This is the first in my series of mini-reviews on the short stories to be found in the charity War Doctor anthology, Seasons of War, edited by Declan May and published by Chinbeard Books.
The newly-regenerated Warrior makes his first words, heard only by Mother Superior Ohila of the Sisterhood of Karn. He orders her to bury Cass, the woman he could not save, whose name he cannot now remember. But it isn’t post-regenerative amnesia—for once, there is none of that. Instead it’s a change in focus, a shift in perspective, a new urgency. There are calls to action waiting, from President Romana, the Perpetual Watch [a group unique to this book—more on them in a later entry], the Celestial Intervention Agency… For the first time we see him erupt in rage at being called the Doctor, and it is fearsome. But more fearsome is the fate to which he leaves the Sisterhood: A Dalek dreadnought has detected the crashing TARDIS and entered orbit, and will soon exterminate everyone it can find—and this newborn Warrior cannot, or will not, save the Sisterhood in his damaged TARDIS. He watches as the Daleks converge on the Sisterhood’s enclave and put out the Sacred Flame forever. They seek the Doctor…but they won’t find him here.
Many people have commented that the licensed War Doctor materials fail to live up to the hype: a Doctor who isn’t, a man who not only abandons that title, but betrays it, committing atrocities in the name—as he said—of peace and sanity, but not in the name of the Doctor. At the same time, The Day of the Doctor and other materials fail to capture the sheer horror and incomprehensibility of the Time War. This story takes place immediately after The Night of the Doctor–its opening line is “…and he looked at his reflection and said: ‘Doctor no more’”—and it instantly and dramatically establishes that everything is different now. We’ll get to the horrors of war later, but here we see at once that this is no Doctor we’re dealing with. His first act is one of arrogance—not asking, but ordering the Sisterhood to bury Cass; Ohila even calls him “Lord”—and his second is one of cruelty, as he leaves them to die. He makes an excuse, but it’s a thin one; the TARDIS is damaged and won’t make a short hop from its location to the Sisterhood’s enclave, and that is probably true—but there’s no reason they couldn’t leave with him and walk to it. We get the distinct impression he’s punishing them for saving him and taking away his identity—or perhaps for implanting this new identity. It’s shocking in its contrast. One more thing: I emphasized last time that this is a Time War, and we’re going to see a lot of timelines being overwritten. With that said, I don’t see any problem with the Sisterhood being wiped out here, then showing up again in The Magician’s Apprentice–that timeline was simply altered at some point, not removing the regeneration, but removing the ship that hunted them down. We’ll find such things are very common here.
Karn was written by Seasons of War editor Declan May. Next time: Crowsnest Past, by Warren Frey.