This review will not be the usual attempt to summarise an entire story; such a task is difficult without attempting to create a linear timeline of events. Therefore, here are my first impressions and conclusions on Dark Eyes 4 to allow you to judge for yourself. Please note, I will make reference to Dark Eyes 1, 2 and 3, but will try to keep spoilers to a minimum.
4.1 A life in the day
(The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Alex Macqueen (The Master), Barnaby Kay (Martin Donaldson), Rachael Stirling (Adelaine Dutemps), Sorcha Cusack (Mary), Dan Starkey (The Sontarans), Susannah Harker (Anya), David Sibley (The Eminence), Beth Chalmers (Kitty Donaldson), Charlie Norfolk (The Woman), Derek Hutchinson (Usher), Alex Wyndham (Thug), Blake Ritson (Barman), Camilla Power (Receptionist/Mademoiselle), John Dorney (Android), with Nicholas Briggs (The Daleks)
The plot of this initial episode keeps you guessing throughout, with the cast performing admirably, dropping subtle clues to the situation. It’s hard to see how this whole adventure fits into the rest of the story, but it works as a standalone adventure in its own right. The action sequences are well handled, with the transitions between multiple locations being smooth and not interrupting the flow of the story.
4.2 The Monster of Montmartre
Those familiar with Dark Eyes’ intricate plotline will be able to find one important link to the rest of the saga even in the opening to this story. However, things take on much higher stakes for The Doctor and Liv as the mysteries surrounding Paris’ latest new attraction unfolds. The cast again performs well, with McGann and Briggs emotion-fuelled conversations as glimpsed in the trailer being worthy of note. The score of the last few action packed scenes builds to a crescendo to encompass a final reveal. Whilst it was expected, due to the cast list, trailers and the events of the series overall, it was well executed and did not seem clichéd.
4.3 Master of the Daleks
The opening of this story is humorous for reasons that I will not spoil. The dialog between Liv and The Master is also comedic at points, whilst showing this Time Lord’s confidence as to the grasp of the situation. References to the events of Dark Eyes 3, which are not entirely elaborated on (possibly so as not to confuse people getting into the story) are made here, with humour still being used in The Master’s dialog. There are also new series references, which whilst possibly not directly intended, make for good fan service for those familiar with the revival era. The Daleks are voiced with their usual levels of ruthlessness by Briggs, with the Dalek time controller’s softly spoken tones harkening back to the manipulative schemes of Davros.
4.4 The Eye of Darkness.
The most noticeable thing about this story is the opening sequence. Rather, the fact that it doesn’t have one. The unidentified announcer in the first scene post-introduction is reminiscent of the Drudger from Dalek Empire or The Sirens of time. Again, the events of Dark Eyes 3 are referenced, with the actions of a certain Professor Markus Schriver being of particular note. Nick Briggs makes a cameo as a medical assistant, similar to Stan Lee in the Marvel films – if you weren’t listening for it you might not notice it. The splitting up of characters works well, with events taking a turn for the worse, but signified in a rather unexpected way. Briggs again plays the role of the time controller with skill, portraying the maniacal desperation and pain as this leader tries to get what he wants; domination of all of time. The Doctor and Schriver’s wordplay being cut short by the least likely of arrivals is surprising, tinged with a sense that this is definitely not the last large-scale event to occur before the story ends. This theory is confirmed as events draw to a close with a twist that, whilst being a shocking one, in its own unique way was not wholly unexpected.
The score throughout the entire boxset was well produced, not rising too far above the actors’ dialogue. The sound design was, as has been the case with the past 3 interlinking Dark Eyes box sets, of a cinematic quality. The casts of all four stories performed well, with no need for visual aids to convey the emotions that bring these characters to life.
It is still unclear how the opening Story, “A Life in the Day
”, ties in to the following episodes, although I do have a theory. However, I will refrain from elucidating on this as it could spoil important elements of plot. Regardless of this relatively trivial fact, I would suggest anyone wanting to gain the full experience to start with Dark Eyes 1, 2 and 3 first in order to understand the plot and see the linking references as they appear. However, in saying that, Doctor Who is one of those rare instances where episodes or story arcs could, hypothetically, be listened to or viewed in an incorrect order and have events still make some degree of sense. Therefore, for those who are feeling adventurous it may be possible to listen to this well put together collection of stories first, returning to the remainder of the saga afterwards to see the relevance of prior events. However, I would advise the former approach (listening to all the sets in order) for coherence’s sake.
This is a fitting end to what has been a saga full of memorable moments. In spite of the events of all four box sets, one question remains: what’s next for The Doctor? According to the announcement at Big Finish Day 6, we’ll find the answer to that question and possibly others in Doctor Who - Doom Coalition