Doctor Who Unbound: Sympathy for the Devil

What if the Doctor never became the scientific advisor to UNIT? What if the Brigadier blew a hole in the center of London while trying to stop dinosaurs, but no one believed him? And what if they met each other 20 or so odd years too late?

Picking up where “The War Games” left off, the Doctor is forced to regenerate and is exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, but something went wrong, he ends up in Hong Kong in the year 1997 and in a new body.

Hong Kong is under the control of the British Empire, or at least until midnight one day after the Doctor’s arrival, then it falls into the hands of the Chinese government. The first thing the Chinese plan to do when they take over is run a nuclear bomb test.

When the Doctor arrives, he is very much aware that he is not in the right place or time, but as the Time Lords have put an Inhibitor on his TARDIS and blocked his memory of the knowledge of it’s workings, he is powerless to put himself back on track.

From the first moment you hear David Warner it is very easy to see how he got cast as the Doctor. He brings a presence to the character all his own while still seeming like the Time Lord we all know and love.

The Doctor finds his way to a local bar called the “Little England” owned and operated by a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. He tries to convince the Brigadier that he is the same Doctor he met during the Yeti and Cybermen attacks, but before they can truly have a chance to reminisce they hear an invisible plane crash on a near by hillside.

The two go out to the crash site to check for survivors and notice that the plane is an experimental Chinese craft. They find the pilot, who is in a bad state, and he tells them that he had a passenger, a European defector by the name of Ke Le.

Actor Sam Kisgart, or as he is more commonly know as Mark Gatiss, delivers an outstanding performance as Ke Le, unfortunately one cannot truly appreciate how much until you have heard the full story.

Speaking of the story, let’s now return to the action…

A UNIT helicopter arrives on the hillside under the command of Colonel Brimmicombe-Wood played by none other then, the brand spanking new 10th Doctor, David Tennant.

David delivers a highly enjoyable performance as Brimmicombe-Wood and is just one of the many highlights of the story. When I found out that David Tennant was going to be the new Doctor I really didn’t know what to expect, but now that I know it was him in my favorite unbound story I can easily see him fitting the bill perfectly. Granted he is a much different character as Bimmicombe-Wood, but it’s still easy to see that he has what it takes.

Moving along.

The Brigadier and the Colonel are not the best of friends, which does not help the situation be any more comfortable. We learn that UNIT is on the scene to recover the Chinese stealth technology as well as the scientist, Ke Le, who invented it, but so far he cannot be found. Brimmicombe-Wood forces his way into a Buddhist temple and makes it his field office while they continue their search.

The Brigadier and the Doctor are held by UNIT until they can be fully debriefed. While they are detained, Lethbridge-Stewart has the chance to speak with the Abbot of the temple and discovers that the monks have been chanting for over 100 years to keep an evil creature locked away in what is called a “Soul Jar”. The Abbot confesses to the Brigadier that he believes this to be a myth, but when the Doctor questions the Chinese pilot again he learns that Ke Le came to this hillside in search of the Soul Jar lending some merit to the myth.

Among many things that Ke Le has “invented” for the Chinese government is a police force made up of reformed criminals. The criminals were rehabilitated by something called a “Ke Le Machine,” which was powered by wormlike parasites that feed on evil impulses. When the Chinese government found out about these creatures and Ke Le’s experiments they quickly lost interest in him and wanted to clean up his mistakes so at midnight, when they take over Hong Kong, they plan to use their nuclear test bombing to destroy all the parasites.

Ke Le knows that if they carry out this plan all of the reformed criminals will regain their memories and there will be utter chaos. However, inside the Soul Jar is one final parasite and if he can get his hands on that he will be able to control the army of reformed criminals and quickly grow to be the most powerful force on earth.

When Ke Le realizes that the Doctor is not of this earth, he sees an opportunity to get himself even further away from his troubles then he thought and forces the Doctor to take him and the parasite to his TARDIS.

The Doctor and the Brigadier must stop Ke Le from achieving his goals, get the final parasite to the bomb test site to be destroyed with the rest, and try to find a way to get the inhibitor off of the TARDIS. At the same time UNIT must find a way out of Hong Kong with the stealth technology and Ke Le before the Chinese hand over.

Midnight is approaching fast.

“Sympathy for the Devil” is an excellent look at an alternative history for the 3rd Doctor, and its ending leaves you with a sense that his adventures are far from over.

This stories enjoyment is helped greatly by the fact that we can easily relate to it. Big Finish was able to draw on all the adventures that we lived through during Jon Pertwee’s era and keeps us very much apart of the story rather then alienate us with a new Doctor in a totally new situation.

The news of a second adventure with David Warner was to say the least, absolutely Fantastic news. Personally I would love to see Big Finish tell continuing stories for this incarnation of the Doctor and I guarantee that I would buy everyone.

Brian A Terranova


Doctor Who and me go way back. I first discovered it on my local PBS Station WHYY in the suburbs outside Philadelphia when I was a young kid; though I am uncertain of the exact age.

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