast of characters, Nyssa, the Doctor and a local medic called Isherwood, the story spins on issues of trust. Sarah Sutton ably provides the narration, as well as reprising Nyssa (now closer in age to the actress herself) and northern tones for the local Doctor Isherwood.
Of course, with a name like Doctor Foster, who studied medicine in Gloucester, there is no mistaking the identity of Nyssa’s assistant. What is interesting are his motivations here, which are well reasoned and tie with the fixed points in time theory of the new series. It also makes us wonder if he spends a lot of time covertly catching up with old companions later in their lives, but not revealing himself; a simultaneously charming and lonely thought.
While we remain on the fringes of the war, as the Eighth Doctor deigns to become involved, this is an involving tale, and one that comes warmly recommended.