Doctor Who: Arrangements for War (2004)
Big Finish #57
Starring: Colin Baker, Maggie Stables
When we last met the Sixth Doctor and Dr Evelyn Smythe, they were attempting to rescue Cassie from The Forge, and her death, we all knew, would have consequences. Added to this, Dr Smythe had learnt she had a terminal illness and she was keeping this secret from The Doctor.
Arrangements for War picks up almost immediately after the death of Cassie. Evelyn needs time alone, away from The Doctor, away from the life she knows, and so The Doctor takes her to Világ, just after an intercontinental war has ended and months before an alien invasion is due to begin: a peaceful lagoon in an ocean of turmoil. Just what The Doctor ordered. Upon their arrival, Evelyn and The Doctor part – but coincidence be damned, don’t they just both meet lovers who want to be together but cannot, and don’t they contrive to bring them together. The setup for this story: a princess is in love with a solider but must marry the prince to unify the two nations, and the Doctor unintentionally bringing them together, destroying the peace process, is extremely schematic. Even bringing Evelyn here, through the way it is written, it is thuddingly obvious what will happen…
And then Arrangements for War does something startling. It has Evelyn fall in love. Governor Rossiter, played warmly by Gabriel Woolf, is a widower in the twilight years of his life who never expects to meet the unexpected in Evelyn. Against the backdrop of these two nations going to war, a romance blossoms, and mirrored against the princess and the soldier’s tale, a wonderful double play begins. We see The Doctor becoming embroiled in political scandal: cannily shown through news reports, rather than action, and we see him lose a fight. When the alien invasion begins at the end of part three, Arrangements for War has become incredibly moving: Evelyn admits her illness to Rossiter, and there is acceptance there and for a moment Doctor Who becomes incredibly human.
The depiction of this alien invasion is done well too – we hear it through a telephone line, we hear news reports, and when the aliens arrive at the palace near the end of the story, we know that tragedy is at hand. The deaths that mark the end of the tale, and the sabotage of the TARDIS that accompany it, end the story on an extremely bittersweet note. Once again The Doctor and Evelyn have found their adventures marked by sadness and loss…
I enjoyed Arrangements for War immensely, and think it one of the finest stories Big Finish have produced. I sense the ending is coming for Evelyn Smythe as companion and though the Wikipedia entry for this story has spoilt one future plot twist, I still await eagerly the next outing for this duo.