Starring David Tennant, Alex Kingston, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Mina Anwar, Sam Benjamin, Timothy Bentinck, Joe Jameson, Barnaby Kay, Glen McCready, Anjli Mohindra, Joe Sims, Emma Swan
Written by James Goss, Lizzie Hopley, and Jonathan Morris
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released by Big Finish - November 2020
River Song made her debut on TV alongside David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, but the two-parter in which he first meets her (but as we all know is not when she first met him) would be their only adventure together. Tennant left the role not long after, and the bulk of her adventures under showrunner Steven Moffat would be with the Eleventh Doctor (and a single adventure with the Twelfth as well). Of course, her whirlwind timey-wimey adventures with the Doctor have now extended beyond TV and even without the Doctor, as she leads her own series on Big Finish. But the stars have finally aligned, and now we get a boxset exploring the Tenth Doctor and River together. This is basically the early days of the two having any sort of adventures together. She is very familiar with him, but he still has no idea who she is, or how he should feel about this alleged friend from his future.
This dynamic is perfectly explored in the opening adventure Expiry Date, in which the Doctor is basically trying like hell to avoid getting sucked into any of River’s misadventures. The bulk of this story is told via letters between the two, as she tries to coax him into some shady sound scheme, and he writes back continually declining. Unfortunately, some of her letters end up mixed up, and her plan to get the Doctor to be more interested backfires when the Fifth Doctor ends up slightly obsessed with her. This is a fun and light comedy to launch the set with, with both Kingston and Tennant chewing it up. They have few moments actually together here, but the idea that the Doctor is trying to avoid the friendship developing makes so much sense from his point of view. Hell even the first time she appeared alongside the Eleventh Doctor he initially tried to avoid falling into her plans.
The second story, Precious Annihilation, feels like the weak link of the set. It isn’t a total waste of time, but I did find myself less interested in the overall story. That said, Tennant and Kingston play well off each other, and I would happily listen to more adventures exploring this dynamic because even in this mediocre story, they are a fun pair together.
The set closes out with Ghosts. The Doctor is summoned by River to a planet full of ghosts, or are they just holograms...and there is a mist that is somehow killing everyone and turning them into ghosts. Although I don’t want to get too deep into it, as to not spoil the fun, I rather enjoyed the concepts in this one. I felt it built up nicely and had a satisfying end, with a lot of neat ideas scattered throughout.
I must say this is a part of River’s story I have long wanted to explore just a little bit. It is very clear that while her Doctor is very much the Eleventh when she saw the Tenth Doctor she had clearly spent time with him. Had Tennant stayed on for even a single year when Moffat took over and the River storyline could really unfold, we may have had a chance to see that. But as it was, we only had that one adventure between the two, and only seeing her ending with the Tenth Doctor feels like we are missing a crucial part of the story, his earliest encounters with her, her final encounters with him, and knowing that when she is saying goodbye to him, she knew that face well. I like getting a taste of it...here is hoping for more.