Aggressive Astronaut: Steven is not longer King of the planet of the savages. This bombshell is dropped in the first scene and he links the reason to a moment of his life with the Doctor, encouraging us to listen to his narration of a tale. To know that we will be rewarded with the answers for the framing device by listening to the central narrative gives the audience an extra motive to push on. Steven is very protective of the Doctor, considering him an old man but he knows in his heart that he can look after himself. He scoffs at the thought of Dodo being his girlfriend and admits they didn't travel together for long. However he named his youngest daughter after her and she was his favourite which tells you something about what Ms Chaplet meant to him (even if he tries to brush away any suggestion that he had a favourite). His time in the military is mentioned once again and he knows who to take care of himself in the rigorous training procedure. He thought he had escaped the bullying orders and passive aggression of the military and resented falling back into that lifestyle. He knows that the best way to escape would be to get his head down, train with the other soldiers and learn about this world and its conflict. In the military you become the uniform and Steven found it was frighteningly easy to step back into the role. Steven set up schools on the savages planet to teach the history of the planet, to avoid the population making the same mistakes. Poor Steven has to suffer the indignity of being squirrelled away in a dark and stinking latrine. As soon as he realises the terrible game that is being played Steven understands that there is only one way of changing things - to run for election. Steven had learnt from the Doctor that sometimes the best way to get noticed by those you are opposing is to stand on the rooftops and shout subversive platitudes. When Steven's daughter Dodo died, he stopped fighting and accepted his political fate. Steven learnt on Comfort that if you want to make a lasting difference to a world then you can't just leave after one night once the society has been fundamentally changed. The planet of the savages was a life's work, the challenge he had been looking for and a chance to find some roots after suffering so much loss in the TARDIS.
Dead as a...: Dodo comes bursting out of the TARDIS full of enthusiasm and bravado, it instantly feels like an accurate interpretation of the character. She doesn't do too badly during her assessment stages but naturally doesn't have the physical aptitude of a natural fighter like Steven. The thought of being split up and sent to fight in a war alone terrifies her. Dodo had a way of getting on with everyone. There are some people out there who might smirk at the though of Dodo being placed in front of a firing squad. Had she appeared in more stories of this calibre that might not be the case.
Standout Performance: Peter Purves has mentioned how he would like to do more acting and given his multitude of superb performances throughout the companion chronicles it is a crying shame that he isn't being used more elsewhere. This is an intelligent actor, who can take a script and wring every nuance out of it. He gets to the heart of the story that Simon Guerrier is trying to tell simply and effectively and delivers every line with emotional honesty. I genuinely think he is one of Big Finish's stalwarts.
Sparkling Dialogue: 'A lot of people think so' 'A lot of people can be wrong.'
'The more time you face war up close and intimate, the worse it is to go back.'
Great Ideas: There is an impressive extra feature interview between David Richardson and Simon Guerrier discussing not only The War to End All Wars but also the companion chronicles in general. They are, not undeservedly, celebratory about the range and look back over seven impressive seasons worth of stories and discuss the flexibility of the format, their successes, where they were criticised and what emerged as the stronger stories. I don't think anybody can deny that the range was a massive success, that the prolific number of stories are generally very strong and that there was a great deal of experimentation and sense of creative freedom that has perhaps vanished from the main range, certainly of late. One element of the companion chronicles that they discussed was how very early on they decided to play about with the framing device for these stories. You take a look at the two truncated seasons at the very beginning of the range and they all seemed to take place years after the selected companion left the Doctor and featured them looking back on their lives in the TARDIS, how it affected them and impacted their lives since. Had that formula been regimented the range might have grown stale quite quickly (there were a finite number of companions for a start). However The War to End All Wars does return to that format for one last hurrah and is the only story that features Steven in his post-Savages life and fills us in on his life since. It's lovely to see the series come full circle like this on it's last recording (mind you there are two more releases). It's a great idea because Steven's fate has been left unresolved for decades and if there was anybody up to the job of sketching in the details, it is companion chronicle maestro (he admits it himself) Simon Guerrier. Cleverly, Guerrier brews a potent image of the world Steven was left on and leaves the audience hanging on a disquieting cliff-hanger pondering it's fate once again. Will we ever find out if the Doctor (although not the Doctor) managed to stage a coup?
Audio Landscape: Door opening, Steven on the treadmill, marching feet, trudging through puddles, explosions, screaming soldiers, feet slapping on mud, enemy gunfire, heart monitor, banging on the door, smashing through, cheering.
Musical Cues: Simon Robinson's music was deliberately electronic sounding and all pervading, two things that you couldn't say is true of the Hartnell adventures on television. I have to say it distracted me from the narration at times which probably wasn't the intention.
Standout Scene: How like the Doctor to take on the visage of the leader of the enemy, to accept defeat and put an end to the conflict. Such a simple, selfless way to end the conflict.