This review contains some spoilers for the Big Finish adventures Lucie Miller and To the Death; tread carefully!
It has been four long series for the Eighth Doctor, he has faced cannibals, aged nearly two hundred years, fought Edgar Allan Poe creations, battled the Zygons, Mobius, The Headhunter, The Cybermen, the Nestene, Eight Legs and even the Krynoids, but despite them all nothing could separate the Doctor and Lucie Miller for good. They’ve had bumps and hiccups along the road but nothing can keep them apart for good. It would have to take the greatest evil in the ‘verse for that to happen
Enter the Daleks.
In the CD extras Nicholas Briggs tells us how Alan Barnes said that the Daleks are the greatest threat to the universe and they go around the universe yelling “Exterminate!” but they never kill anyone important. In reality there could have been a middle ground between that and what happens in To The Death.
To The Death takes place right after Lucie Miller (read the review here) and things are not looking better. The Doctor has barely survived a missile attack but he is out cold and not waking up. Susan, Alex and Lucie are panicking. They need the Doctor’s help but he won’t wake up. They only have one hope and that is to find the TARDIS using Susan’s key. So they set out to find the blue box and save the Doctor, and hopefully save the world.
They finally wake the Doctor when the Daleks find them and attack. The Doctor, and us, slowly learn the plan of the Daleks but things don’t make sense when an old enemy, once thought destroyed, inexplicably reappears. It is the Dalek Time Controller, and it is revealed that the Daleks recovered him and called a Time Lord to help; the Monk answered.
The Monk is the true enemy of this two-part finale. He released the plague that crippled Lucie Miller, he shut down the jamming device protecting the humans, and he helped the Daleks. In return he got to own all of Earth’s greatest paintings, artefacts, and object d’art.
He will be the richest thief in all of time.
Tamsin doesn’t like this. She leaves the Monk, joins with our heroes and sets out to fight. They get hold of a bomb, one which the Doctor is willing to take back in time to Amethyst Viral Containment Station and kill the Dalek Time Controller for good, stopping the virus, saving thousands of lives and sacrificing his own, and the laws of time, in doing so.
Susan won’t hear of it, Alex doesn’t like it, and Lucie not letting it happen. The bomb has to be used in this time to end the war and the save the Doctor. To them the universe needs the Doctor.
At this point the To the Death begins to echo some recent TV adventures, such as the moment in The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End in which Davros taunts the Doctor for making his companions into soldiers, into warriors willing to die and kill for him. This happens again (or before?) with Lucie and the group. They all decide to fight and die for the Doctor, with powerful results.
I am split with this ending. On one side of the TARDIS I am sad to see the companions go. I knew they were always going to eventually leave; they all do when they eventually grow up, but to experience death was painful. Would this ending have had the same punch without the death? We have seen era-ending finales that worked with very few deaths, the aforementioned Stolen Earth and Journey’s End being prime examples, but on the other side of the blue box I have to commend them for not cheaping out on the finale. The Doctor didn’t suck all the Dalek and Cybermen back up, he didn’t wipe them away with a super-powered blond, he didn’t tug the earth back into place after wiping out the entire fleet and he didn’t go back in time to magically heal Lucie. They made a dramatic change and it had a lasting effect on the Doctor and the Monk.
Fans of fantasy writer George R. R. Martin are quickly taught not to love his characters, they will just die. So should we hold the same true for this entire series? Does this ending feel mean? Are we being punished for loving these characters?
The audio comes to a close with a shockingly dark Doctor, one that has been hinted at throughout the season and one that we have been waiting to see. We all know that at some point the Doctor goes dark; he ends the Time War in a brutal single swoop and locks away the Daleks, Time Lords, friends and countless other horrors forever. The Doctor we see at the end of To The Death is almost there, ready to apply his own brand of justice. He also resembles his future Tenth self when he wonders about bypassing the laws of time for his own benefits; there are echoes of The Water of Mars…
A final note needs to be given to Graeme Garden as the Monk. The Monk is selfish, a liar and a coward, this is not surprising, but what was shocking and unexpected was the mournful presence the Monk had towards the sudden death of HIS companion Tamsin Drew. The Monk cared for her, he loved traveling with her, and while he may not have been completely honest with her he never wished this type of harm on her.
So the Doctor and Lucie saga comes to an end. So what is ahead for the Eighth Doctor? We have a small mini-season in the main line of releases. The Doctor reunites with an old companion, Mary Shelley (yes…Frankenstein’s Mary Shelley) but only time will tell if we will get a fifth season of the New Eighth Doctor Adventures
Starring Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith and written by Nick Briggs, you can purchase To The Death from Big Finish on CD and MP3.