Eight Doctor - The Time War 5 cover art crop

Time War 5: Cass – Doctor Who audio review

Posted Filed under

The Eighth Doctor continues his adventures on the edge of the Time War, impossibly meeting the fateful Cass. But what is he forgetting? 

Almost ten years ago, in the run up to Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special, former Doctor Paul McGann returned for a mini-episode (The Night of the Doctor), which explained the birth of the War Doctor.

If the 1996 TV Movie gave us his start, ‘The Night of the Doctor’ showed us how the Eighth Doctor ended; bowing to the inevitable, he regenerated into John Hurt and committed to battling the Daleks in the Time War. To see how he lived, of course, we can turn to prose, comics and countless audio adventures.

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) & Cass (Emma Campbell-Jones

Joining him in that mini-episode was an almost-companion named Cass (Emma Campbell-Jones). Initially charmed by his antics, she backed off after discovering his identity; Cass chose to die rather than be saved by a Time Lord. Now, thanks to the eternal inconsistences of a temporal conflict, we get to meet Cass again. This latest set of the Eighth Doctor’s Time War-adjacent exploits bring them together earlier in both of their lives.

In this boxset, the Doctor also travels with a version of his great-grandson Alex Campbell (Sonny McGann), picking up on the cliffhanger of the last set. As listeners, we know none of this should be possible, but the Doctor seems blissfully unaware…

The Eighth Doctor Adventures: The Time War 5 - Cass cover art

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

Tim Foley’s story (re)introduces us to Cass as she begins her first day as an engineer on an Errand class ship. It is a troubled first day too, thanks to the arrival of the Doctor and Alex, as well as the appearance of various other times and places throughout the ship.

As the new girl onboard, Cass is up for adventure, smart and nobody’s fool. Meanwhile, Alex is fun and playful and clearly has a fascination with her.

In the guest cast, we enjoyed the role of Vice (Nicholas Boulton) who plays the ship’s tough second-in-command. Jaye Griffiths is fun as the ship’s mysterious passenger too.


For her first proper trip in time, the newly formed TARDIS team arrives at a research base. Below it, preserved in the ice for 100 years, is the Verspertine — the ship of famous explorer Hudson Sage. Sage was a hero of bedtime stories from Cass’s childhood bedtime stories, a favourite of her father. However, below on the ship the explorer is still alive, and he claims to know the Doctor.

Writer Lou Morgan explores Cass’s backstory  and the origins of her wanderlust and there’s a clever reversal of expectations at play in this bittersweet tale. ‘Vespertine’ also widens the over-arching mystery as the Doctor learns he is missing memories; there’s a past he doesn’t recall and a promise he doesn’t remember making. As well as a companion.

Playing Hudson Sage, Simon Shepherd is terrific as the flawed hero who doesn’t quite live up to his reputation.

Previously, Next Time

The boxset concludes with a marvellous two-parter from James Moran, writer of ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. His tale is one of those clever temporal puzzle stories, with the first episode using amusing interrogations and flashbacks to reveal the plot.

Our three heroes are cross-examined by Oshia (Nadia Albina) and Kade (Ian Connigham), who struggle to believe their story of an imminent Dalek threat. This is a civilisation roughly equitable to Ancient Egypt – certainly not the uninhabited planet the Doctor expected.

To be honest, it is difficult to say to much more. This is one of those stories that is fiendishly difficult to review without lengthy explanations, so suffice to say we loved it!

As well as the clever plotting, James Moran’s dialogue for the three leads is full of absolute zingers. Cass feels more established as a member of the team here and she appears to occupy the sweet spot between the Doctor and Alex.

In Summary

With Rakhee Thakrar unavailable to reprise the role as Bliss, incorporating her absence as a plot point is a smart move. Regular listeners may recall that the Doctor had a mayfly companion in the first of these Time War tales – Sheena disappeared due to the ever-changing nature of temporal conflict.

Despite that running theme of altered timelines and forgotten people, this set poses more questions than it answers. Alex’s reappearance at the Doctor’s side for example, despite his death in this universe.

Then there’s the curious and impassioned Cass Fermazzi. With her can-do attitude and the surname Steven Moffat gifted her in prose, she makes a terrific impact. What Cass lacks in the understanding of temporal mechanics, she more than makes up for with street smarts and personality. In the Extras, guest star Indio Griffiths calls out what a solid team this trio is, and she is spot on. Naturally, there’s a familial connection between the McGanns, but Emma Campbell-Jones works incredibly well with both of them. the three are an instant fit.

While it’s effectively a soft reboot for the range, and thus a great jumping on point, these Time War tales continue to entertain.

Fortunately, we already know there’s more to come too — Time War 6 was announced at the same time as this set. However, it is not on the schedule until April 2024, so there is a while to wait.

Doctor Who – Time War 5: Cass is available on CD and Download from bigfinish.com