❉ Big Finish has just released volume three of their Eighth Doctor ‘Doom Coalition’ series, and River Song is back as a nun with a gun. Spoilers, sweetie!
Somewhere in the depths of the Time Vortex, the Doomsday Chronometer is counting down; and if the travellers can’t find all eight of its pieces, they may never be able to uncover the truth behind the Doom Coalition. It’s a race against time through the fourth dimension, with the TARDIS travelling to England in 1998, 15th century Prague, modern day Rome and the court of King Henry VIII.
First up is the superb Absent Friends, by John Dorney. It’s a much quieter story than I was expecting, which is good. It’s set in the late 90s with the beginnings of the mobile phone boom. A new cellular mast has been erected in a village who greatly opposes its presence. To appease the villagers they are all given free mobiles. Unfortunately, soon after, they all start receiving calls from dead love ones. It’s a spooky, personal story. I love that it really gives some more insight into Liv, and most importantly, Helen. Helen has been rather sidelined as a character ever since her first appearance in The Red Lady, but here she is finally given some breathing space. I won’t spoil the surprises but it’s an absolute tear jerker. Also, works brilliantly on the consequences of time travel. Which ‘Doctor Who’ can never do enough of, in my opinion. But really, it’s a very low key story. It even made me wonder several times during the story who would call me in such a situation. The tease of who the Doctor’s caller was damn infuriating.
Next up is The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton, which is a remarkably busy story. The Doctor, Liv and Helen are in all separate timelines trying to track down the alien technology that caused the problems in the village in the previous story. Helen is in the modern day in a Rome museum, Liv is in Fifteenth Century Prague mixing it up with a Timelord known as ‘The Clocksmith’, and the Doctor’s getting into all sorts of trouble with Thomas Cromwell, clockwork robots and a mysterious Nun with a Gun. The Nun, for those not paying attention, is River Song. Yes, you did read that right. The worlds of Classic and Nu Who are merging together beautifully and we Big Finish to thank for that. There was some concern by the fandom when River was announced to be appearing in these stories. It’s safe to say this is no cause for worry. She fits in perfectly with the proceedings and her chemistry with McGann is just as good with anybody. In order to disguise her appearance, she’s using a psychic wimple…. Mm-hmmm. One that makes her look like Rita Hayworth. We’ve got to keep the continuity safe, dontcha’ know? Alex Kingston practically steals the story, but John Shrapnel is also terrific as Thomas Cromwell. McGann and Shrapnel work very hard to not let Kingston steal the entire show. It’s all good fun though.
The Doomsday Chronometer also written by Matt Fitton really just serves as a two-parter with The Eighth Piece. The Eighth Doctor finally meets River Song face to face, so to speak. The plot starts pulling together all the threads from the previous box sets and you find out how the Eleven is involved. If you didn’t know there was another story after this, you could easily be fooled into thinking this was the finale of the set. The storyline with Liv and Helen ends up being very reminiscent of Mawdyrn Undead, but shhhhh. Spoilers, sweetie.
The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney (again) is an absolute delight. An imposter in the TARDIS, a return to Gallifrey, and River Song and the Doctor in full team-up mode. Robert Bathurst makes a very welcome return as Padrac here. Revelations and surprises come thick and fast and the members of the eponymous Doom Coalition are starting to make themselves known. Oh, and that cliffhanger is a stunner! Best box set finale of the series, so far.
The best box set since ‘Dark Eyes 2’, hands down. The stories work, the whole season arc is coming together beautifully, and I fully care for the characters. Up until this volume Helen’s main purpose was to confuse me into thinking she was Liv (They do sound a bit alike) but now she shines as her own entity. Robert Bathurst and John Shrapnel are superb guest actors to have around and they bring so much to the proceedings. I was a bit put off by the Eleven’s disappearance in the second set, and not seeing Mark Bonnar’s name here was a bit of a worry, but fear not. Big Finish have been very clever and it adds a surprising element for sure.
I haven’t been a fan of the box sets, I must admit. ‘Dark Eyes’ fell into a pit of it’s own muck. It started brilliantly but sets 3 and 4 just didn’t work. Thankfully, the lessons have been learnt and ‘Doom Coalition’ has been getting better and better with each set. Honestly can’t wait for set 4 to land.
Highly recommended. 9/10.
❉ ‘Doctor Who: Doom Coalition 3’ was released on 22 September 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until October 31st 2016, and on general sale after this date.