The third instalment of Big Finish’s Doctor Who 60th anniversary series is Once and Future: A Genius for War.
It’s a rematch for the Seventh Doctor and Davros – but will there be unlimited rice pudding for all?
For Once and Future’s third story, we find the degenerating Doctor – in his seventh incarnation – pulled out of time by his own people. It begins with a revisit to an unpleasantly familiar space station – the site of this trial has now is now repurposed as a staging point for the Time War.
As the conflict with the Daleks rages on, the Time Lords have received an offer they dare not at least consider. Incarcerated by his own creations, Davros is reaching out – he asks for liberation from Skaro’s prison moon of Falkus but insists on the identity of his rescuer: the Doctor.
Despite a healthy degree of scepticism, the mission goes ahead with the Doctor aided by the Time Lord General (Ken Bones) and Veklin (Beth Chalmers)…
Initially, ‘A Genius for War’ feels like an interlude in the Once and Future storyline, albeit on an epic scale within the ongoing temporal conflict. The Doctor is once again able to hold off his instability for the duration – wouldn’t it be good to have a degeneration mid-story? However, his aliment does at least play a part in the tale’s resolution.
Writer Jonathan Morris brings an entertaining mix of elements to the party from the breadth of the show’s history – from Skaro’s bunkers and transduction barriers to modern series Time Lord mythology. He also has characters echo some familiar lines – we particularly enjoyed the General’s slight twist on Nyder’s famous “Thank you – that is what I wanted to know” from ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.
Sylvester McCoy is on buoyant from throughout and with no companion in tow, Veklin fulfils the role admirably. For his part, Terry Molloy delivers another blistering performance as the scheming Dalek creator. While Davros begins the tale as a prisoner in orbit (the Napoleon comparison is made) we know he has schemes within schemes, and it is great to hear them unfurl. It’s also fun to have him pitted against the Seventh Doctor, who is no stranger to a scheme or two himself, redressing the minimal screentime the pair shared in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’.
With a terrific score, and despite seemingly adding nothing to the overall storyline, ‘A Genius for War’ is the strongest Once and Future tale so far. It also deposits Davros in an interesting place, which we’d love to be the focus of a further story.
We listened to the Special Edition version of ‘A Genius for War’ which features contributions McCoy, Molloy and Nicholas Briggs. Plus, there’s an extended chat with director Helen Goldwyn, producer David Richardson, Beth Chalmers and composer and sound designer Howard Carter. Additionally, there’s a nine-minute music suite from the story too.
Next month: ‘Two’s Company’
Part four of Doctor Who – Once and Future lands in August. ‘Two’s Company’ provides the remarkable cocktail of The Sixth Doctor, Harry Sullivan, Lady Christina and Jackie Tyler.
Doctor Who – Once and Future: A Genius for War is out now on Collector’s Edition CD (+ download) and digital download from Big Finish. Physical copies of the Special Edition are sold out, but the download bundle is still available.