Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 2/25/17 12:53 pm
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In this month's Fourth Doctor Adventures release, the Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward), and K9 (John Leeson) land on a planet looking for a pencil museum, but instead find themselves in the midst of a bitter war. When the enemy turns out not to be the Sontarans (Dan Starkey), the Doctor, Romana, and K9 must work with the Sontarans to try and solve the mystery of this planet, even if that means risking their own lives in the process. The Eternal Battle is an overall average story; it makes interesting use of the Sontarans, and while Cavan Scott's and Mark Wright's script is a bit bland, it still ends up being an enjoyable hour-long Fourth Doctor story.
As with every story, Tom Baker portrays the Doctor here, once again. He sounds older, as usual, but there's a quality to his voice that is instantly recognizable as the Doctor, a small twinkle-like thing in his voice. Baker hasn't lost his performance as the Doctor, even if his voice is a older and more gravelly. Lalla Ward portrays the second incarnation of Romana here; one minor complaint that I've found from watching several Fourth Doctor/Romana II Classic stories lately is that Ward has lost some of the charm she once had when she was younger. While Baker is able to portray his character with the same charm he had when younger, Ward sounds older, both in voice, and in demeanor. There was always a joyous feeling to her performance, whereas here Ward tends to sound much more weary. It works very well with her appearances in Gallifrey, but it means her performance feels a bit off here. Finally for the main cast is John Leeson, who sounds pitch perfect as always. Leeson has a smaller role here, but he eats up his lines a spits them out well. Leeson is excellent with his comedic timing, and I don't think that's given enough credit. It's certainly due to the writers that he's so funny, but it wouldn't be half as funny if Leeson didn't have excellent timing.
The guest cast here is a smaller affair, with only three actors. The most notable was Dan Starkey, voicing several Sontarans, most notably Field Major Lenk. Starkey is a fantastic choice to play the Sontarans anyway, and his work at Big Finish is great, as usual. I liked that he was able to give Lenk a bit more than just the standard soldier "for the Glory of the Sontaran Empire!" routine, as it enhanced his performance. Also part of the cast was Jane Slavin as the commander of the human side of the war, Captain Nina Albiston. Slavin had a small role, appearing at the end of the first part, and having only about 15 minutes or so of screen time, but she did an admirable job here. It was a somewhat bland, battle-hardened female soldier performance, but she did a great job near the end with her death scene. Rounding out the guest cast is Big Finish anything-actor John Banks, portraying a couple of roles here. Both of his roles were small, but Banks did a fine job, especially with his role as Trooper Varn.
Writers Cavan Scott and Mark Wright delivered a solid, interesting script, though it was a touch too bland at times. I found that the plot itself was very similar to similar war zone stories that Big Finish has done before, like last year's The Paradox Planet/The Legacy of Death and The Eternity Cage, and it dragged at times. However, the addition of the Sontarans were a smart move, especially given the enemy. Even though it's a theme that's been touched upon quite a few times, notably with Strax in the New Series, I quite liked the idea that an alien menace that could revive the dead was the scariest thing to a fleet of Sontarans. It was an interesting touch, and elevated this story a bit more than I was expecting because of it. In particular, I thought that the Lenk's character was very well written, especially for a Sontaran, who tend to be very similar across stories. Scott and Wright, as I said above, gave him an extra layer beyond the normal mold of a Sontaran which, combined with Starkey's great performance, really elevated the character.
Overall, The Eternal Battle was a solid, if average story. The performances of the main cast were fine, and the guest cast was lead by Dan Starkey, who gave a great performance. Writers Scott and Wright delivered a solid, interesting script that at times relied too heavily on the "TARDIS lands in a war zone" trope but at other times was an interesting character piece for the Sontarans. Add everything together, and you end up with a pretty interesting story with some good character work, and a surprisingly enjoyable Fourth Doctor and Sontaran story.