❉ River Song, The Meddling Monk and the Weeping Angels are back for a triumphant finale.
The moment has been prepared for…
….and thank Rassilon it has! Doom Coalition 4 serves as fitting end to a triumphant new chapter in the Eighth Doctor’s life. Big Finish has taken the lessons they’ve learnt from the ‘Dark Eyes’ series and applied it to great acclaim here. I openly admit that there was a lot of ‘Dark Eyes’ that I didn’t care for. Certainly there were many flashes of brilliance throughout, and each set had at least once outstanding instalment, but the overarching story was a mess. It felt like someone was making it up as it went along. Thankfully, the story for ‘Doom Coalition’ was pretty much mapped out from the start and it really improves, well… everything.
Let’s take a look at the latest Eighth Doctor offerings:
‘Ship in a Bottle’ by John Dorney
Trapped inside a dead escape shuttle, hurling to a dark, cold death, the Doctor, Liv and Helen must work out a way to survive.
It’s a bottle episode as the title cleverly tells us, which gives our leads a moment to come to terms with their situation and each other. It’s cracking entertainment. I love that ‘Doctor Who’ can provide fun sci-fi romps and spectacle, but also at it’s core give us some decent character drama. With superb actors like these, why wouldn’t you? Hattie Morahan’s ‘Helen’ really has come into her own, and was the standout here, I’m pleased to say.
‘Songs of Love’ by Matt Fitton
River Song could’ve so easily been an distraction in this series, but she’s actually been a great asset to it. She’s livened it up the only way she knows how. Plus any chance to strengthen the ties between the original and revived eras of series is welcomed by me. Being able to enjoy River’s first (and only?) visit to Gallifrey is worth the admission price alone. Here she works to save our heroes and outsmart Padrac (wonderfully played by Robert Bathurst). Some lovely bits of continuity brought out and used to good affect here. The comparisons between River and the Sonomancer did not go unnoticed either. It’s sadly, River’s only outing in this set, but I think it’s a heartily worthwhile listen.
‘The Side of the Angels’ by Matt Fitton
Weeping Angels, the Monk and Ollistra, oh my! This is the kind of story that people would pay to see put on television. With a great story that keeps the surprises coming, it’s jammed packing with fun and excitement, you may need to remember to breath. Oh, yeah, and don’t blink too.
Rufus Hound was born to play the Monk and I want to see more of him. The character has such a history with this incarnation it was quite intense to see a reunion of the two after the events of Lucie Miller/To the Death.
Carolyn Pickles is also nicely cast as the previous incarnation of Cardinal Ollistra from the ‘War Doctor’ audios. Ollistra is another great invention from Big Finish that I am glad we’re getting a full life from in audio.
This story also serves as a nice bit of foreshadowing for the (chronologically) later story The Angels Take Manhattan.
With so many classic characters and monsters thrown under one story, I was worried that this would be a bit too much fan service, but in actuality it goes in completely unexpected and fresh ways.
‘Stop the Clock’ by John Dorney
With so many pieces in the puzzle, you’d think someone would get lost in the mix, but they don’t. Every major character has their arc beautifully come full circle (at least for now). Bathurst and Bonnar as Padrac and the Eleven are just a delicious evil duo. Bonnar in particular has this wonderful standout scene that is just chilling. He definitely earns his spot as one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies. The resolution to the ending is rather suitable and epic, and doesn’t feel like a cop out whatsoever. I do look forward to what’s coming next with McGann and company.
Usually in these box sets, there’s always one or two stories that are a bit weaker, or one story that shines above the rest. But you know what? Every single story in this set was so strong. They’re all expertly paced and each with their own identity. It’s a beautiful package this.
I hate to repeat myself but having the full story plotted out really gave ‘Doom Coalition’ the narrative flow that it needed. After this, I just want to go back and listen to older sets and see how it comes together seamlessly. Well done.
Special kudos to Jamie Robertson. He always does tremendous work for these audio plays and this set was no different. From the opening moments of ‘Ship in a Bottle’ to the epilogue of ‘Stop the Clock’ he imbues a cinematic quality to the whole experience.
‘Doom Coalition 4’ is immensely satisfying. On top of that, it fittingly end two years worth of stories (which is no mean feat) and leaves the door open for a few years more. In the end, we’re left with strong characters, vivid memories and a 54 year old fictional universe that’s gotten just a bit more richer.
10/10 Only at Big Finish.
❉ ‘Doom Coalition 4’ was released on 6 March 2017. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until April 30th 2017, and on general sale after this date.