Seasons of War

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Seasons of War is an anthology of short stories about the exploits of the War Doctor, as played by John Hurt in Day of the Doctor. The ebook is the brain-child of Declan May, who edits here, and has gathered contributions from many talented writers. Proceeds from sales of the book go to a great cause, Caudwell Children, and you can get a copy by donating here.

A short film has also been created to mark the book’s release, written and directed by Andy Robinson.

 

As in the video above, the anthology depicts events from across the John Hurt incarnation: from his early, relatively naive and optimistic days, gradually growing into the grizzled veteran we meet in his one television appearance. The stories contained in the anthology are presented in chronological order, and there are some interesting landmarks in his journey,

The opening salvo in the War Doctor’s adventures is an epilogue, Warsmiths, by Matt Fitton. Fitton wrote the recent Big Finish Eighth Doctor box set Dark Eyes 3. The character of the Co-Ordinator from that story appears in this two-hander with the War Doctor. He’s a Time Lord well worth revisiting, being one of the few of that race we’ve met who is not either entirely evil or consumed with petty self-interest. It’s also interesting to have a character with the same broad aims as the Doctor, but different means of achieving them. It’s great to see established Doctor Who alumni tackle this new, and quite different, Doctor (Paul Magr’s 2012 Flash Fiction Meals on Wheels also makes a very welcome appearance) alongside less well-known and first-time writers.

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When watching the fiftieth anniversary special I had imagined the War Doctor as having been away from Earth for a long time, away fighting in the Time War. Hence him not knowing what a Cup-A-Soup is. The Seasons of War take is that he was still defending the Earth. He splits his time between fighting the Daleks and keeping the Time War away from the human race. It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense, given how this planet is unaffected by the conflict when contemporary civilisations like the Nestene and the Gelth are. The idea here is that the Doctor hid the Earth to protect the human race.

An occasional companion for the War Doctor is introduced to interact with him, The Time Traveller’s Wife-style, in random order through his life. This gives us a constant to mark the change in this incarnation as the war takes it toll. The real unique selling point of these War Doctor tales is that he doesn’t always win, and even the odd victory he achieves is in the face of the wider conflict which we know he is doomed to lose. It is in stark contrast to all the times he’s previously defeated the Daleks as a menace, the size of their war machine now is such that there is an impasse with the Time Lords.

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There is a pleasing mix of nostalgic stories which explore the role that the Daleks past adventures play in the Time War, so the Movellans, Robomen, Ogrons and Thals all appear in various stories like Here Comes the Doctor by Christopher Bryant and Your Move by John Peel; while stories like Disjecta Membra in particular by Elton Townend-Jones are in the more modern series vein. It befits an incarnation who is the ‘missing link’ between twentieth century Doctor Who and the rebooted series. While not containing any direct series elements, Andrew Smith’s excellent The Celephas Gift is very evocative of the past, featuring, as it does, miners and gaudily-dressed overseers.

With so little to go on for the character of this Doctor, I wondered if his exclamation of, “Oh, for God’s sake!” from Day of the Doctor would be picked up on, as he’s the earliest Doctor to say anything like this. The Eleventh Doctor says the same in Asylum of the Daleks, so it’s only been in Steven Moffat’s writing so far. In Sleepwalking to Paradise Dan Barratt has his him saying, “My God,” but any idea that this warrior incarnation has found solace in religion is put to bed in Paul Driscoll’s Storage Wars.

In an interview with doctorwhoworldwide.com from September 2014, May says that the official BBC novel about the War Doctor, Engines of War by George Mann (who contributes a missing chapter, The Moments In Between, from that novel here), acted as a standard or template for Seasons of War. In fact, taken as whole, this work is far more original and interesting than Mann’s book. A great idea, well-executed and which has so far raised over £5000 for a great cause.

Get a copy of the book by donating here.

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