(ISBN 1-84435-178-5)





 It is 1917 and the

 Doctor, Hex and Ace

 find themselves in a

 military hospital in

 northern France. But

 the terrifying,

 relentless brutality

 of the Great War that

 wages only a few

 miles away is the

 least of their



 The travellers

 become metaphysical

 detectives when the

 Doctor receives

 orders to investigate

 a murder. A murder

 that has yet to be



 Who will be the

 victim? Who will be

 the murderer? What

 is the real purpose of

 the Hate Room? Can

 the Doctor solve the

 mystery before the

 simmering hate and

 anger at Charnage

 hospital erupts in to

 a frenzy of violence?


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No Man's Land








The two world wars are, and always will be, a tremendous source of inspiration for poetry, literature, cinema and now audio drama. On a personal level, I’ve always had a grim fascination for the darker sections of 20th-century history. When I was studying the Great War at school, I distinctly remember wondering why there had never been a ‘real’ Doctor Who story set during that period. Even when Steve Lyons’ wonderful World War II play, Colditz, came along I was delighted, but still wondered why the Doctor hadn’t got around to involuntarily landing the TARDIS in the trenches of the Great War. Well, in No Man’s Land he finally does.


No Man’s Land is primarily a tale about brainwashing. This is made blatantly obvious - perhaps a little too obvious - by Act I, Scene I, but nevertheless the rather tired notion works splendidly within the confines of the play. Soldiers marching and chanting “Die! Die! Die!” may sound awfully trite on paper, but it’s extremely disturbing to listen to. Arguably, these young Brits have lost as much of themselves as any Cyberman.


One of this story’s strongest qualities is how it successfully conveys not only the physical horror of the war, but also the psychological stress that each and every soldier must have been exposed to. There are no “tally ho, chaps” caricatures to be found here; just men struggling to survive in the most appalling of conditions. This allows the writer to explore the human capacity for evil and where it stems from. I hate to have to quote a little green man, but as Jedi Master Yoda so succinctly puts it – “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And it’s true. Here, characters like Lt Colonel Brook are just that little bit more chilling because, in a cold, blazing moment, the plays helps the listener to understand them. Like the Doctor, Ace and Hex, one abhors the Colonel and his practises, yet worryingly, at least on some level, one can see why he could think them necessary.


“When you see the young German soldiers and realise that they’re just like us, you find yourself wondering - is what we’re doing right,

or can it be that we’re both equally in the wrong? Whose side is God on?”

- Captain Dudgeon


Something else I like about this play is that the British Army are ‘at fault,’ as it were. Had the TARDIS landed on the German side of the lines, I don’t think that I would’ve found the story anywhere near as compelling. For example, hearing the Brits dehumanise the Germans in almost every conversation they have – “Bosch! Filthy Hun!” et al - from a 21st century point-of-view seems so wrong it’s sickening. Back then, of course, it was the norm. It way the way. Substitute the word ‘Bosch’ or ‘Hun’ for ‘Kaled’ or ‘Thal’ and you could be listening to a story from a very different war indeed (and understanding the brutally allegorical works of a certain Mr Nation that little bit better too!)


Moreover, there are soldiers in this play that the romantics in us don’t like to think ever really existed. Take Sgt Wood, for example. When we read the lists of the dead on cenotaphs we automatically conjur an almost pre-programmed image of the ‘Brave British Tommy’ - never do we stop to think that a few of them may have been... well, not very nice. Sgt Wood is a bully and a thug; pure and simple, and his inclusion in No Man’s Land painfully illustrates that blurry line between good and bad.  


“Whose side is God on?”


My favourite character of all though has to be Rupert Wickham’s Captain Dudgeon - the ‘coward.’ At the risk of sounding corny, for Dudgeon to admit to his fear of battle and suffer the wrath and ridicule of his peers takes a hell of a lot of courage. He’s certainly the soldier in the play that I have the most respect for. I also like how he describes the ‘Angel’ that he saw after being wounded to Ace. It is a very moving scene, kind of surreal, yet it doesn’t detract from the gritty realism of the play. If anything, it adds to it.


Admittedly, it’s odd to be describing a science-fiction / brainwashing / time-travel /  ‘metaphysical detective’ play as being gritty and realistic, but I think its a testament to the writer’s skill that I didn’t doubt - not even for a second - that this world wasn’t real. We are with these soldiers when they are eating their breakfast. We are with them in their “morning hate.” This is as gritty and as real as it gets. There’s one moment towards the end where Private Taylor has an epiphany of sorts and I almost felt like cheering – that’s how well the characters work. I cannot commend enough the performances of Rupert Wickham, Michael Cochrane, Rob Dixon, Oliver Mellor and Ian Hayles - each and every one of them are absolutely superb.


Turning to our regulars. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are both on fine form - McCoy is given some gloriously impassioned speeches to curl his tongue around, and Aldred really makes the most of being the only woman in the cast. However, as with The Settling, it is Philip Olivier who once again steals the show. I didn’t realise how much of a Hex story No Man’s Land is until the final few minutes when the Doctor finally airs his suspicions - but even prior to that point, much of the play focuses on Hex’s reactions to one of the most frightening environments imaginable and, even more interestingly, his thoughts and feelings about his travels; the Doctor; Ace; and even his mother, who as we learned in Arrangements for War, was the artificial vampire Cassie / Artemis of the sixth Dcotor’s tragedy-tinged acquaintance. I smell another sequel to Project: Twilight and Project: Lazarus in the pipeline…


To sum up, I’ve no doubt that No Man’s Land will become one of the more respected seventh Doctor audio dramas. In this Who-crazed age of remote control Daleks, Cybermen voice-changers, and blow-up Slitheen, it’s refreshing to be presented with what is, essentially, a purely historical story - and a bloody brilliant one to boot.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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