Image Credit: BBC (Fair Use)
Image Description: The Time Lord Victorious promo image
By John Salway
It’s taken almost a year, and precisely £375.35 but I’ve finally reached the end of my Time Lord Victorious journey. With every release now obtained and reviewed, it’s time to look back and reflect upon what delights and disappointments the range has to offer.
I’ve decided to split my analysis into two sections. In Part One, we’ll do a quick round-up of all the individual parts of TLV, now that I can look back with full knowledge of the overall scheme, and let you know which releases are most worthy of your attention. These hallowed releases will receive my special ‘Brian’s Bounty’ award, in honour of everyone’s favourite Ood assassin. Even if you’re not too bothered with knowing the whole story, these special picks are still highly recommended.
Then, in Part Two we’ll look at the overall shape and structure of the saga, considering what’s been successful, what perhaps hasn’t, and what could potentially be done differently if Doctor Who were to attempt a multimedia event of this nature again.
Let’s start right at the heart of things with the pair of novels that make up the central spine of TLV. These stories are what give the range its name, as the Tenth Doctor finds himself in the Dark Times and makes a stand against the Kotturuh, an ancient, implacable race who are assigning lifespans to the previously immortal beings of the cosmos, leading him to take up the mantle of Time Lord Victorious.
Stephen Cole’s The Knight, The Fool and the Dead gets everything off to a great start with a pacy, exciting novel that makes the Doctor’s ruthless, unwise actions by the end seem understandable and justified when viewed in context. Initially, I was concerned TLV would begin with an already unlikable Doctor à la the ending of The Waters of Mars, but here he’s amenable and heroic until it all just goes too far. It ends with a thrilling cliffhanger as the Eighth and Ninth Doctors appear to stand against the Tenth, which is a fantastic idea – but imagine how much powerful that could have been if it was kept secret, rather than a main marketing point of the range?
Una McCormack’s All Flesh Is Grass picks up the baton right where the previous novel left off, and the first half is a non-stop thrill ride as all three Doctors are out of the box, angry at each other and surrounded by duplicitous allies. The conflict is well-designed so the Doctors can’t be held too accountable for the violence and destruction that follow, such that each of their perspectives make sense and aren’t out of character. Things do come a little unstuck, unfortunately, as we head towards the conclusion, and some of the issues raised by the nature of the Kotturuh are fudged. If they are the ones assigning finite lifespans, and they’ve been defeated, why do we still have limited longevity? But these minor niggles are more than made up for with the energy and ambition of the book as a whole.
Both of these books are easy to recommend and make the perfect starting point for anyone interested in TLV, forming the main storyline from which other releases branch off, but do bear in mind that they’re really two halves of the same story – if you’re going to get one, you should really get both. Perhaps if they’re ever republished we could get a double-pack edition? I’m delighted to award both books my first Brian’s Bounty award!
Never one to miss out on a good Doctor Who event, Big Finish contributed six different audio releases to the TLV range; a packaged pair of short stories starring the Master, a trilogy of audio dramas starring the Eighth Doctor, a Fourth Doctor story that ties in with the A Dalek Awakens escape room, and a two-sided vinyl adventure starring the Eighth and Tenth Doctors. But you also shouldn’t overlook The Minds of Magnox, an audiobook released by BBC Audio…
The Master duology, Master Thief by Sophie Iles and Lesser Evils by Simon Guerrier, represent the very best of Big Finish, and are sold together at an exceptionally low price point. They are two very intriguing, thoughtful stories that take their time to get into the mind of the Master, with Jon Culshaw excelling as he fully inhabits two different incarnations of the nefarious Time Lord. Master Thief also gives us a really intriguing ending that I thought might tie into TLV further down the line – in the end, it didn’t, so I really hope Big Finish follow this up in the near future. A very easy Brian’s Bounty to award.
He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not by Carrie Thompson starts a trilogy of Eighth Doctor audio dramas that show him directly before and after the events of All Flesh Is Grass. This one wasn’t really my cup of tea, despite the always delightful presence of Brian the Ood. It clung quite heavily to a Western style that I wasn’t a fan of, and kept Brian and the Eighth Doctor apart for longer than I’d have preferred.
On the other hand, The Enemy of My Enemy by Tracy Ann Baines was for me, the highlight of the McGann trilogy, and sees the Eighth Doctor teaming up with the Restoration Empire Daleks. These are a team of varied Dalek personalities that, along with Brian, are exceptional characters that I hope will have a life beyond the TLV range. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Doctor snakes his way through satisfying twists and turns, as he tries to prevent war between the Daleks and an equally monstrous enemy. While the beginning and end of this story tie into ongoing TLV matters, the main plot is quite standalone, so I feel comfortable recommending this story as a Brian’s Bounty.
Mutually Assured Destruction by Lizzie Hopley closes the trilogy, picking the Eighth Doctor up after the end of All Flesh Is Grass, trapped aboard a decaying Dalek time ship. While I enjoyed it, I felt it didn’t quite live up to its premise, with the Doctor having a surprisingly easy time toying with the Daleks, who amusingly spend most of the time at each other’s throats. It would almost have been better if we’d had this story entirely from the Dalek’s perspective, hunting an unseen threat that’s picking them off, like a horror movie in reverse.
Outside the trilogy, Genetics of the Daleks by Jonathan Morris is a Fourth Doctor story that is perfectly enjoyable, but one that failed to fully enthral me. A lot of time is taken up with a plot about evil stowaways taking over a spaceship, which really just feels like a lengthy distraction when we really want to see Tom Baker battle a Dalek! It may, however, feature the first canonical appearance of a new series style Bronze Dalek…
Rounding out Big Finish’s TLV content, Echoes of Extinction by Alfie Shaw is the final Big Finish contribution to TLV, and forms a bookend to the range as we see both the Eighth Doctor’s first involvement in the series and the Tenth Doctor’s last. The cast is exceptional, but with the combination of a few thankless roles, and the titular “echoes” being something of nothing, it’s hard to not be a little disappointed when the marketing seems to hint at a multi-Doctor story. In essence, it’s really just an Eighth Doctor episode with a Tenth Doctor sequel. While I found the first half better as a whole, the second part has a really quite lovely conclusion that functions well as a coda for the TLV range as a whole.
Finally, The Minds of Magnox by Darren Jones is an audiobook read by Jacob Dudman that fills in some of the Tenth Doctor’s span in the Dark Times travelling with Brian the Ood. Personally, audiobooks aren’t a format I generally seek out, but this one really entertained me, with the large focus on Brian the Ood particularly appreciated. Jacob Dudman is an exceptional narrator, really bringing the story to life, and skilfully moulding his voice to play a wide variety of characters. More Brian content please! Needless to say, this get’s a Brian’s Bounty award.
Two different comic ranges were launched for TLV – Titan Comics produced Defender of the Daleks, a two-part adventure for the Tenth Doctor, while for three issues Doctor Who Magazine pages contained Monstrous Beauty, with the Ninth Doctor and Rose.
Defender of the Daleks is a visual love letter to Dalek history, with classic pieces of Dalek design and architecture on display on almost every page, in a very realistic style. There’s so much Dalek love, in fact, that the story slightly neglects its main villains, gooey monstrosities called the Hond. This was also the first TLV release to focus on the Dalek Strategist, an ancient and sly fellow who keeps his eye trained on the future and his own survival. His fraught relationship with the Doctor starts here, and recurs throughout the range as one of its most compelling elements.
Meanwhile, Monstrous Beauty takes the Ninth Doctor and Rose into the Dark Times, straight into a conflict between Gallifreyans and Vampires. The artwork is quite different to Defender of the Daleks, going for a more stylised, high-contrast look that appropriately features lots of blacks and reds. Full of action-packed set pieces, this is a rollercoaster with a lot of exciting twists. It’s also the only piece of TLV content to feature a pre-existing companion, so it’s a shame that Rose’s role in the narrative isn’t larger – particularly as this adventure writes her out of the rest of the TLV range.
Both comics are very different but each blazes their own trail and really commits to their style of choice, so it’s difficult to choose one above the other. Instead, I recommend you get them both – they’re exciting, feature beautiful artwork, and function well as standalone stories without any further TLV knowledge required. A lovely pair of Brian’s Bounties.
Daleks!, a free animation series following the Dalek Emperor and Strategist, sees an assault on the Archive of Islos unleash a seemingly unstoppable enemy. Is it worth your time? Of course it is – it’s free and not very long! This is just the kind of crazy, unexpected treat I love to see from Doctor Who. Yes, it’s quite goofy and obviously hasn’t got a massive budget, but it commits to being its own thing, which is a fun show with colourful 60s inspired visuals. Fingers crossed for a second series! A most enthusiastic Brian’s Bounty choice.
Obviously, we won’t be going into every little mug, T-shirt or poster with a Time Lord Victorious logo on, or I’d have bankrupted myself even more than I already have! Instead, we will focus on some select pieces that were deemed worthy to appear on the official TLV content roadmap – the Eaglemoss TLV figurines and the special Brian the Ood T-shirt.
The Eaglemoss Time Lord Victorious figurines are available in four different sets, with the first three each containing two Daleks from the Restoration Empire, and the final set containing Brian the Ood (yay!) and the Tenth Doctor in Gallifreyan robes as the Time Lord Victorious. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the quality of all of these, but the Daleks are undoubtedly the highlight here. The Restoration Empire Daleks have been a highlight of TLV across many of its strands, and these models show off their beautiful designs very nicely. Each set also comes with a magazine with fiction, fact files, interviews and more – they’re not very long (and often typo prone) but they’re nice inclusions. These collectibles are too niche for me to recommend to everyone, but they’re quality products that I’m glad to own.
The Brian the Ood glow-in-the-dark T-shirt, however, is a must for every Doctor Who fan’s wardrobe! The character of Brian was immediately iconic the minute he was announced – it’s just such a simple, inspired idea to have an Ood assassin that I don’t think you need to have experienced a single moment of TLV to get the appeal, since the Ood are one of those iconic alien races that even casual viewers will recognise. The glow-in-the-dark feature is a cool gimmick that well reflects Brian’s dual nature, and in general it’s just a very well thought out, effective design, and an immediate pick for Brian’s Bounty. I want to see everyone wearing one of these at the next WhoSoc meeting!
This is the section where you need to decide what’s for you quickly, as these events will not be running forever and if you wait too long you won’t be able to change your mind!
A Dalek Awakens is an escape room produced by Escape Hunt, and is available to play at their Birmingham, Cheltenham, Norwich and Reading locations. It’s a perfectly adequate escape room, boosted by the killer gimmick of having a Dalek in the corner barking at you and trying to thwart your progress. The room itself is a tad empty and lacking in character compared to others by the company, with little detail beyond the tasks to complete. Give it a try if you live near one of the venues, but I wouldn’t go too far out of your way if you don’t. And don’t worry about TLV knowledge – it works completely on its own, even if it does tie into some other releases – such as the slightly underwhelming The Hollow Planet.
Time Fracture, on the other hand, is a live experience that you MUST make the time to go see regardless of your location. With shows running until next April, you’ve got no excuse if you miss it! If you make the journey to the Immersive LDN venue in London, you’ll find excitement, monsters galore, and plenty of surprises you don’t want to get spoiled. Go see it now. Now. NOW. This is my ultimate Brian’s Bounty pick – it’s amazing, it’s unique, it’s completely standalone – go see it!
Just a couple more bits and bobs to cover before we end this part!
The Road to the Dark Times is a Blu-Ray collection of some Classic and nuWho episodes that feature elements relating to the TLV story, be they Daleks or vampires or off-hand references to the Dark Times. It’s a reasonably priced set with a good variety of stories, but disappointingly no bonus features whatsoever – which is a shame considering they could easily have included some already produced for the DVD range. None of the stories are essential re-watching to understand the TLV plot, so I would only grab this set if you want a fairly cost-effective way to obtain a few stories you don’t have.
The Official Doctor Who Annual 2021 dedicated a few pages to TLV, providing a preview of characters and monsters within the saga, but now that the event is over it’s really not worth picking this up for such material – just go directly to the stories you’re interested in. It’s a similar picture with The Edge of Time TLV update – while in this instance free, it’s not really adding anything.
Throughout TLV, various free short stories have been made available on the Doctor Who website, ranging from the atmospheric (Canaries) to the lore-establishing (The Dawn of the Kotturuh) to the fairly on the nose (What the TARDIS thought of Time Lord Victorious). While they do vary in quality somewhat, they’re all free, so it would be churlish to look a gift horse in the mouth! If you’re intrigued about TLV, these releases could be the perfect opportunity to dip your nose in, see if anything interests you, and have a bit of a taster.
Finally, the Doctor Who Comic Creator app has a series of five 99p TLV packs, which each contain an original comic, and some characters and settings from the range that you can use in your own comic creations. At such a low price point, I have no choice but to recommend these silly little packs – the comics are often faintly ridiculous, in my case provoking much laughter, which personally makes them more than worth the cost of entry.
Next time: Was TLV the sum of its parts?