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Recap / Big Finish Doctor Who 089 No Mans Land

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The Seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex are found unconscious on a World War I battlefield in France (in what would become a continuing feature in the Doctor's life). They end up at a military hospital. By a stroke of tremendous luck, a letter arrives from high-up telling the commanding officers that team TARDIS is a ragtag bunch of military detectives. Their job: to investigate a murder that will be committed later that day.

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The hospital, full of wounded soldiers, does things not quite by the book. For one, there's a place called the "hate room", where soldiers can work on their aggression skills and patriotism. The group soon befriends a young soldier named Taylor, who spends much of his time type-writing letters home to his girlfriend. (His handwriting is atrocious). Hex, who's trying to keep a cool head, offends a local character named Wood with how uncomfortable he is around soldiers. Hex' first instinct is to tend to the wounded and to speak up about how horrifying and inhumane war is. Wood, who doesn't have the slightest patience for "cowardice", drags Hex into the hate room, unceremoniously ties him to a chair, clamps down his tongue and starts giving him a few hours of Electric Torture. By the time the Doctor finds his companion, Hex has been drugged with Easy Amnesia and wonders what on earth happened to him.

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The Doctor soon realises that the letter about him was subconsciously written by Taylor, who's also going around stabbing and shooting people in his sleep. It's obvious to team TARDIS that the hospital is manipulating the wounded soldiers using rudimentary Freudian theory. The brainwashed soldiers are made into traumatised shells of men who'd do anything for their country. Also, Taylor tells Ace that he was wounded at a terrible battle against some German soldiers — and, as he waited for help to arrive, surrounded by corpses, he saw an angel.

While Ace and Hex go off to investigate the site of the battle, Wood (the Doctor's primary subject) is murdered. His higher-up, Brook, instantly blames the Doctor and organises a firing squad out of the traumatised soldiers for a very quick execution. The Doctor escapes on a motorbike, joins up with Ace and Hex, and realises that Brook's experiment went further than anyone had suspected: there were never any German soldiers to begin with, and the entire massacre was just British soldiers brainwashed into killing each other. Taylor now has to live with having killed Wood while sleepwalking, and Hex begs to be taken back to the TARDIS, or any place where there isn't a war going on. The Doctor tells him that death is always a tragedy, but he shouldn't see it as a waste of life... because life is never wasted as long as it was lived honestly. All's well that ends well, except the Doctor very glumly reveals that the entire thing was engineered by... the Forge.

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