Continuing 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.
A battered, old TARDIS sails the Time Vortex, buffeted and tossed by the winds of time…but it’s not that TARDIS. This is the Type-28 TARDIS known as the Battered Bride, and it is in the possession of the Time Lord called the Corsair. With him—and hanging on for dear life—rides the Time Lord once known as the Doctor. The Corsair believes they are headed for Dark Horizon to meet the Time Lord fleet, but the former Doctor tells him the truth: they are headed for a system called Warisia. It’s a name that makes even the reckless, fearless Corsair blanch with fear; Warisia is the location of a fabled and legendary battle, called the Battle of Infinite Regress, also known—as the Corsair points out—as the Slaughter Repetition. It’s a battle where the atrocities perpetrated by the Time Lords will increase through loops of time, until the Warisians are so weary that they will accept even the Daleks as their rulers. Gallifrey has known about it for years—and now, it’s about to begin…again. The Doctor has been fighting this battle, again and again, and this is not the first time he’s ridden to battle with the Corsair and the Battered Bride. The Type-28 TARDIS itself knows the truth; long ago, when its faulty empathy circuits came online, it fled Gallifrey—eloped, really—with a Type-26, and spent three thousand years on “honeymoon” in the vortex. However, it was caught in the early days of the War, and its love was lost; and somewhere, before the Doctor found it and brought it home, its coordinates were set for Warisia. The Corsair feels betrayed by the Doctor, until he realises that they were destined to come here—but they are not destined to lose. The Warrior, it seems, is getting better at his job; and this time, he has diverted seven hundred Battle TARDISes from the fleet at Dark Horizon, to tip the scales and cause the Battle of Infinite Regress to never begin at all. Together, they ride into battle…with a final warning not to call him “Doctor”.
The author of Corsair, Declan May, is also the editor of Seasons of War, and thus to him falls the task of tying things together. He has the most contributions to the anthology, a total of nine (not including the introductory materials), but they are characteristically short; without exception, they are more interlude than complete story. That makes perfect sense, given his editorial responsibilities; and without them, the book would not feel cohesive. Corsair focuses on, well, the Corsair, a character often described but never seen in the series’ licensed works. The character has been noted to have shifted genders at least once during regeneration, and probably more than once; that is borne out in this story, where the Doctor muses that this reckless male version of the Corsair is very different from the female, peacetime Corsair who died in the early days of the Time War. The character appears in the Seasons of War short film (which I will cover along with The Director’s Tale, the afterword to the book), and the artwork attached to this story, by Simon A. Brett, matches the film. The character as portrayed here is similar to the description given in The Doctor’s Wife, giving rise to the possibility that this is the incarnation which will later be killed by House. I like this guy; he seems like a lot of fun, and when he and the War Doctor are together, I am most reminded of Westley and Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride. That’s an odd comparison for a Time War story, perhaps, but it still feels apt; one gets the impression that these two make a great team, and would be a lot of fun together. The Battered Bride is interesting, as well; clearly the Time Lords have had some concept of the sentience of TARDISes for a very long time, and this one is definitely unique. It’s a Type-28, about which little is known otherwise; the Whoniverse website’s TARDIS Technical Index states that the Type-28 was the first to have a Zero Room, but says little else. (Allegedly that information comes from a licensed source, but I was not able to determine what source that would be.) It is seen to have a cubical console here, a step up from the wall-mounted console of the Type-12 (Shada, Fourth Doctor version). It is loosely portrayed here as a sailing ship (I’m getting that more from description of its actions than its actual shape), which is consistent with what Neil Gaiman intended when writing the character for the television series; unfortunately, that means the Battered Bride was probably eaten by House. Overall, this is a hopeful interlude, which is impressive given that it’s set against an incredibly hopeless backdrop in the Battle of Infinite Regress; and, I should add, it’s one of my favorite entries in this anthologies. It’s a good breath of fresh air before we dive back into the horrors of war—and dive, we will.
Corsair was written by anthology editor Declan May, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next: The Ambassador from Wolf-Rayet 134, by Kate Orman, with art by Carolyn Edwards.
Bonus: For some interesting trivia on the Corsair, check out this blog post by Neil Gaiman, who introduced the character in *The Doctor’s Wife*.