The Diary of River Song - Series 5Bookmark and Share

Monday, 13 May 2019 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
Slipcase for The Diary of River Song (yoWritten by Jonathan Morris, Roy Gill,
Eddie Robson and Scott Handcock
Produced by David Richardson
Script edited by Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley and Jason Haigh-Ellery
Stars: Alex Kingston, Michelle Gomez, Geoffrey Beevers,
Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, Jacqueline King, Tom Price
Big Finish Productions, 2019

Sometimes I like to look back through my diary, to remind myself, to keep things in order. Sometimes I go all the way back to when I was first locked away in the Stormcage, back when the Doctor was “dead” and spending his afterlife treating his assassin to dinner – discreetly, of course. The first of my 12,000 consecutive life sentences … Only it was never just him I had to keep track of. Sometimes I’d find myself removed from custody for entirely different reasons. You see, when you marry someone like the Doctor, you take on his baggage as well …

River Song, The Diary of River Song: The Bekdel Test

Having all but exhausted her tour of the classic TV series Doctors – in reverse order, from Paul McGann to Tom Baker – in the first four volumes of The Diary of River Song, Alex Kingston’s intrepid and mischievous archaeologist and adventurer now rubs shoulders with multiple incarnations of another Gallifreyan renegade – the Doctor’s intellectual rival and the psychopathic Time Lord/Lady universally known as the Master (or latterly Missy).

Unlike earlier boxsets in the River Song series, which were episodes with a predominant story arc, this latest offering is an anthology of self-contained stories, each set at different points in River’s professional career (she is Dr Song in the first instalment, then professor in the others). The only linking theme is the character of the Master, albeit in different but otherwise lethal incarnations, eg Michelle Gomez’s madcap mistress of mirth, Derek Jacobi’s theatrical and manipulative genius, Geoffrey Beevers’ cadaverous yet still keenly intelligent and crafty persona, and Eric Roberts’ surprisingly subtle yet calculating father-figure.

The first instalment The Bekdel Test introduces River to the character’s female persona from the get-go. It is by far the best and most fun of the four episodes, thanks to the strength of the writing and dialogue, and great performances from Kingston and Gomez, who just chews up the scenery as Missy and literally steals the limelight from Kingston.

Author Jonathan Morris (as he indicates in the behind the scenes commentary) closely follows the Steven Moffat playbook of witty dialogue and banter to help drive the story along. The River/Missy dichotomy simply could not work without the pithy exchanges and the underlying sexual tension over the other’s relationship with the Doctor. For the listener there are plenty of amusing barbs and insults traded between them, even as they are forced to work together against a common foe:

Missy: I’ve been following your career with great interest – and some amusement, and a lot of envy. You see, you’ve just done the one thing that I never quite managed to do …

River: And what’s that?

Missy (raising her voice): You killed the Doctor!

River (mournful): Yes, and I will never forgive myself for it!

Missy: Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, dearie. [Pointed remark] I’ll never forgive you for it either!

River: What?

Missy (expressing mock hurt): I wanted to do that!

Morris’s script is well conceived and paced, with plenty of action and self-deprecating humour. Most importantly, the reason the two protagonists have been brought together is entirely plausible. Even with two alpha females striving for the spotlight, there are some other fascinating, albeit largely underused characters that liven up the narrative – from the Bekdel Institute’s nameless, yet smug Director (Laurence Kennedy) to Darial Cho’s (Richenda Carey) taste for “creative homicide”.

Perhaps Morris and Big Finish ought to consider revisiting these characters in future River Song instalments. It seems pretty clear from his description who the Director’s “silent partners” are, so perhaps there’s not really much more to add to his character development. However, Darial Cho is creepy enough that she could take centre stage in a tale of her own.

The second episode in the set – Animal Instinct – pits River against Geoffrey Beevers’ emaciated version of the Master (although it’s uncertain if it is Beevers’ incarnation pre-Keeper of Traken or post-Dust Breeding – it doesn’t really matter in either case, listeners can take their pick). Roy Gill’s script cleverly turns the tables on both characters in its prologue – following an ancient prophecy, River breaks the seal on a sarcophagus, expecting to rescue the Doctor, but instead frees the Master who set up the casket as a lure to snare the Doctor in the first place! The “crispy” Master and the Doctor’s wife soon become uneasy allies as they journey to a lunar colony where the Master was once worshipped as a god. The problem for the touring party is that the inhabitants of Cheska Minor – hyper-intelligent, feral werecats with sun goggles! – have rebelled against their god and are determined to remove the satellite array that the Master installed to keep their world in endless daylight and suppress their savage instincts.

Animal Instinct is an entertaining chapter, even if it does bear some superficial resemblance to the final classic Doctor Who TV serial Survival. That tale, too, featured the Master (portrayed by the late Anthony Ainley) lording it over a colony of feral werecats – the Cheetah People – in the ruins of a dying world. The difference, thanks to River’s presence, is that Animal Instinct is a lighter, less angsty tale – no teenagers trying to prove a point here, just archaeology student Luke Sulieman (Timothy Blore) trying to prove he is made of the right stuff to his mentor.

While he doesn’t steal the show from Kingston as Gomez does, Beevers’ performance is more urbane; his voice has lost none of that mellifluous tone that carries undercurrents of menace and guile. Gill not only contrasts this version of the Master to River but also expertly highlights some disturbingly similar characteristics. For example, River recognises that a wounded member of their exploration party will have to be sacrificed if they are to escape a werecat; the Master follows through on this without the slightest compunction and then remarks later that he can tell River would have done the same had the situation escalated.

One of the other comparisons (which is also inferred in in this boxset’s other instalments) is the “obsession” that the Master/Missy has with the Doctor – that is, the desire to impress or kill him (or in some instances both). The Beevers Master’s exclamation of outrage and disbelief when River reveals that she married his arch nemesis (implying that she beat him to it!) is an almost priceless moment.

The Lifeboat and the Deathboat is notable for reintroducing Eric Roberts, who reprises the part of the Master for the first time since the ill-fated 1996 TV movie (his dialogue was recorded in Los Angeles while the rest of the full cast recording was completed in London). Perhaps it’s partly down to Eddie Robson’s writing but Roberts’ performance is subtler and less hammy than it was on television. Indeed, Roberts shows in this episode why he was once an Academy Award nominee – he delivers an almost understated performance as an apparent doting father to a teenage daughter Alison (Lucy Heath). His performance is so convincing in the first 20 minutes that you’re left wondering if he is playing yet another hapless character (in the vein of his paramedic Bruce and Anthony Ainley’s Tremas) who will become another vessel for a disembodied Master. The truth, though (as River discovers), is literally stranger than fiction …

The only drawback to this more subtle, “human” portrayal is that Roberts’ voice seems too tender and easy-going – to the point that it lacks the resonance and authority you’d usually associate with the Master. Perhaps this is just a side effect of conducting separate recordings across two continents but it does intrude on the listening experience. Nonetheless, when Roberts is in full Master mode, there is an underlying menace and cold-bloodedness in his tone that takes you back to his 1996 portrayal.

The serial features quite an extensive supporting cast, considering it is mostly set aboard time/space flotsam in the time vortex. Alison is a moody, anxious teenager with a secret that not even she’s aware of, Admiral Eno (Sasha Behar) and Ayrton Valencia (Himesh Patel) provide an intriguing juxtaposition between confident soldier and hapless engineer, and their quarry Kaliopi Mileska (Eleanor Crooks) exudes enough “crazy” to be a convincing threat to everyone in the  time/space machines that have been cobbled together.

Further, only in a Doctor Who tale – or a Who-related spin-off – could a simple VHS video cassette of a rubbish 1980s US teen comedy feature be a catalyst for the chain of events that River encounters. It’s a reminder of how quirky and weird Doctor Who can be – but it’s also a perfect example of why we as fans love and adore it so much.

It’s also interesting that the Roberts Master’s fate – along with that of Mileska – is left open-ended. While it’s highly unlikely that this combination of psychopaths could get their own spin-off series, there’s a certain appeal to seeing what other havoc they might together wreak upon the rest of the universe.

Then again, the Master/Missy has often caused havoc quite comfortably on his/her own, and it’s doubtful the character would ever really enjoy being part of a psychotic, Natural Born Killers-type of couple. That’s definitely the impression you get from listening to the great Sir Derek Jacobi’s portrayal of the Time War-era Master in the fourth and final serial Concealed Weapon. The Master in this tale enjoys his subtle manipulation, torture and murder of the supplementary characters far too immensely to ever let anyone else in on the fun. There’s almost a Hannibal Lechter-style levity, glee and mischievousness to Jacobi’s performance that rivals Gomez’s turn as Missy in The Bekdel Test.

However, whereas much of Missy’s antics are written to comical effect, the War Master’s humour is overtly more sinister because it occurs against a backdrop of claustrophobia, homicide and betrayal. All the while, Jacobi still comes across – through his jovial voice – as comely, polite, charming and paternal. The performance is even more powerful (and disconcerting) for this writer, considering he has endured several years of his two- and four-year old daughters being reared on the BBC children’s program In the Night Garden – in which Sir Derek is all of those qualities as a benign narrator!

Scott Handcock’s script is very clearly – and unashamedly – a “love letter” to Ridley Scott’s original Alien film (with a nod as well to its inferior prequel Prometheus). There are certainly parallels - a deep space exploration crew that (like the hapless members of the Nostromo) emerges from hypersleep; an ill-fated French-accented captain (played by Jacqueline King, formerly Sylvia Noble, Donna’s mother on TV!) with a name reminiscent of one of the Nostromo crew; an airlock sequence; a homicidal maniac; and a highly dangerous nascent creature that said maniac wants to exploit and weaponise.

Nonetheless, despite the lack of originality in the premise, Handcock still conveys an atmosphere of dread and impending doom, particularly through the emotionless, relaxed tones of Torchwood’s Tom Price (the former PC Andy Davidson). Price is the only other male voice in the serial – apart from Jacobi himself – and does an outstanding job of playing the ship’s computer Hugo, which is hijacked and reprogrammed by the Master. There is a cold and calculating manner to Hugo even as it maintains a veneer of cheery friendliness and helpfulness that strongly evokes the cold, emotionless candour of the title characters in the classic Tom Baker serial The Robots of Death.

The mostly female supporting cast is very good and highly convincing, even as it becomes clear that they are nowhere near as harmonious or altruistic as they seem. Indeed, some of them harbour hidden agendas that ultimately doom them all – and leave their flanks horribly exposed to the Master’s machinations.

It’s particularly effective that the Master is also sparingly used in the tale – indeed (although we as listeners know it has to be the Master), for River, all the hints point to an incarnation of the Doctor being present. The fact Jacobi has only half the airtime that his successor and predecessors have in the preceding instalments makes his performance all the more impressive.

Throughout this review, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m talking about a Master boxset and not a River Song one, given all the praise lavished on the four actors who play the Master/Missy. Nevertheless, Alex Kingston continues to impress as River Song, and clearly enjoys the broad quality of the scripts on offer, as well as the ability to work with Gomez, Beevers and Jacobi. The character clearly holds her own against three of these “masterly” incarnations – but is clearly unnerved by the War Master, who strikes a decisive blow against her colleagues.

Concealed Weapon, if it is not the best of the four serials, certainly runs second to The Bekdel Test as amongst the best offerings of this latest River Song boxset. Overall, the quality of all the serials is extremely high, with only The Lifeboat and the Deathboat perhaps being the weakest of the four (even then it’s still superior to quite a few of the serials in the earlier River boxsets). Indeed, this is probably the best of the five River Song boxsets to date – and it has been (dare I say) a “masterstroke” by BF to pair River with different incarnations of the Doctor’s greatest “frenemy”, and not just the classic Doctors.

It also acts as a great primer for the final Ravenous boxset at the end of this year, when all four of these incarnations will square off with Paul McGann’s Doctor (and presumably each other) as that story arc reaches its conclusion. For future River Song releases, it would still be great to see a few more stories in the vein of The Husbands of River Song (in which River gets up to mischief without the intervention of different versions of renegade Time Lords) but for the most part, River’s adventures have gone from strength to strength as they have combed the depths of Doctor Who’s rich history. Although I favour a more long-term approach, I wouldn’t say “no” to more rounds between River and Missy or the War Master – nor to Professor Song eventually crossing paths with John Simms’ Master, and even Alex Macqueen’s and James Dreyfuss’ portrayals. There is a rich seam still to be tapped!






The Diary of River Song – Series 4Bookmark and Share

Thursday, 29 November 2018 - Reviewed by Damian Christie
The Diary of River Song - Series 4
Written by Emma Reeves, Matt Fitton,
Donald McLeary and John Dorney
Produced by David Richardson
Directed by Ken Bentley
Big Finish Productions, 2018
Stars: Alex Kingston, Tom Baker, Fenella Woolgar, Adele Lynch, Josh Bolt, George Asprey, John Asbury,
Tim Bentinck, Nigel Anthony, Nathalie Buscombe

“You’re not Romana!”
“Oh, I am …”
“You’re not! I haven’t even met her yet!”
“You haven’t … What? But how do you know about her then?”
“Because you told me!”
“Me?”
“Yes, you! You’re not Romana. You’re Professor River Song! You’re my wife!”
“I’m …?”
“Hello, sweetie!”

The Fourth Doctor meets River Song

Having pitted River Song (Alex Kingston) in her “standalone” series against the so-called “Rulers of the Universe”, the Speravore hive, and most recently Madame Kovarian and the Furies (not to mention earlier incarnations of her husband), Big Finish has upped the stakes for the maverick archaeologist with a new, seemingly invincible villain.The Discordia are, according to one of their number, an anarchical time travelling race which filled the power vacuum in the aftermath of the Time War. Unlike the Time Lords or even the Daleks, the Discordia have absolutely no regard for the integrity of the space/time continuum, using their temporal powers to conquer their enemies and even absorb their strengths through a “widening of the gene pool”.

This includes taking on forms that exploit the superstitions of the races they subjugate – such as, in the case of humans, the clichéd appearance of the devil, complete with (much to River’s initial amusement) horns, red skin, cloven hooves, forked tails and pitch forks! However, as River discovers, the Discordia “embrace their villainy” with pride and have a tenacious quality which pushes even her to the brink …

The first of the four instalments in this boxset – Time in a Bottle – lays the groundwork for the Discordia quite effectively. River is pitted against an academic rival in Professor Jemima Still (Fenella Woolgar) and accompanies her on an expedition to Lipiria, a world which exists in a timeless vacuum. They are joined on their mission by a giant warrior ant called Gammarae (Adele Lynch) and a cyborg academic called Spod (Josh Bolt). River in turn believes a certain Time Lord may have been caught in this timeless state but as she discovers, appearances can be deceptive …

Woolgar’s Jemima is the perfect foil to Kingston’s River. It is refreshing to see River bested by a peer in archaeology. While River is by far the cockier and more self-assured of the two archaeologists, Jemima is shrewd and calculating beneath all her fussiness, bluster and insecurity.There’s also a sense (as Woolgar perfectly conveys) that Jemima resents River’s academic feats, glamorous demeanour, and constant swagger. What is perhaps less convincing about Jemima is her sudden change of heart and selflessness at the conclusion to the tale; it just doesn’t ring true, given she has partially set up the story’s chain of events in the first place.

The second serial Kings of Infinite Space (a title inspired by a quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) is quite literally a “run-around” tale – with River and her newfound companions on the run from the vengeful Melak (George Asprey) – and as a result it’s not necessarily all that effective for it.

Donald McLeary’s script is the weakest entry in this set – it feels like a retread of the 1965 Doctor Who serial The Chase (and indeed that adventure is acknowledged as an inspiration in the CD extras). River and her friends visit a range of strange times and places before there is a showdown in a deserted colony whose robot caretakers have been waiting thousands of years for humans to arrive (shades of the Mechanoids, anyone?).

The episode still has some memorable highlights, though, as Alex Kingston excels herself in dual roles – as River and a River android duplicate (which considers itself a few “percentiles sexier” than the original!). The android proves to be the perfect foil for Melak, and often gets the best dialogue and wisecracks – even better than River herself!

Special mention also goes to performer Ewan Bailey who employs a wide range of voices and accents to portray a string of hapless and villainous characters (his Rattis is simultaneously flamboyant and creepy).

The third instalment Whodunnit? also provides plenty of scope for Kingston to test her range. Once more adopting her private detective guise of Melody Malone, River is thrust into a murder mystery scenario reminiscent of the game Clue, in which a group of amateur sleuths and professional detectives are being murdered one by one on an estate. To add to the intrigue, legendary author Franz Kafka (Tim Bentinck) provides counsel for our heroine as she singlehandedly attempts to solve the mystery.

Whodunnit? is naturally a homage to the detective and crime noir genre, with the supporting characters very clearly based on other fictional investigators, eg Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Lord Peter Wimsey, Doctor Who’s own Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint, and even Scooby-Doo! However, it’s also very Kafka-esque in its execution, with many concepts in the tale inspired by Kafka’s great works, including The Metamorphosis, The Trial and The Castle. This peculiar blending of genres and sub-genres would be just plain confusing in less accomplished writing hands than the boxset’s script editor Matt Fitton but makes complete sense once River truly begins to appreciate the gravity of her situation.

The curiously titled Someone I Once Knew closes out the set, with Tom Baker’s Doctor completing River’s tour of all the surviving classic TV series Doctors in what are supposed to be her “solo” adventures. Scribe John Dorney, however, mischievously turns the concept of River meeting her husband’s incarnations in reverse order on its head.

On TV and in some of BF’s audio adventures, River is armed with plenty of future knowledge about the Doctor’s adventures; the further back she ventures down his time stream, the less knowledgeable he is about her. However, in this meeting, it’s the Doctor that is apparently armed with foreknowledge about his wife, particularly of events that she either hasn’t experienced or which lie in her personal future.

Kingston and Baker are a delight to hear on audio and it’s a pairing that probably deserves another team-up in the Big Finish range (albeit in the ongoing Fourth Doctor Adventures, not River’s own series). It’s as much a combination of Dorney’s dialogue as well as the artistes’ performances but there are some wonderful moments of humour between the two, as well as some heartening moments as the Fourth Doctor’s romantic side comes to the fore:

The Doctor: What was that thing you used to disable General Dante’s gun? I don’t approve of guns!
River: It wasn’t a gun – it was my sonic trowel!
The Doctor: A what? A trowel? Why you little Gertrude Jekyll, you, I didn’t notice you doing any gardening!
River: It’s a variation on your screwdriver!
The Doctor: In what way? My screwdriver is just a screwdriver!
River: At the moment it is! Let’s just say you go crazy with the optional upgrades! Look, can we save the marital for later on? I think we need to get away!
The Doctor: You’re probably right! Here we go – on the run, together, almost like old times!
River: Oh, new old times for me!
The Doctor: I’m delighted to be with you. There’s no where I’d rather be. Just the two of us – together as disaster swamps the universe!
River: Flatterer!
The Doctor: Oh, don’t lie! You adore it!

While the general trappings of this final serial are very much rooted in traditional science fiction – with the Doctor and River initially playing a temporal game of “cat and mouse” with the Discordia and the Doctor agitating the token rebels to strike back against their Discordia oppressors (“My dear, I am always with the rebels!”) – it also contains very strong undercurrents of love, loss and regret. These themes are personified in the Discordia’s stagnant Emperor (Nigel Anthony) and the villainous Dante (Nicholas Asbury) who has designs on both the imperial throne and River herself. Given the romantic air of the serial, the conclusion is consequently bittersweet. (Personally, I detest this type of resolution, which is a SF cliché – and tantamount to lazy writing – but given the level of selflessness that underpins it, I’m prepared to let it through to the keeper – and it’s pointless railing against it anyway!)

My major criticism of this set – which has little to do with the largely first-rate storytelling – is the actual voices of the Discordia. Generally, BF’s sound production values are excellent, regardless of the content. However, in a bid to make the Discordia sound powerful or frightening (or both), the chief antagonists’ voices have been so treated electronically that they sound like deep, almost unintelligible David Banks-style Cyberleaders – even though (considering all of the adaptations they will have made to their physiology through their conquest of time) there is no indication that all of the Discordia are cybernetically augmented.

By comparison, the voices of the other aliens that feature throughout the set are untreated. Adele Lynch’s Gammarae and even Fenella Woolgar’s Formidian Queen in Time in a Bottle portray the giant ant-like creatures with largely natural voices – but the two actors give their characters clipped, brisk tones (in manners that are meant to reflect the swift thinking of giant ants). In fact, Woolgar’s performance as the Queen is so different from her major role as Jemima Still that you don’t realise until the end credits that she in fact plays two characters.

Josh Bolt’s Spod has a treated electronic voice but it is also in a subtler vocal range than the Discordia. Some of the minor alien characters encountered in Kings of Infinite Space and Someone I Once Knew also speak in more natural, largely untreated tones than the Discordia. It implies that to make the “big bad” of this set seem so intimidating, the sound designers felt treating the voices would be effective (which hardly works when we meet plenty of dim-witted and obsequious Discordia!). Yet it is clear from my experience of watching and listening to a lot of SF over the years that it’s sometimes better to just let the actors’ natural voices prevail.

I also query why in the overall story arc the keynote villain is chopped and changed at the halfway mark. The Discordia are essentially personified by Sub-Captain Melak and General Dante who are so very similar in persona as to be the same character. Indeed, the enthusiasm of one of the villains for River would be more logical, convincing and interesting if he was the other antagonist (who at least shares a real, not contrived, history with River). But given neither adversary would have coped well with rebuttal, it’s debatable whether the saga would have played out any differently.

Series 4 of The Diary of River Song is an entertaining addition to River’s audio adventures and works all the better for limiting past Doctors’ involvement in the overall narrative (which has not been the case in some of the earlier sets, notably Series 2). We get to see River in charge of her own expedition, racing through time and space with two non-human companions and a vortex manipulator, and besting herself against the wild imagination of Franz Kafka.

Much like Doctor Who more broadly, River’s adventures are certainly not bereft of imagination. However, it would still be interesting to hear more of River’s exploits as an archaeologist (even after four volumes there have only been hints) rather than bogging her down in the continuity of meeting her husband in reverse order and multiple incarnations of the Master/Missy in the forthcoming Series 5 boxset.

 






The Diary of River Song - Series 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Diary of River Song: Series 3 (Credit: Big Finish)

Written By: Nev Fountain, Jacqueline Rayner, John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Alex Kingston (River Song), Frances Barber (Madame Kovarian), Peter Davison (The Doctor), Ian Conningham (Kevin / Rindle), Julia Hills (Sharon / Rindle), David Seddon (Mr Quisling / Tarn 2), Leighton Pugh (Lake 2 / Dave / Tarn), Sophia Carr-Gomm (Lily), Joanna Horton (Brooke), Issy Van Randwyck (Giulia), Rosanna Miles (Antoinette / Maid / Constanze), Teddy Kempner (Viktor / Mozart / Stefan / Apothecary), Jonathan Coote (Maitre D' / Chef / Assassin), Nina Toussaint-White (Brooke 2), Francesca Zoutewelle (H-One / H-Two / Mission Captain), Pippa Bennett-Warner (O / The Deterrent). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson
Script Editors Matt Fitton, John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

When Big Finish began their River Song series, I was initially quite excited. I had really warmed to the character, and so the idea of her living on for further adventures on audio, at a company that consistently releases entertaining stuff, thrilled me, to say the least.  But the first boxset actually left me quite indifferent to the idea of even listening to more. It wasn't bad, and it had Paul McGann in it...but it felt like it was missing something. In preparation for this review, I decided to give the second boxset a whirl, just in case it had some lingering plot thread I might need to fully understand this newest set...and I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I had the first set.  Maybe it was better plotting, a more engaging story, or if it was just the timey wimey Doctor crossings featuring both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors in the tales...but whatever it was I felt was missing from that first set, seemed rectified by Series 2.

Some SPOILERS may be ahead, as it would be somewhat impossible to talk about certain episodes without discussing plot revelations in earlier episodes.  Reader Beware!

So we come to this third box set of River Song adventures, and from the word go it is quite exciting.  The opening story, The Lady of the Lake is slightly intertwined with the Eleventh Doctor story A Good Man Goes To War, which was the episode that finally revealed just who River was. We find out here that River wasn't the only thing Madame Kovarian experimented on at Demon's Run, they also took River's DNA and created seven other Time Lord hybrid babies...basically River's own brothers and sisters...and she has to stop one of them that has gone a bit mad due to the mysteries of his regenerative nature.  It's an exciting opener, with lots of wonderful bits, character moments, and a tremendous pace.

The second story has the River playing companion to the Fifth Doctor, along with a previously unknown companion known as Brooke. They land in Vienna in the 18th Century and end up on the trail of murders and mystery...as things so often tend to go when you travel anywhere or anywhen with the Doctor.  It is basically a solid Fifth Doctor story, from the point of view of River Song.  The big reveal of this episode is that Brooke is not who she says she is when in the end she attempts to kill the Doctor. using the same means as the murders of the episode. River is able to save the Doctor, the question remains what to do with Brooke, and just who is she?. 

It is quite clear that the River Song series is taking it’s time travel shenanigans and story structures from the Eleventh Doctor era, and that is probably most evident in the third story in the set, My Dinner With Andrew which plays with time travel and hopping around more than most. it is a quite entertaining, though just like the Eleventh Doctor era it moves fast and sometimes needs a bit of relistening in order to get the full picture of what is going on. I rather liked this one, but I did find a few things hard to keep track of...such as which River is which, but ultimately it is a fun story with good performances from Kingston, Davison, and co. The story also brings back Madame Kovarian, and reveals that Brooke is, in fact, another DNA clone of River hoping to succeed in killing the Doctor...which she does, only his Fifth Incarnation.

The final episode of the set reveals that there are several other clones of River still alive, with Brooke being the favorite. Kovorian's plan seemingly succeeded, but killing the Doctor so early in his time stream has catastrophic results for her.  She begins to see ghosts and then becomes the target of a new radical faction that wants to destroy her, for just as her plan to kill the Doctor was meant to stop him from destroying the Universe, her killing of him ends up doing just that, so now she is seen as the cause of the Universe ending.  The episode is really, at its heart though, about River and her sisters.  Brooke has a taste for killing now, even killing one of her own sisters, and the sisters are all completely warped by Kovarian, can River somehow get them to come around against Kovarian and maybe undo the killing of the Doctor and thus save the universe? 

SPOILERS...the Doctor lives.  This should be surprising to no one that they haven't killed the Doctor off in his Fifth incarnation, the means about how he is saved is where the story is interesting though, and that I will not spoil.  This is a good box set, with a story and structure that heavily ties into the Eleventh Doctor's era of stories, any fan that enjoyed the time hopping and intricate plotting (and even major plot elements) that shaped that era of the series will probably find something to enjoy in this set. 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 31 Mar 2018
36% off
The Diary of River Song - Series 3