Once there was a Doctor who had a perfectly able companion but perhaps he yearned for something more. Condemned to be absent from the TV screens, he wandered the wilderness of print only, until he came upon a comely archaeologist who seemed to like his face. So began the adventures of the Seventh Doctor, for t’was he, and the academic smart alec, Bernice Summerfield. And lo, one day, they both were reconstituted by adding audio and making the book into a play and thus came along ‘Love And War’, the real story of how they met to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the novel’s publication.
The Doctor wants to find a missing library book and takes Ace to a place called Heaven. This planet, on the edge of Draconian space, is the last resting place of the bodies of the dead from the many wars in local space.
Ace catches the eye of a band of travellers and takes a fancy to one called Jan, who offers her a tour of his archaeological dig. Enter Doctor Bernice ‘Bernie’ Summerfield, archaeologist and adventurer.
When Ace explores the virtual reality of Puterspace and its meeting place on the Great Wheel with the young travellers, she finds it charged with memories and fear. Other players here include the Church of the Vacuum, a nihilist cult who make sacrifice and the Doctor is concerned with helping Bernie with the dig. As Ace ponders on old friendships and the recent death of a friend, she falls in love with Jan. The Doctor uncovers something deadly in the ruins but, as ever, he doesn’t tell Ace and that is not a good way to keep your companion on side.
There is a catalogue of characters including Jan’s friend, Christopher, who sacrificed everything, Dalek fighter Maire and Jan’s sometime girlfriend, Roisa.
As events escalate on the planet, people die and it becomes a case of love, war, betrayal and despair. It’s all very deep and, of course, it’s the Doctor playing the long game in a personality trait developed for by the Seventh and in particular what we have come to expect from the Big Finish persona. Manipulative, devious with his hearts set on saving the galaxy not the gullible, we are never quite sure whether we like him or not. Ace is wrong-footed as ever with her father figure not living up to his name.
There are lots of great ideas here and including the immersive virtual reality-whatever happened to that? It’s so last century. The big bad turn out to be a good old-fashioned ‘Doctor Who’ adversary type and all has a nice modern but slightly retro-twist. It’s quite stunning to listen to as it is so packed with ideas.
I don’t know why it took so long to adapt this to audio but it seems like a sure fire hit, with Benny firmly established as a Big Finish favourite. The story of the betrayal of Ace is heartbreaking and it adds yet another dimension to the enigma that is the Doctor. Never would it be a better time for those question marks on his lapels, there is much to be gleaned here and it’s not all nice.
(pub: Big Finish. 3 CDs 120 minute story. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-024-4)
cast: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Lisa Bowerman, James Redmond, Riona O Connor, Aysha Kala, Ela Gaworzewska, Bernard Holley, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Christopher Allen, James Unsworth, Scott Handcock, Charlie Hayes and Peter Sheward
check out website: www.bigfinish.com