Seasons of War Mini-Review 45: Seasons of War Short Film and The Director’s Tale

Concluding 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.

Seasons of War cover

We’ll wrap up our coverage of the Seasons of War charity anthology with a look at the promotional short film that was released in January 2015. The film serves as a promotional trailer of sorts for the anthology. As such, it is less a coherent story of its own, and more a collection of scenes pertinent to the stories in the anthology (and one in particular, as we’ll see). Still, there is a narrative, though not a lengthy one, and we’ll follow it. Let’s get started!

The majority of the film takes place on Warisia, which was last mentioned in an early story, Corsair. It’s the site of the Battle of Infinite Regress, the repeating conflict which the Warrior and the Corsair set out in the Battered Bride TARDIS to stop, or else prevent. The events of this film happen in and around that battle, although it’s not immediately obvious; the main perspective is that of a Warisian girl, who wouldn’t be time-sensitive, and therefore wouldn’t be aware of the repetitions the way the Time Lords are. She provides a narrating voiceover, which I won’t reproduce exactly (as I’m going to provide a link to the film at the end), but will summarize as we go.

short film 1

An interesting oddity: This shot is clearly the inspiration for the anthology’s cover, seen above and on every post in this series.  However, the digital edition I’ve used–taken from the anthology’s facebook page–shows the sonic screwdriver instead of the telescope; but the print cover, which I haven’t reproduced here, shows the telescope.  Both digital and print are clearly the same picture in every other respect.

The young War Doctor strides up the beach toward a Warisian village, stopping only to use his Dalek-eyestalk telescope for reconnaissance. Our narrator tells us that he is the greatest of all warriors, and has been fighting forever. He is a renegade to his own, but a hero and a protector to the Warisians, as to so many others. She speaks of the never-ending War as her family binds their wounds and works in silence; the Corsair joins them, but brings no help as yet. At night, the narrator—still a child at this time—sets an intruder alarm in her beloved teddy bear before going to bed. Even at this age, she knows that for the Warrior to win, to defeat his enemies, will require terrible things of him. In the morning, he comes through her village as her people cheer; she stops him long enough to place a gift, a homemade bracelet, on his wrist. She is confident that he will never stop—but will always be alone.

We see a montage of scenes of the War—the TARDIS, a world-ending explosion, the Daleks, a sonic screwdriver.

The narrator explains how the War made the Warrior old, and stripped away so much from him. Later, the war at last moves on from her world, leaving peace in its wake, but a broken people. The narrator, now older and now become an accomplished young artist, sits at a table, sketching the man who led their liberation. At that moment, after so long, he returns. Now old and battle-weary, he is no longer the man he was; and his actions have made him ashamed. With empty eyes, he returns her long-ago gift.

She knows not to ask his name; instead, she asks what he once was, before the War. There’s horror in his answer:

“I was a kind of healer once…but no more. No More.”

The anthology returns to the film for its final entry, The Director’s Tale, by film director Andy Robinson. Several months prior to the release of the film, he was approached by Simon Brett, whose work—both literary and artistic—we have seen several times throughout the anthology. The initial request was for a thirty-second artistic piece to promote the book; the end result is seven times that length, at just over three minutes and thirty seconds. (I’m counting only the actual production there; the full running time is 5:38, but that includes two minutes of credits and promotional information.) It’s safe to say Andy Robinson may be a bit of an overachiever.

He defends his decision, though, in true fan fashion. Andy Robinson has wanted to direct an episode of Doctor Who for years; that chance may or may not ever come, but the desire has given him plenty of energy and passion to pour into projects like this. He attributes that desire to the same origin story so many fans have had over the years: hiding behind the sofa as a child when Doctor Who came on (he attributes his childhood fear not to the monsters, but to the theme music, to which I heartily say “me too!”—that music scared me to death as a child. Listen to it and pretend it’s for the first time, you’ll see what I mean; it’s quite creepy). As an adult, he, also like me, has come full circle, and now watches with his own child.

He describes his vision of the War Doctor here as a western, and it shows; he comes off in a very “lone gunslinger” way. It’s a characterization that would no doubt make the War Doctor himself sputter and shout, but it’s accurate; after all, what else is he? He’s the man who wanders into town, takes out the bad guys, and moves on, never telling those he saves about the burdens he himself carries. The television series may have spoofed the genre (I’m looking at you, A Town Called Mercy, which I have to say is quite good, spoof or not), but this film plays it straight—or as much so as a show about a time-travelling alien can do.

Short film 2

For those who are fans of the Corsair, there is a brief appearance here; he doesn’t do anything, really—his actions are addressed a little more in his story in the anthology—but you at least get a view of what he looks like in this incarnation, complete with—if you’re quick—his snake tattoo (see above!). The character is played by Tom Hutchings. The War Doctor, meanwhile, is played by Tom Menary; the full-body shots we get of him are of the younger War Doctor, while the old War Doctor is only present from a point of view that won’t show his face, and is played in hand shots by Simon Tytherleigh. The tribute at the beginning of the book states that Sir John Hurt was approached about the entire project in advance; though he gave his blessing, he was not able to appear in the film, either visually or for voiceover work. The Narrator is played in her childhood appearances by Daisy Batchelor, and in her adult appearances by Becky Rich. The full credits can be seen at the end of the film; there is an abbreviated version included at the end of The Director’s Tale, but everything in it is also included in the film credits, so I won’t reproduce it here. It’s interesting to note that all of the major actors also served in production roles of various types.

And, as they say, that’s that! We’ve reached the end of the Seasons of War anthology. The series continues, however; look for Seasons of War: The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War in December 2017, followed by War Crimes: Dispatches & Testimonies from the Dark Side of the Time War; Seasons of War: Gallifrey; Seasons of War: Corsair; and Seasons of War: Regenerations, all in 2018. I’ll be putting this project on hiatus (and returning, albeit erratically, to my other review series) until December, when we’ll return for the next novel. See you then! Thanks for reading.

Short film 3

You can view the Seasons of War short film here. (For those who have the book, unfortunately, the website listed at the end of The Director’s Tale is no longer a valid source for the video, but YouTube has you covered at the link above.)

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here. To follow the series as it develops, please consider following the Seasons of War Facebook page, here.


Next (See us again in December!)

New to Seasons of War? Want to catch up before The Horde of Travesties and History of the Time War launches in December? Click here for the first post in this series! You can follow the “Next links on each post to continue.

Seasons of War Mini-Review 44: Rise/Risen: A Coda

Concluding 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.

Seasons of War cover

The War is over.

Part One: The man who was of late a warrior–the Warrior—stands at the console. Memories burn and fade in his mind. The taste of tea; an art gallery. He remembers, but he doesn’t. Three men and a woman—no, two; one of them both familiar and not. Three men? Two? Or only one? Old memories flood back, as well—a long-ago moment of theft of a TARDIS. Words at random, Earth words. A rose. A moment—no, a Moment.

Words spill from his tongue, at first in…French? Is he French this time? No, that makes no sense, though it would be quite a change indeed. His accent. Something northern this time.

The biggest change of all: He is young. Very young. After so many years of old age, it’s only right. The change in body, in sensations, is too much. It always is. What’s with these new ears?

Suddenly it all roars back to him. The barn. The Moment. The end of it all. It’s too much to bear, and he collapses as, roaring in, here comes everything.

Part Two: The TARDIS hangs and spins in the time vortex, battered by the winds of time. It tumbles toward a nearby world, on a collision course. Its pilot lies unconscious on the floor, defending himself in the only way possible from the onslaught of horrible memories, the terrible past (now Time Locked away, but the memories stay). As he comes to, he examines it all in his mind: the War, the Daleks, the Time Lords, Gallifrey, the madness…so many names he has worn in his rush to be anything but himself: the Warrior, the Postman, the Foreman, the Man in the Bandolier, the Prisoner…

He remembers it all: the death of his Eighth body on Karn, the end of the Doctor. The Chronosmiths and the Eight Minute War. The return of Rassilon, the lives and deaths of Jenny Shirt and Cinder, the Fall of Arcadia… and under (over?) it all, a fading memory of a man in a bow tie, and one in sand shoes…

He hesitates a moment only, before admitting it to himself. HE pressed the button. He used the Moment, and killed every last one of them—Daleks and Time Lords alike.

He is awake now. He moves to the console, pressing buttons, setting things right, stabilizing his ship.

Part Three: The newborn Doctor wanders the corridors of his ancient TARDIS, probing at the remaining hole in his memories. He cannot remember how he got here. From the Moment to the TARDIS…shouldn’t he have burned with Gallifrey? It was certainly what he intended. He had no wish to survive.

This TARDIS…now it is home for certain. It is the only home he has left. As he strides through its passages, it too shakes off the War. It rebuilds itself, changes, transforms…and as it does, the Doctor does the same. The Warrior falls away, and the Doctor blossoms—“like a rose”, he hears in his mind. He remembers them all—and he remembers ending them.

“Fantastic,” he calls out, new vowels bitter and ironic echo and reverberate. “I wiped them out, watched them burn then popped-off in my TARDIS and had a cuppa!” And with that, he laughs, perhaps for the first time in a long time.

Still, he can’t fill the hole in his memory. Words float back, indicating something might be different from what he recalls, but they are gone again at once. But… the War, the Last Great Time War, is over. “No more,” he says. “I am the Doctor again…”

He visits the wardrobe for the first time in years. He drops his old jacket to the floor, drops the bandolier with it. His sonic screwdriver rolls across the floor to fetch up against a crate. Atop that crate lies a simple, black leather jacket. That will work…keep things simple. He changes quickly, discarding the Warrior’s clothes, not paying much attention to what he chooses, and putting the new jacket over it all. The sonic, he leaves lying on the floor—he’ll soon make a new one, with fewer memories attached.

As he finishes, the Cloister Bell tolls. It may signal danger, but it gives order to his world. He is needed…somewhere. He runs back through his regenerating TARDIS, toward the console room.

He finds that this room, too, is changing—and what worse time? It burns and melts, its roundels falling and disappearing, coral spearing up through its floor to strike the ceiling. “Not now! Just give me this moment!”

The screen is active. It focuses in on Earth, London, 2005. There is a signal there. Nestene? Did the Consciousness survive? Its world burned, too…he’d been unable to help. Perhaps now he could set that right. The Nestene will be wanting the Earth. Perhaps today he can save two races.

His ship is burning. He himself is newly transformed. And yet, he knows two things for sure:

“The Earth’s in danger,” he says. “And I’m the Doctor.”

As he throws the dematerialisation switch, and swoops toward a planet he never expected to see again, he can’t help but be excited. The Doctor has returned. “Fantastic,” he says. “Absolutely fantastic!”

After the Horde of Travesties, beyond the Nightmare Childe,

When a rose caught in a Moment,

Bloomed ferocious genocide.

The Warrior fades and weakens, loosens heavy bandolier,

Forgets his day as the doctor,

Now the Doctor, again, is near.

Rise Risen 1

There are only a few things I regret about The Day of the Doctor. One is that the past-Doctor actors didn’t get to make an appearance, with the exception of Tom Baker as the Curator (The Five-ish Doctors Reboot notwithstanding). The others are tied together: I regret that Christopher Eccleston declined to appear (although, if he had, we might not have had the War Doctor at all, and might not be having this conversation!), and I regret that the War Doctor’s regeneration scene was cut short out of deference to Eccleston. That last is particularly notable; it’s no surprise that numerous fans have recut the video to show a more complete transformation into the Ninth Doctor. This story also sets out to address that gap, by giving us the newly-regenerated Ninth Doctor from the moment immediately after regeneration (as he still has the taste of the tea he drank in the under-gallery in his mouth) to the moment when he heads for Earth to initiate the events of Rose.

Some fans may take issue with the idea that Rose occurs so soon after regeneration. Certainly it’s been debated often—did the Ninth Doctor have adventures prior to meeting Rose Tyler? I think that that was certainly the implication, as there’s the famous scene where he looks in Jackie Tyler’s mirror as though he had never seen his own face before. It is a bit undermined by a scene later in Series One in which the Doctor was seen alone at several historic events, including the JFK assassination and the eruption of Krakatoa. Stories in other media have taken the stance that he spent some time without companions before meeting Rose; but the subject is still open for debate. I’ve always been a fan of the idea that Rose is truly his first adventure in this body, and that the historical scenes are later in his personal timeline (as it’s simple enough to get separated from Rose long enough for a photo to be snapped even if she is present for the adventure). With this story, it’s great to see the connection between The Day of the Doctor and Rose, even if the Doctor himself can’t see it (due to his memory being altered by the out-of-sync timelines among his selves.)

The thing that stands out to me most in this final story is the idea that it’s not over. Oh, the Time War is over, there’s no question of that; but the Doctor’s story is not over. It would have been very easy to look at the Time War and its resolution as the end-all of events in the Doctor’s life—after all, how do you top something like that? Simply put: you don’t try to top it, you just move on. The Doctor does exactly that here: he begins to alternately lose and push away his memories, and he looks toward the future. New body, new clothes, new sonic screwdriver (soon anyway), new TARDIS interior…and it is most definitely time for a change! He’ll have the lingering guilt to deal with, of course, but we know it will work out for him in the end. In the meantime, he gets to go and be fantastic.

We’ve reached the end of the anthology, and for a time, we can let the War Doctor rest. There’s one item left to cover; we’ll be looking at the Seasons of War short film next, and then we’ll put this series on hold until December, when The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War picks up the War Doctor’s story again. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series.

Some time ago, someone asked what materials are new to the final edition of the anthology. As per the editor, the stories titled Life During Wartime, Reflections, and today’s entry, Rise/Risen: A Coda, are all new. Additionally, all incidental art by Simon Brett, the opening endorsement by Steven Moffat (“Seasons Of War. At last: the John Hurt era continues. Those sixteen years off the air are fixed now!” – Steven Moffat, January 2017. Located on page 11 of the final edition.), and the illustrations by Raine Stryminski (pages 6 and 8, for anyone who has the final edition) of the young and old War Doctors, are all new.

Rise/Risen: A Coda was written by Declan May, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next time: the Seasons of War short film, written and directed by Andy Robinson, with additional information from The Director’s Tale, also by Andy Robinson.

risen proof

If you would like to get started with Seasons of War, there is a limited-time opportunity open right now to obtain the ebook version of the anthology, for a few more days only I checked just prior to posting, and saw that the ebook orders closed yesterday. My apologies. However there is currently an auction open for two signed copies (first and second editions in one prize package) along with some other special items. Also, pre-orders have been re-opened for The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War for one more day only! I will include links to both at the end of this post. As these are unofficial, charity projects, sales are limited, and no volumes are guaranteed to be released again. I am not affiliated with either project; I’m simply promoting them because I found the first one to be excellent, and expect the others to continue as such.

To pre-order The Horde of Travesties and A History of the Time War, please visit this link for information and payment options. This opportunity has been re-opened ONLY until Saturday, 07/15/17.

Another volume in the series, War Crimes: Dispatches and Testimonies from the Dark Side of the Time War, is also available for pre-order at this link.

Other volumes (Corsair, Gallifrey, and Regenerations) have been announced, and pre-order dates will be forthcoming.



Seasons of War Mini-Review 39: Time Enough for War

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.

Seasons of War cover

Time Enough for War is unique among all the entries in the Seasons of War anthology, in that it is the only story presented in comic-book or graphic-novel format. It’s not a story within the chronology of the anthology, as all others have been. Instead, it’s a somewhat surreal, metaphysical take on the War as a whole. Here, the Time Lords and the Daleks, each collectively, are portrayed as vast, supernatural titans of the metaverse—the universe and all its realities and dimensions and timelines—locked in an eternal war. That war expands until it becomes the final war, and then the only war, destroying realities and rewriting history and warping species and annihilating worlds and galaxies, until there is nothing left. We are walked through the history of the war, seeing some of its key events both upstream and downstream in time, until the end—the end of everything, when nothing remains. The titans are driven by primal urges: one to liberate and save, one to dominate and kill. And yet, there is nothing left to save, nothing left to kill.

Then, at long last, the two titans confer. Each knows the other cannot abide the one; each knows the war must continue. But, how? There can be no victory for either side. They are stalemated! And so, they concoct a plan: They will determine the outcome by proxy. They will, together, create an ultimate weapon. That weapon will weaponise time itself. It will have something of each titan about it—it will know how to kill, and how to heal. It will love and it will hate. It will be strong and intelligent. It will decide the outcome of the last great time war. And so, cooperating for the first and last time, they create their weapon…

…and they are stunned to see it weep.

For this weapon—this man, who once was a healer, but is now a warrior—does indeed weep, an outcome that neither of the titans foresaw. But why does he weep? Is it because he knows that reality—the entire metaverse—can only be saved by the destruction of two titans, two civilizations? Or is it because he knows that true destruction will never be possible? Perhaps even he does not know.

Proper credit is due to Simon A Brett’s artwork for this story, to which I cannot do justice in print—the greatest comparison I can make is to some of the early Adam Warlock comics, which I loved as a child (although they were long since in reprints, and the stories were far above my head at that time!). While I don’t have digital samples on hand—didn’t plan ahead far enough, unfortunately, due to a family emergency the last few days—I will say that the cover art for the anthology (seen above) is taken from one of the final panels of the story. (While at first glance that image appears to be the Eighth Doctor—a reasonable assumption for a number of reasons—the next panel confirms that it is the War Doctor wearing the Eighth Doctor’s coat, which he recovered from his own future self as far back as our fifteenth story, Loop. We won’t revisit that moment in any future stories, but very soon we must necessarily come to the point where the older War Doctor will pass that coat to his younger self in exchange for the leather coat we see in The Day of the Doctor.) As I can’t properly present the artwork here, I highly recommend that anyone interested in this anthology take the upcoming opportunity to obtain the ebook version, which will temporarily go on sale next week. (While I try not to make a habit of plugging for sales in a review—especially when the work being sold isn’t mine—in this case it’s appropriate, I think, and doubly so because the purchase window will most likely be short.)

This story makes brief mention of a number of events in the Time War. It implies that the true first strike of the war was an attempt by the Daleks to infiltrate the Time Lord High Council, and that the events of Genesis of the Daleks were a response to this. It credits the Sontarans with sabotaging peace talks and escalating the War. It mentions the Trees of Cheem and their near-destruction (or actual destruction, which would then have been rewritten at some point so as to allow for the events of The End of the World) and the corruptions of the Nestene Consciousness through the devastation of their worlds (which, in turn, is credited as the cause of the Nestene affinity for plastic). It mentions the destruction of the Animus (The Web Planet), and tells us that the Eternals at last fled the metaverse, fearing the loss of all coherent reality (perhaps explaining why they’ve never been seen post-War). It speaks of entire species being de-evolved and then evolved again into gestalt super-weapons. Here is a glimpse of the Time War as it was always promised: a war so vast, so ubiquitous with regard to timelines and their corruption, that it defies true comprehension. The comic captures the use of both time and space—and everything in them—as weapons. We only get a glancing view of the scale of the destruction, but it’s overwhelming even when glimpsed from the corner of the eye.

I thought for a long time about the implication that the Doctor is a creation of both the Daleks and the Time Lords. Of course, this story is, as I mentioned, a metaphysical take on the situation—it’s not literal, and not meant to be taken that way. Nevertheless, there’s a very real sense in which the War Doctor is a creation of both, although he is certainly all Time Lord with regard to his species. His experiences in and leading up to this incarnation have been so shaped by the Daleks that his very personality is a reaction to them—and in becoming the Warrior necessary to fight them, he had to take on some of their traits: hate, the desire to kill, the drive for victory. When merged with his own natural talents, this becomes a fearsome combination indeed, as we well know.

We are very near the end of the book now; there are only five stories left, and one of those occurs after the end of the War. (As well, at the end we’ll cover the related short film, though I haven’t counted it here.) It’s perhaps best to think of this story as a moment to pause and take a breath—a chance to lift your head and get a look around at the entire course of where we’ve been—before racing on to the end. We’ve come a long way, and we’re nearly there! If you’ve followed this far, thank you. Only a little further now!

Time Enough for War was written by Jim Mortimore and illustrated by Simon A Brett. Next time: We’ll revisit our old friend Jenny Shirt for the last time in Doctor Death, by Barnaby Eaton-Jones. See you there.

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here.



Seasons of War Mini-Review 38: Meals on Wheels

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.

Seasons of War cover

Jackie Tyler has a conscience—certainly she does—and really, everyone should do something charitable. You know, give something back. Nevertheless, she’s having second thoughts about Meals on Wheels.

Some of the pensioners to whom she delivers are alright, pleasant even. Not Mr Ross. Jackie wouldn’t mind a good home-cooked meal herself every now and then, especially now that Rose is off traveling somewhere; but this old devil isn’t one for gratitude, and he seems to live to make life miserable. Still, she puts on her best face, and bangs on the door, and finally Mr Ross lets her in—timing the door so as to make her stumble, of course. She steps around his wheelchair, making pleasant banter for the old git (though he’ll never appreciate it, no), and sets things up before offering to do the dishes for him. See? Charitable!

He’s having none of it, sitting in his wheelchair. He tells her—to her annoyance—that he’s been plotting the destruction of humanity. And when his creations find him… in the meantime, he dreamed last night of the Nightmare Child, hanging in space, waiting to destroy him in its malevolent jaws. Old man Dave Ross may be crazy, but he has seen the future, he insists.

Jackie thinks he’s taken too many of his pills before bed.

He flies into a rage, shouting about the punishments he holds in store for all of humanity. They will beg for mercy! And the worst punishment, he reserves for this blight upon his existence, this Jackie Tyler. She will die in agony, ruing the day she heard his name! Jackie isn’t too concerned, as she sets out his meal; and as the mince and dumplings catch his interest, Dave Ross—Davros—loses his train of thought anyway.

Readers may assign their preferred level of canonicity to this story; it can work any way you like. Is it really believable that Davros, the Kaled creator of the Daleks, with his mutated grey skin and electronic eye, could fetch up on earth in a pensioner’s apartment? Eh, probably not. Still, this is Doctor Who, and I challenge you to find evidence that stranger things never happened in this universe.

This story is implied to take place during one of the many “flickerings” we saw in the previous story, The Nightmare Child, in which Davros flickers in and out of his spineglass cell. The Doctor notes in that story that he seems to age decades during at least one brief absence. We don’t know where he goes in every disappearance, but in at least one, he seems to land on Earth (and post-Time War Earth, at that! We know it’s post-Time War, because of Jackie’s reference to Rose being away for the longest period yet, indicating Rose is off traveling with the Ninth (or maybe Tenth) Doctor).  Interestingly, the Doctor himself doesn’t even get a mention in this story.

The true value of this story is its humorous take on the situation. In that sense, it’s very much in keeping with Series One of the revived series, which is why I (for my part, anyway) am willing to consider it a legitimate story and not a parody. Jackie Tyler is her usual oblivious, funny self; and what an odd addition to this anthology she is! I’ve noticed that Jackie has been appearing lately in larger roles, mostly in Big Finish’s audio dramas, but in other media as well; that’s odd, given how much of a bit player she was in her television appearances. Still, I’m not complaining; I think she’s great. She’s certainly annoying, but that’s part of her character and charm—as far as the writers are concerned, Jackie is annoying completely on purpose. The juxtaposition of airheaded, worldly Jackie Tyler with Davros, the blackhearted creator and would-be emperor of the Daleks, is just too rich to resist. I never would have thought of such a thing, but I’m so glad someone did.

This story does, perhaps inadvertently, make a point that is often overlooked: Davros is a very old man. Completely aside from any stories that may extend his lifespan, he wasn’t young when he created the Daleks, and he’s aged in the years since. Series Nine’s The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar went out of its way to humanize Davros a bit, without giving up his essential villainy, and it did so by dwelling on his age. We get hints of that here, though in less serious fashion. Even your villains can get old and tired, and sometimes may just want a hot meal and a nap, as the final lines of this story tell us:

She popped the tray down, with a knife and a fork, a glass of tap water and a paper napkin. A Christmas one, but she was sure he wouldn’t mind. “There you are, love.”

“Oh,” he said, in a softer voice, interested suddenly as he came wheeling forward. “Dumplings.”

This, of course, coming directly off a rant in which he promises horrible, agonizing death to Jackie. Well, no one said he stopped being a villain!

Meals on Wheels was written by Paul Magrs, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next time: We have our one and only graphic entry in the anthology, Time Enough for War, written by Jim Mortimore and illustrated by Simon A Brett. See you there!

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here.



Seasons of War Mini-Review 28: The Ingenious Gentleman

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.

Seasons of War cover

A hot wind rustled the few bits of parched grass that grew across the vast, dusty plain. The distinctive clop of hooves on dry dirt rose against the peaceful silence. A lone figure, riding a travel-stained white horse, came to a slow stop on a sandy hill, overlooking the barren landscape. It looked like a quiet, abandoned planet.

The figure was old and thin, his face worn and wrinkled, sporting a white beard and grey hair which formed a slightly wispy point atop his head. The battered, make-shift armor he wore suggested he had either seen battle, or was expecting it.

A short, round man emerged from over the hillside and came to a stop by the old man’s side. He was riding on top of an underfed old donkey that was only barely able to take the portly man’s weight. He had the look of a long-suffering husband.

“Please Master,” he began, “may we bed down soon? How long must we wander aimlessly?”

That’s right, folks: we’re here to see that famous wandering adventurer himself, that battle-scarred warrior, and his loyal companion: Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza! What, you were expecting someone else? Oh well, never mind, that other guy will be along shortly. Anyway:

Don Quixote, as history records, sees giants where Sancho sees windmills. His first attack fails embarrassingly, but no matter; clearly the evil enchanter Friston has turned them back into windmills to thwart Don Quixote. However, there’s something strange inside this windmill: a tall, blue box, lit from inside. Clearly this is Friston’s carriage!

After some time spent pounding on the door, there is, in fact, a response from inside the box. The man who answers looks shockingly like Don Quixote, but Quixote is no fool, and won’t be taken in by Friston’s mirror magic. He affords the enchanter a chance to surrender. He’s taken aback when the man smiles:

“Oh this is wonderful,” he said, hands against his cheeks in a gesture of delight. “I always wondered if you might be one of the ones that turned out to be real. Oh, I’m so pleased!”

So, of course, Don Quixote tackles him, driving him back into the TARDIS console room.

Sancho tries to intervene, but is mesmerized by the difference in size inside the blue box. The box starts to wheeze and groan and–impossibly—disappear, so Sancho runs inside before it can do so. It seems there’s been an accident during the fight, and now the stranger is trying to get control of his box. He manages to stop it from moving; and Sancho makes a break for the door—but stops just short of falling. There is no land outside, only stars and space. The stranger gets him inside and gets everyone settled, and finally they can start again, on better footing this time. Don Quixote, changeable as always, is complacent now; he has decided this box is a holy place, and the man can’t be an evil enchanter, but a noble sorcerer instead. Introductions are made; the stranger says that he used to be called the Doctor, and this is the TARDIS, his home. He confesses that Don Quixote has long been a hero of his, and indeed, just as Quixote changed his name at the start of his adventures, so did the Doctor, long ago. He then takes them back to Earth. Meanwhile Sancho inquires how the inside could be bigger—but it is Don Quixote who explains, oddly enough: it is like seeing sheep from a distance, plus a little magic. Eh, close enough!

Quixote asks how the Doctor will help him on his quest; but when the Doctor declines, he draws the only possible conclusion: HE is to help the DOCTOR. And as it turns out, the Doctor is on a quest: he is searching for a creature, not to slay it, but to get information from it which will be useful in a great War. Who could pass up the opportunity to have the famous Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza along for the ride?

And ride, it is! The Doctor rides on Rocinante with Don Quixote, with Sancho following on his donkey, Dapple. After the day’s travel, they camp among some trees, and Quixote shows the Doctor his armor—namely, his helmet. He calls it the Golden Helmet of Mambrino; and he is not at all perturbed by the idea that it was originally a shaving basin. “’Some fool must have melted it down and turned it into such not knowing its true value,’ snorted Quixote. ‘Barbarians.’” If the wearer is of noble heart, it renders them immune to wounds—or so Quixote believes. Reverently he places it on the Doctor’s head, for the Doctor is a man of many wounds. And yet, the Doctor objects, he is not a man of noble heart—not anymore. Quixote disagrees; the Doctor, in facing a War from which he once ran, is not reckless, but courageous. The Doctor sleeps well that night.

He awakens to the sound of Don Quixote trying to address a group of chained prisoners, much to the consternation of their guard. The Doctor awakens Sancho to check on the situation, and they learn that Quixote is questioning the prisoners regarding the creature the Doctor seeks. He concludes that they know nothing; but he wants to discuss their freedom or punishment with the guard. However, when Quixote approaches the guard, he takes fright; he sees not a man, but a monster. The Doctor scans the guard with his sonic screwdriver, and tells the creature to drop the disguise. The creature transforms into a rather nasty creature: a Zygon. The creature attacks the Doctor, and tries—but fails—to use its venom on him. It attacks Quixote instead. The Doctor uses his screwdriver to free the prisoners, who begin throwing stones at the Zygon. It turns on them, but they manage to knock it out. The Doctor is pleased at this, but less enthused when Quixote tells the prisoners to run off—in the name of the Doctor.

The Doctor uses the prisoners’ chains to secure the Zygon, and takes him back to the TARDIS, where they secure him inside. The Zygon came to Earth with a group about forty years ago, and apparently got separated; but it’s just as well, for he is needed. However, Sancho wants to know, how was Don Quixote able to see the truth about the creature? Perhaps, as the Doctor muses, Quixote’s eyes are open where most men’s eyes are closed. He can see behind the curtain, even if he doesn’t understand it.

To his surprise, Quixote fell to his knees, gasping.

The Doctor knelt down in front of him.

“Are you alright?” he asked thoughtfully.

“Many a man would call me mad,” Quixote whispered to him. “I fear I am but a fool in the eyes of others.”

“Don Quixote de la Mancha, I am here to tell you that you are most certainly a fool in the eyes of others.” Quixote looked mortified, as though being read his last rites. “However,” the Doctor smiled, “so am I.”

That, it seems, is as good an answer as any.

The Doctor says his goodbyes, but Quixote stops him. He asks if the Doctor still feels unworthy of his title. When the Doctor doesn’t reply, he hands him the shaving basin—the helmet.

“Our code is the same, Doctor: to defend the helpless, and destroy the wicked. If I am ever to be worthy of the title of Don Quixote de la Mancha, then it will be through the inspiration of men like you. I deem you worthy of your title, and I suspect that one day, you will once again come to call yourself Doctor.”

How right he is. The Doctor returns the helmet, and steps inside the TARDIS. The TARDIS dematerializes, and its occupant goes forth to face his own giants.

I never expected anything like this when I ordered this anthology, I must admit. It makes me glad that the War Doctor’s brief appearance on television wasn’t all dour; the Eleventh Doctor may call his former self “Captain Grumpy”, but let’s be honest: the man could be funny. (“Am I having a midlife crisis?!”) That humor allows us adventures like this one: stories that we shouldn’t take too seriously, even though they’re “serious” in the sense of not being parody. This story does fit in to canon, such as we have anything that can be called canon; Series Eight’s Robot of Sherwood established that sometimes, against all odds, the Doctor does find literary characters to have been real people. Few are as much fun as Don Quixote.

If I may be serious about it for a moment: Don Quixote is clearly suffering from a mental illness. He may not be the only example in Doctor Who (though I struggle to come up with another at the moment), but he’s a very clear example. This is a bit personal for me, because I work in the mental health field (when I’m not writing reviews), and I have several instances of mental illness in my family, including my father (major depressive disorder in his case, to forestall the question). Don Quixote suffers from persistent delusions, as well as visual hallucinations. I point this out because there’s an important detail here that many authors—especially on television—get wrong: Don Quixote knows something is different about him, and knows how he appears to other people. It’s true that sometimes psychotic individuals (“psychotic” here referring to hallucinations and delusions, not antisocial behavior) are so entrenched in their symptoms that they deny there is anything wrong with them—“it’s not me, it’s everyone else!”. More often, however, they are aware that something isn’t right, even if they can’t accept the specifics; and it causes them much difficulty and anguish. I am proud of the writer of this story, Alan Ronald, for treating the topic with both sensitivity and honesty. He acknowledges this aspect of Quixote’s life, which is something that many individuals with these illnesses experience; and at the same time, he doesn’t play along and say that Quixote’s delusions are real. (I’m thinking of the windmills here; the Zygon is a story-specific case.) In real life, and especially in giving care to such patients, it’s hard to maintain that balance. On the other hand, it’s absolutely necessary.

From the Doctor’s perspective, this story is a bit of a trial of the notion that he isn’t worthy of the name. We’ve let him get away with that belief for a very long time; but here, as we approach the end of his life, we’ll see him start the process of examining that view. Unfortunately, we know how it ends; he’ll believe it right up to the moment—the Moment—that changes his mind. Still, he’s beginning to reassess himself here. I find it interesting that everyone sees the good in him—everyone, that is, except him. Even Quixote, whose mind is battered, knows it.

Overall: This story has some of the funniest lines in the book, and some of the best interactions. For sheer humor, it can’t be topped. It may sound strange, but it feels very much like the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (and I don’t know how you may feel about that movie, but I found it hilarious). A gimmick like this—and it is a gimmick, this taking of literary characters and making them real—could easily be overused; but we’re not there yet. It’s just good fun, even if the author manages—subtly and effectively—to sleep in a great lesson for the Doctor. Well done, indeed.

John Hurt Tribute photo

The Ingenious Gentleman was written by Alan Ronald, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next time: Leaping from humor straight into one of the darkest tales in the book, we look at Reflections, by Christine Grit. See you there!

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here.



Seasons of War Mini-Review 26: Driftwood

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.

Seasons of War cover

On an unnamed world, a girl named Gabrielle and her father, Rufus—of the Shaffri species—wait for a storm to pass. Years ago, a time storm snatched them from their world of Kustavul and deposited them here in hell, where the climate changes with the wind and scavengers live on the ruins of crashed ships.  Gabrielle tells her father of a prediction of the next few days, made by Azrael, a being whose mind is bound in numbers; he shrugs it off, but isn’t sure.  Azrael may be damaged and immobile inside the crashed ship they now call home, but he knows things.

In the morning, Gabrielle awakens with the sunrise, and confers with Azrael before heading out to hunt. He tells her that a new ship fell during the night—possibly of Earth origin, possibly Eternal—which she can search for useful things.  He asks for something beautiful in return.  She makes her way across the desert, until she finds the crashed ship; it’s a vessel of some celestial origin, in the shape of an ancient sailing ship, but hiding its own secrets.  A hole in its side suggests it is empty of life, its crew having been sucked out into the Vortex during its passage. Further inspection suggests it is, indeed, of the Eternals, though none survive here.  She enters…and deep inside the ship, tracking its power source, she finds a large blue box. A man—human, ostensibly, and elderly—confronts her from inside the box; and he seems alarmed to see her lamp, which consists of a small dome shielding a solar cell.  She explains that a friend gave it to her, from his own person.  The man demands to meet the friend.  Frightened, Gabrielle stomps on his foot and runs, not stopping until she returns home.

When she arrives, the man is there waiting for her, with her father.

Gabrielle warns her father not to trust him, and marvels over how he got here first, but her father says the man will be taking them home. Moreover, he has been here for an hour; Gabrielle deduces from this that he is a time traveler.  He admits to wanting to know about Azrael—and he plans to shut the creature down.  Gabrielle objects, of course, but the man gently tells her that her friend is both dangerous and deceptive.  Still resisting, she leaps through the hatch that leads to Azrael.  Azrael warns her not to fret, and explains that the visitor—of whom Azrael is already aware—is a Time Lord.  Azrael is content with the end of his time, as long as Gabrielle and her father are returned home.  At that time the visitor enters, and confronts Azrael, calling him a Dalek.  Azrael relents and pulls back from Gabrielle, giving the man—the War Doctor—time.  He examines the room, and sees an incomplete tea set, missing one cup.  With that as his cue, he opens conversation with the Dalek.  Azrael admits that he has been expecting a guest, a man of whom he dreams, not always wearing the same face.  That man will release him from his torment.  The Doctor ponders the Dalek’s words…he doesn’t seem normal.  Daleks don’t consider the details of life, only their target.  This one does.  He is malfunctioning, and won’t even repair himself; and more odd yet, he calls the man—who has not introduced himself—“Doctor”.

No matter. It is time to end this.  The Doctor produces the final cup for the tea set…and while Azrael watches, he lets it fall and smash.  In reaction, the Dalek’s casing opens, exposing the screaming mutant inside.  Unexpectedly, the creature begins to go.  The Doctor chases Gabrielle and Rufus outside:

“Step back!” shouted the stranger. “I think we’ll be safer outside. I’m not actually sure what happens when a Dalek regenerates!”

As they watch from a safe distance, the crashed ship tears itself apart. The Doctor checks his sonic screwdriver, and finds that something yet lives in the wreckage.  He checks out the wreckage—and finds a naked man with ginger hair.  He gives the man his coat, and welcomes him back.

The man, Azrael, is a Time Lord as well. He was a subject in a “chameleon experiment”, an attempt to hide Time Lord operatives among the Daleks.  It was all too successful—and Azrael was the only subject to survive.  However, the War, unfortunately, is not over.  It may never be.  For now, Azrael doesn’t care; he has a new stomach, for the first time in a long time, and he could murder a cup of tea.

Various Time War allusions in the televised series and licensed works have given us hints of various strategies and weapons that were employed: the Nightmare Child, the Horde of Travesties, the Tear of Isha, the Moment, and so on. With a war of the scale that we have here, there’s always room for more; and this story gives us one that is particularly apt.  The chameleon experiment, as the Doctor calls it, hides Time Lords among the Daleks by way of mutation, and yet allows them to retain their regenerative powers as a way back to themselves.  It doesn’t seem to have been a success—the Doctor refers to it as working too well, which I take to mean that to one degree or another, the spies went native and forgot themselves.  Speculation, of course, but it seems likely.  (I should point out that there has been another Azrael in Doctor Who history, in the comic The Blood of Azrael, but this character should not be confused with that one.)

Something common (and a bit frustrating, truth be told) about the War Doctor’s stories is that they have a way of dancing around the great events of the War. This story is an example: we could be getting the actual story of the chameleon experiment, but instead we have an incidental story that, in hindsight, tells us how the experiment ended.  We see this all the time.  I want to be clear that I’m not exactly complaining about this; I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, it has the effect of making our accounts of the War seem trivial—we seem to only ever see the War Doctor acting in small situations, rather than the main events, so to speak.  On the other hand, I’m not so sure I’d want those main events to be nailed down.  There’s something majestic about hearing the name “The Nightmare Child” and not knowing definitively what it looked like, or what took place there.  Doctor Who is known for spelling things out in the end; imagination is for the first half of the story, and explanation is for the second.  We get to peek behind the curtain, usually.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we don’t always get that in the Time War.  I certainly want more clarity than what the Doctor’s speeches in The End of Time tell us, for example; but we don’t have to have it all, and besides, it’s difficult to imagine the Doctor taking part in a space battle.  He works better on the personal level.  While we know he takes part in those battles, I have a feeling they might come across as boring if we are obligated to watch him directing troops and fleets.  I’d rather have stories like this.

There’s a common criticism that everyone looks human in Doctor Who—that truly alien species are few and far between. I think that criticism is unreasonable; we get plenty of alien species, even if there are a disproportionate number of humanlike species.  In light of that criticism, it’s worth noting that Gabrielle and Rufus are not human.  We don’t get a full description, and they seem to be of a basic bipedal shape, but they are described as having clawed fingers, and Gabrielle struggles to identify the geometry of the Doctor’s body when she is trying to step on his foot in the dark.  They are certainly aware of Earth, and their names come from human books that Rufus’s family has handed down as heirlooms, implying that they can read human text (English, presumably, but we don’t have a date for this story, so it’s hard to say.  It is at least as far ahead as the human colonisation period).

Overall, this is a satisfying story. No one dies; there’s no unhappy ending; and it’s been a while since we had a story that ended on an upbeat note.  Most won’t, of course.  A moment of hope is a good thing, though, especially as we are into the second half of the anthology now.  (If you’re keeping track, there are 45 entries if we include the related short film, which I will cover at the end; this is #26.)

Driftwood was written by anthology art director Simon A. Brett, with art also provided by Simon A. Brett. Next time: The Girl with the Purple Hair (III) by Declan May and John Davies.  See you there!

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here.



Seasons of War Mini-Review 16: The Holdover

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.

Seasons of War cover

A Gallifreyan named Vanus works arrival duty on Treytis—a place called, informally, the Holdover. It is a temporary colony for displaced Gallifreyans—those whose homes have been destroyed, and who, for one reason or another, do not participate in the Time War. Here they wait, in Spartan living conditions, to be transferred on to the safe haven of Kayeff. Vanus greets the new arrivals, but he is unprepared for a strange new refugee in a leather coat. The man smoothly takes charge of the situation, and calls himself “the Foreman”. The Foreman questions everything; the Treytis system, once home to the training grounds of the Perpetual Watch, has no other habitable worlds, so where is Kayeff? And Vanus, a refugee himself, has been here for five months—just how long does this processing take? To this last, Vanus admits that he is a conscientious objector to the War, which reduces his status; many with less time here than him have already been sent on. The Foreman concludes that this is no transit camp. Its guards are members of the Perpetual Watch:

“The private soldiers of the President, so secret, they hardly exist. An order of highly trained, highly skilled and disciplined agents of the High Council. Even the Celestial Intervention Agency has no control over them. And here they are guarding refugees in the galaxy’s toilet rather than defending the capital from imminent destruction.” Rising from his chair he added, “And I’m going to find out why.”

The Foreman shocks one of the guards by stealing and field-stripping his weapon. He then shocks everyone by announcing that he is a former Wartime Prime of the Order of the Perpetual Watch—he outranks everyone present. He offers a confirming code phrase, and forces the guards to take him to whoever is in charge. He takes Vanus with him, and explains…well, very little, actually, but enough to comfort the anxious objector. Inside the command center, which is marked with the Seal of Rassilon, they meet a Time Lord named Goren, who identifies the Foreman as the Doctor—a name even Vanus knows. The Doctor once displaced Goren as Wartime Prime, aided by President Romana. Goren mocks the Doctor for his actions, and accuses him of cowardice; they fought together once, and when the Doctor obeyed an order to retreat, Goren did not, and suffered for it, becoming trapped in what was called the Silver Devastation anomaly-loop. He is now a cyborg, as much machine as man; he claims he stayed on the battlefield at the behest of the Black Order, an organization nearly as mythical as the Toclafane, and that it was the Black Order who repaired him. Now, he is the current Prime of the Watch, and master of this facility. He imprisons the Doctor and Vanus.

Vanus awakens, wounded, in a cell with the Doctor. However, the cell is actually a supply closet; and Vanus helps the Doctor escape, though he is too weak to go with him. Meanwhile Goren reports to his commanding Magistrate—Magistrate Maxil, Ombre-Chancillier of the Black Order—and then leaves for the Kayeff. After he completes the “Emergency Sanction”, he will atomize the facility and all its remaining refugees.

The Doctor uses psychic paper to bluff his way into the monorail leading to the Kayeff. Repairing the train, he heads to the end of the line, seeing plains strewn with ash from the furnaces ahead as he travels. At the Kayeff, he passes through an empty waiting room, and finds a bay full of thousands of TARDISes. He is stopped by Goren, who invites him into one of the TARDISes—a heavily modified Type 93, filled with engineers who work for the Perpetual Watch. They are watching row upon row of refugees tied to metal cruciforms—men, women, children alike. As the Doctor watches, the Watch floods the refugee chamber with Charleur gas, the deadliest nerve agent in history—a death horrible beyond belief. He sees Vanus among the victims. Goren insists this is to win the War. He explains that this torture will force the victims to regenerate, repeatedly, until they die; and each time, the energy will be drained off, leaving only enough to restore life without initiating the change of body. The TARDISes were necessary to contain the paradoxes that fuel the process, allowing more than the standard twelve regenerations per subject. Goren calls this area the Killing Floor—the K.F., or Kayeff. To the Doctor’s horror, he realizes this is the end of the process—they are already finished, and he has already lost. They are initiating the Emergency Sanction. All of the collected regeneration energy is redirected into a certain casket, stolen in secret from the Death Zone, against the wishes of the High Council—and now, in addition, the Watch has deposed the High Council while these events occurred. And as the Doctor watches in impotent rage, the casket opens, and a tall, dark-haired man steps out.

“Behold, Doctor,” said Goren, his voice filled with sordid triumph. “Rassilon returns!”

I like to think that this story is not only the turning point of the Seasons of War anthology, but of the Time War itself. It’s hard to say whether things got worse—it’s hard to go any lower than “the universe is very nearly over”, as Ohila mentioned in The Night of the Doctor–but they certainly accelerate after this point. How could they do anything else, with the return of Rassilon?

Rassilon is one of the most fascinating and pivotal characters in Doctor Who history. His shadow hung over the classic series despite his death in antiquity; he didn’t get an appearance as a living character until the novel Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible (as far as I know, anyway; correct me if I’m wrong). The revived series quite suddenly revealed that he had returned during the Time War, but never gave any description of the event…until now. I find the description of his resurrection here to be fitting; of course the canonicity of the novels—as with any other media—is always up for debate, but Time’s Crucible made it clear that although Rassilon and his companions invented regeneration, they were not able to partake of it themselves. It was only the Gallifreyans who were Loomed and/or born after that generation who had the ability. We know that in the new series, he is able to regenerate, which means that, not only was he resurrected here, but also he was given the ability to regenerate—a very fundamental change, I imagine. This, and only this, justifies the expenditure of so many lives and so much regeneration energy to bring him back. (I mean “justified” in the literary sense; there’s no moral justification for it, as the Doctor points out loudly and often.) I should also mention that the physical description given here seems to correlate with the incarnation played by Timothy Dalton in The End of Time, as does Simon Brett’s incidental artwork at the end (featured above).

I had been promising an explanation of the Perpetual Watch, and here is where we get it. They’re the most secret order we’ve seen among Time Lords to date—and are immediately trumped by the Black Order, who are more secret yet. The Time Lords certainly love their secret organizations; let’s not forget that the now-familiar Celestial Intervention Agency, or CIA (also mentioned in this story), started out that way. The Perpetual Watch makes sense, especially if they date back all the way to Rassilon; he’s just the type to create his own secret army. The Black Order makes less sense, but then again, Time Lords love secret agencies, so we’ll let it pass. It was a shock to see that Maxil—who for us was last seen in An Historical Curiosity, and who, let’s not forget, looks like the Sixth Doctor—is heading the organization. It’s secrets all the way down!

I’ve mentioned that there is a loose arc to this anthology.  One notable link in the chain is here.  Goren references a battle from which the Doctor allegedly fled, which then resulted in Goren’s injuries and cybernetic repairs.  That battle is the battle of the Pan-Kaled Phalange, which was mentioned in the previous story, *Loop*; it was the battle at which the Time Lords first deployed a weapon from the Omega Arsenal.  Goren, on orders from the Black Order, was caught in the resulting time loop, in which the Cybermen were perpetually erased from time and re-created.  He states that he used up all his remaining regenerations trying to survive over the course of fifty years of reliving the events.  He eventually managed to slave a Cyberman Tomb Ship to his TARDIS and escape, with help from the Order; he used its conversion technology to save his own life.  The partial conversion was then augmented by the Order, making him the man he is today.  Of special note is the Doctor’s statement that he retreated when ordered to do so, because the Time Lords were about to deploy a second, unnamed weapon from the Arsenal; it’s not stated whether they went through with it.

Overall: This story is exactly what it should be. It’s a little longer than most, as befits the event it’s covering, and yet it races by like an action movie. It has the Doctor being a little more “Doctor-ish” than usual for the Time War, but still refuses to gloss over his own horrific actions—it notes, for example, that he was the first to employ Charleur gas, against the Daleks. It includes the requisite horde of deaths, including that of a would-be companion—and though I make it sound formulaic, it doesn’t feel that way at all; it just feels supremely tragic. Most of all, this story leaves us with a sense of foreboding and urgency; things are ramping up now.

The Holdover 1

The Holdover was written by Daniel Wealands, with art by Simon A. Brett. Next time: Climbing the Mountain, by longtime Who writer Lance Parkin. See you there!

Seasons of War: Tales from a Time War is now out of print, but more information can be obtained here, here, and here.