Lion Hearts

This isn’t a Time Tot we’re talking about. He’s the Doctor. Or at least, he used to be.



Seeking out Gallifrey’s new warrior, Commodore Tamasan finds that the War Doctor has invited himself on a secret mission. The time-sensitive Tharils are in danger, and an old friend of the Doctor is trapped.

But Biroc knows better than to trust either side in this war.


If Light the Flame was about the Doctor coming to terms with his new personality, then Lion Hearts is about convincing the Time Lords, and more specifically the War Council, that he has changed. I frequently see criticism levelled at the War Doctor that his actions aren’t that different, but I read it differently. The Doctor was working on the fringes of the Time War away from the front lines before the events of The Night of the Doctor and refusing to fight, but this incarnation is willing to get involved and get his hands dirty. Whilst Lion Hearts is not necessarily as good as Light the Flame, it does go some way to show just how much the Doctor has changed.

Lion Hearts is a rather simple story, and whilst it is perfectly functional, it doesn’t help that the plot feels rather straightforward. It is an extraction storyline that has been seen before and there is surprisingly little peril involved in it. The Doctor, Valetta and Lorinus only face off against a Volataran mechasuit, which is relatively easily dealt with, with the Doctor and Valetta distracting it and Lorinus using the sonic screwdriver to deactivate it. Speaking of the sonic screwdriver, it is also the only thing needed for to disarm the mine that Lorinus steps on relatively early. Despite the fact that we are told that there is an imminent ground assault on the planet, there doesn’t really seem to be any real hurry to proceedings and it almost ambles along, albeit with the noise of weaponry discharging in the background throughout, almost as a reminder that this is in fact set in a war.

That being said, it’s probably a more interesting story for what it tells us about the Time Lords at this stage of the Time War and how the war is going for them. Valetta alludes to the fact that more Time Lord allies seem to suffer than the Daleks’, and echoes the fact that the two races are becoming all the more similar in their view towards their allies, viewing them as being disposable towards their end goals. Tamasan is thrilled when she is told that the Doctor caused the death of the wounded Tharils, seeing this as a sign that he is finally the warrior that she wanted rather than a thorn in her side, and that he has changed.

Whilst there is a relatively small guest cast, they all do a very good job of performing the roles as written. John Dorney is suitably commanding as Biroc, replacing David Weston from Warriors’ Gate, who is now a Time Lord spy, whilst Marilyn Nnadabe and Amy Lorinus are good as Valetta and Lorinus respectively, with Lorinus admitting to her superior officer that it is difficult to say no to the Doctor. Her scenes with Tamasan act as bridging and indicate how feeling has shifted about the Doctor, to the extent that she says to Tamasan that the Doctor is not what she expected. Lorinus is clearly just following orders until she is joined by the War Doctor and Lady Valetta, who has employed the Doctor to save her brother. Ultimately, the honour-based system of the Tharils leads to the biggest peril of the story, leading the Doctor to have to find a way to get them all out safely, whilst hoodwinking the Time Lords into not knowing that they have survived the day. At the time of writing this, I have not watched Warriors’ Gate, so I am unsure about how in keeping this story is with that one, but I liked the fact that the story went out of its way to not allow them to simply phase through walls after all.

The Daleks never bother keeping their word to an inferior species. And as far as they’re concerned, all species are inferior.

Ironic, these words from the mouth of a Time Lord.

The War Doctor and Valetta

I will probably say this in every War Doctor review featuring Jonathon Carley, but his version of John Hurt’s voice is scarily authentic, and again I must give a lot of credit to both Carley and director Louise Jameson, who put in a lot of work getting him to that point. Unlike Tim Treloar’s Third Doctor, which for the record, is also great, Carley feels like he could be the younger John Hurt reborn, capturing the gruff edges and world-weary tone that his Doctor has developed through years of working through the Time War. The story and Carley work really well to convince you that the Doctor has really just killed the injured Tharils, even if it does make you feel a bit foolish for falling for it. The Doctor stresses that he isn’t there to fight for the Time Lords, he is there to do the right thing even in situations where it may seem impossible. Ultimately, the fact that the Doctor is able to get through seemingly unsurmountable odds is fundamental to the character, so essential to the reason why his character has endured and ultimately is so deep-rooted that it survives this unusual regeneration and the hell of the Last Great Time War.

Verdict: Lion Hearts is let down by its simple plot, but works quite well to establish how the Doctor is viewed by the Time Lords and seeing how his new, warrior incarnation is perceived by them. 6/10

Cast: Jonathon Carley (The Doctor), Amy Downham (Lorinus), Adele Andersen (Commander Tamasan), Marilyn Nnadebe (Valetta) & John Dorney (Biroc/Vaspor).

Writer: Lou Morgan

Director: Louise Jameson

Producer: David Richardson

Composer: Howard Carter

Cast Notes

  • Amy Downham played Scraya and Pips in the Fourth Doctor Big Finish story Purgatory 12.
  • John Dorney is a writer and has also appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays, including The Light at the End, A Death in the Family and Terror of the Sontarans.

Best Quote

There isn’t a single place, a single moment in the universe that means nothing in this war. You know that. Everything matters – every choice, every action and every Time Lord or ally who falls is another Dalek victory and if they are allowed to stand unopposed, I don’t need to tell you where that leads.

The War Doctor

Previous War Doctor review: Light the Flame

Lion Hearts is available to purchase from the Big Finish website as part of the boxset The War Doctor Begins: Forged in Fire.

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