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8.10 - The War To End All Wars

Years after he gave up travelling in the TARDIS, Steven Taylor is the deposed king of a distant world.

From the confines of his cell, he shares his story with a young girl called Sida.

And one story in particular – a visit to a whole world at war, which will mark Steven for life…

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Rated 8/10 on 4/20/14 8:55 pm
Rated 6/10 on 4/20/14 7:44 pm
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Review By NewWorldreviews 4/17/14 11:12 am
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
No previous stories required.
The Alchemists is a tale of two halfs. The more successful part of the story is a spy thriller in 1930's Berlin, while the less successful part is certainly the historical elements of the story. While in one hand, the spy parts of the story add tension and interest to the story, the history lesson drags the story down as a whole. It also moves at a terribly slow place, causing whole sections to feel completely unnessary. Therefore this story is very much a tale of two halfs, and sadly it doesn't quite come together.

Potter's main plot is certainly a good one. The idea that underneath the surface of Berlin is a net of conspiracy and crime. Certainly, it's intresting that everyone that Susan meets could be a spy and her trying experiences at the hands of Pollitt are certainly of interest to those who like strong character development. However, these 30's spy film influences are massively contrasted by the textbook level amount of information in this story, and this just brings the whole thing down. If Potter had managed to integrate this as an effective part of his narrative, then it proberbly would have worked a lot better. But then, I suppose it could have interfered with the spy/thriller plot. But in a way, it's more likely to be more interesting than what we did actually have, as it certainly just feels like the plot crawls to a holt. However, a hell of a lot of it is dragged up by the characters, who are a diverse bunch. Certainly characters like Strickmatter or Rudy the young boy are an intresting listen. However, the SA members that appear in the second half of the story come across as little more than facist cliches.

Certainly Carole Ann Ford is the original definition of 'screaming girl' if you like, but here, she turns on the 'screaming hysterics on at moments of tension' in this story, certainly during the torture scenes. And while it's a natural reaction (of sorts), it undermines all the menace that Wayne Forester is trying to bring into the story. His performance is brilliant, especially since he plays a good deal more characters than is regular for a Companion Chronicle. He manages to differentiate each one better than Ford, who's German accent is pretty similar for each character she's playing. It proberbly explains why the SA officers in episode 2 sound like a classic Nazi stereotype. And frankly, her William Hartnell impression isn't much to talk about. I can clearly see Hartnell saying the lines, but it's not a patch on either Peter Purves or William Russell's impressions. Let's hope that with the Early Adventures they use the two male actors to read in The first Doctor's lines. It certainly worked in the later Lost Stories featuring his Doctor. Lisa Bowerman's direction is strong, especially her cross fades between speakers to indicate passage of time during the interrogation scene and the weird nature of the drugging sequence in episode 1. These aren't particulary imaginative, but work in the context of the story. The last point is the music for this release, but sadly it isn't particulary memorable and distinctly uninvolving.

In the end, The Alchemists has some really strong good points, I won't deny that. But it's inconstant plot which can't decide if it's a spy movie or a history lecture, some very odd choices of plotting, a rather more hysterics driven performance from Carole Ann Ford and unmemorable music and sound design mean that this really just become at times a lot of background noise, admitly intresting, but not particularly gripping or dynamic.
Review By komodo 3/6/14 6:00 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
Previous stories required!
Many of the Companion Chronicle use non-linear storytelling. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. In this case the pre-empting of events seems a little forced and awkward.

Beyond that is quite a good story that continues Steven's spiral that will lead himn to ask the question "When do you know?" There is a cycle of sacrifice that he has witnessed and one friend after another has died (or seemed to die) He is maturing and you can really feel the importance of these stories in Steven's overall life.

The story itself concerns a mining operation in the Kuiper belt where the Doctor is ensuring the past remains unchanged (following on from a discovery in Cold Equations) while there, the team is involved in a disastous first contact with a power alien race. There are very few options and it comes down to the usual sceming doctor and self sacrificing companion with a destiny that the doctor feels is set in stone (later incarnations would have avoided fate without a second thought, but the First Doctor is still very vary of altering anything, especially his own fate.

So, there is a little of the timey wimeiness here, though it is obscured by a little of the story telling style and a lot by the Doctor's dishonesty. There is a lot of character building for Steven (who still has several TV episodes to go after this) but it all fits together in a story where new companion Oliver gets to experience more of the future and the world that he escaped.
Review By komodo 2/25/14 11:44 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.
Reviewer Says:
Previous stories required!
Great acting and very good science. In many ways this was a great story, but I found that it felt a little disjointed. There were points where things seemed to just hop ahead or maybe I was just having trouble paying attention. I think perhaps so much of the story was a set up to the big secret rather than tell a story in its own right and this lessens it. Perhaps the story should have been longer and there was too much editing.
The secret too, left me underwhelmed. By the end I was just thinking "hope it isn't ... " and it was, which was boring really. The Doctor and Steven's reactions to it also left me wondering why they even bothered. Nothing wrong with it being in the story, but I felt the lead up to it, was too much; like telling everyone they are going to love your joke and then being the only one to laugh at it. This same reveal could have been done far more effectively without building up expectations.

On the plus side the mechanics of orbital manoeuvring gave Steven a rare chance to use his expertise and surprise people. Oliver is working out well as the second companion and I think the next episode will be worth looking forward to.

I think I was also thrown by the similarities part of this story had with "Space Pirates" an awful original episode I recently listened to. This one had much better special effects.
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