As a huge fan of Doctor Who, the audio dramas were always something I wanted to try but didn’t know where to start. Like all things with Doctor Who, it can easily become overwhelming because there are so many years of content that a fan may consume. I wanted to get a wide variety to immerse myself in, which is one of the reasons I took a chance with Big Finish’s The Second Doctor Adventures: Beyond War Games.
[Note: While I am reviewing this audio drama independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Big Finish for the purpose of this review.]
I know some of the important beats from the Second Doctor but I’m afraid to say I haven’t seen a lot of episodes from Patrick Troughton’s time on Doctor Who. This lack of proper exploration of the Second Doctor’s time in the TARDIS posed an interesting idea. Would I still enjoy the adventures of a Doctor that I am fairly unfamiliar with? Ultimately the answer is yes, but let’s explore why Beyond War Games was such an exciting audio drama to listen to whether you’re familiar with Troughton’s Doctor or not.
[Warning: Spoilers from Doctor Who: The Second Doctor Adventures – Beyond War Games are below!]
The overarching story in Beyond War Games
This collection picks up in the closing moments of the Second Doctor’s life. As the audio drama begins, we hear a version of the exile of the Doctor. As Patrick Troughton’s time as the Doctor was coming to a close, the Time Lords exiled the Doctor, without his TARDIS, to a life on Earth with a different face. The Doctor is outraged by this, refusing to pick his new appearance, and instead gets saddled with the face of Jon Pertwee.
Expect in Beyond War Games, the Doctor wakes up and is still very much the Second Doctor, voiced by Patrick Troughton’s real-life son Michael Troughton. Right off the bat, fans of Doctor Who are keyed into the fact that something isn’t right. Why is he still the Second Doctor? This mystery is scattered throughout the two parts of Beyond War Games, as the Doctor learns more about Raven (Emma Noakes) and the mysterious Celestial Intervention Agency (CIA) that has plucked him out of his timeline for their own, perhaps sinister, plans.
Extensive knowledge about Troughton’s Doctor isn’t needed, as Big Finish provides both context clues in the opening moments of “The Final Beginning,” as well as an in-depth explanation from Raven as the first episode progresses. However, the way and reason the Doctor is ripped from his linear timeline was fantastic and makes logical sense as to how it could happen without changing anything in the original show. It also gives Big Finish a way to produce quite a few more Second Doctor Adventures, which I rather hope they do.
“The Final Beginning”
While there is quite a bit of overarching narrative throughout Beyond War Games, each serial has its own standalone story. In the first one, the Doctor wakes up on a snowy planet he is unfamiliar with and without his TARDIS to protect him. However, he isn’t alone on this planet, as prospectors Catrona (Anna-Maria Nabirye) and Silas (Tim Treloar) are also stranded. Together the three set off, discovering a crashed TARDIS and an awakening Skaro with Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) to boot.
Throughout “The Final Beginning” is where the Doctor slowly learns about his pending exile, experiencing visions of his past and future thanks to Raven. He agrees to complete a mission on Skaro, pushing into the heart of a Dalek facility to find a prisoner that Raven and the CIA need. The rescue mission however places him and his companions in the line of fire, risking everything to complete the task Raven gives them.
This serial is a strong opening story for the first set of Second Doctor Adventures. I liked that it brought back a fan-favorite villain with the Daleks, however, the story didn’t feel like it rehashes tired old stories with the Daleks in them. As always, it’s exciting to have Nicholas Briggs back as well as the voice of the Daleks, as well as Director, Script Editor, and one of the writers for Beyond War Games. The mystery of Raven and the CIA was also something that kept me wanting to listen because I needed to know what exactly she was up to (spoiler alert: You don’t find out exactly by the end of this collection).
“Wrath of the Ice Warriors”
The second story in Beyond War Games was written by Andrew Smith, who has had a long history with Doctor Who, having written quite a few audio dramas. For this adventure, the Doctor finds himself back on Earth and reunited with Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Jon Culshaw), one of the most important humans in Doctor Who lore. The Brigadier was the face of Unit for years, with his daughter Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) taking over in NuWho.
Arriving in our solar system, the Doctor witnesses a fleet of warships, however, it is unclear about what is happening as he reaches Earth. Along with his companion for the serial, Sheena Flynn (Lucy Goldie), the Doctor works to uncover why Ice Warriors and mysterious black pods have suddenly appeared.
This episode had some great interactions as listeners get to hear the Doctor in his element, as once again he’s the smartest individual in the group. “Wrath of the Ice Warriors” also provided some excellent twists and turns, some that I didn’t see coming, to fully engage the listener in this exciting story.
What was also exciting was learning that Katy Manning voiced Lady Zelanda, the leader of one of the factions of Ice Warriors. Katy Manning played Jo Grant alongside Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, so having her voice the villain felt like a treat and Easter egg for fans of the series. I also enjoyed that this story gave a new look at the Ice Warriors, especially the cruelty that existed in their own kind. I don’t think I’ll ever look at these creatures the same way again.
Final thoughts on The Second Doctor Adventures: Beyond War Games
For those who may be a bit apprehensive at jumping into a Doctor’s adventures who they are unfamiliar with, The Second Doctor’s Adventures Beyond War Games was enjoyable enough to make you want to see more from classic Doctor Who. Michael Troughton was fantastic stepping into his father’s shoes, capturing the same energy and enjoyment that I got from any of the NuWho adventures.
There isn’t any information that is pressing or necessary about Patrick Troughton’s time on Doctor Who, however, I’m sure enjoyment would be enhanced for those who have watched some of his episodes. I think one of the best things Big Finish could have done was take this specific Doctor and remove him from the timeline fans know because it reduces the feeling like we already know what is coming. That is the downside of many prequel projects, once the stakes are known the intensity is gone.
I was super engaged with the audio dramas, looking forward to the next chapter, as I listened to them on my car rides to and from work. “The Final Beginning” and “The Wrath of the Ice Warriors” aren’t difficult to follow as well, which made them even easier to enjoy. If you’re looking for your next Doctor Who fix before the Centenary Special (which we just heard quite a big rumor about) check out Beyond War Games, the first in The Second Doctor Adventures series.
Check out our other recent Doctor Who audio drama review, featuring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and Derek Jacobi as The Master: The War Master: Self-Defence.