Friday 30 September 2016


If only the TV series was THIS good will be a recurring theme of this review. Because this set is better than anything broadcast on TV under the name of Doctor Who since at least new years day 2010 – Big Finish really have captured the sense of epic, of tragic, of moving and of characterful that has been sadly lacking since Messers RTD & Tennant left the building.
 So the third box set in the Doom Coalition saga and this series just gets better and better. I think there must be some sort of equation that proves that the more time Doctor number 8 spends with River Song then the better the adventure – because in this series of stories Doctor number 8 finally gets to meet River Song. But wait wasn’t the Library the first time that the Doctor met River? Well yes it was and a very big SPOILERS to everyone as the way that 8 and River meet is so simple and so effective that it allows them to adventure together keeping the future intact.
 As always I get ahead of myself – whereas the previous two Doom Coalition releases have dealt with the character of “the Eleven” – this delves a little deeper into the coalition itself and the various miscreants that make it up – chief amongst these is The Clocksmith (Nicholas Woodeson) a deranged time-lord artist who created “The Doomsday Clock” and with the mention of that artefact so the plot begin. Imagine there was a clock that predicted the end of everything, that predicted the actual time, date and coordinates of literally the end of the universe – well that is what the Clocksmith has created – and Doom Coalition 3 follows the repercussions of that creation backwards and forwards through earths history and to a dark and desperate future. But to begin with things start off a little more small scale, in fact very small scale on Earth, England 1998……
 3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney
 There I am building up an epic to end all epics and then to begin with we get this. And it is magnificent. Truly magnificent. Because it really isn’t the sort of story you think it is going to be. At all. The Doctor, Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) & Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) arrive in England in 1998, thing is The Doctor was trying to get to Gallifrey & the TARDIS has been drawn off course by an anomaly. As Liv & The Doctor investigate the new mobile telephone mast, mysterious phone calls & creepy “Supervill” corporation running the mobile network, Helen decides that 1998 is not too far in time from 1963 and seeks out any surviving members of her family in London. Its a story about loss, about family and about regret, its beautifully acted and written and the tone is perfect – it sets you up to expect a Pertwee style season opener and instead presents us with an RTD era tear jerker. Magnificent.
 3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton
 Tracking the mysterious “Eighth Piece of the clock to the past and the future of Earth, The Doctor goes to Tudor England leaving Liv in Prague a century earlier & Helen in contemporary Italy. And then there is River Song (Alex Kingston) complete with Nun outfit, “psychic wimple” and sassy comments. On TV this would be your standard “timey-wimey” episode – but Big Finish are better than that, all the timezones fit together perfectly with cause and effect being just that – what happens in Prague has an effect on the future. The Doctor meets Thomas Cromwell (John Shrapnell) and is imprisoned in the Tower of London in his search for the missing piece of the clock where Liv and River confront the deranged Clocksmith. Helen has a very interesting meeting at a Rome museum in 2016 with the almost complete clock and its fanatical Professor….
And we are back to cause and effect as the cliffhanger is a perfect example of how history is inevitable. Edge of your seat stuff, the plot thickens and the tension builds….
 3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton
 Is this episode a cheat? No, I don’t think so. Yes it shows us things that have happened previously that we were not privy to, but that is definitely not cheating, simply put its another intricate piece in this fascinating puzzle box of a story. Teaming Helen up with River is a great move letting Helen experience History as they trace the history of the Doomsday clock and the cult that protect its secrets – we also have the Doctor teamed up with the alien queen Risolva (Janie Dee) leader of the puzzle box style clockwork robots that have been hunting down him and his companions since last episode. And then there is Octavian (Tim McMullan) the Monk from the Tudor era about to play his part in proceedings. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming into place – the endgame is approaching and not everyone will be the same after this episode….
 3.4. The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney
 In the words of River Song “Spoilers” because there isn’t really a lot I can say about this one without spoiling the plot completely, so I will tread carefully. It features Gallifrey, the end of the universe, and a further addition (or two) to the Doom Coalition. And its epic, stupendously so – think The Stolen Earth meets The Avengers Assemble and you get the idea – the gangs all here and the universe is going to hell and there really is nothing that The Doctor can do about it. John Dorney has played with our expiations not once but twice in this set and all I can say is this WILL leave you gasping for breath and shouting “NOOOO” at the ending and counting the hours until March 2017.
 If only the TV show were THIS good – because this is feature film blockbuster good, but not only that it has a human side, people get hurt and listening to them get hurt is painful to the listener – because Messers Dorney & Litton have made even the smallest characters important and imbued them with enough character to make the listener care. And then there is Paul McGann & Alex Kingston – total chemistry, they sizzle and zing and riff off each other like they were made to be together. This set has everything, drama, heartbreak, an aeon spanning conspiracy & a universe that really is in peril. Betrayal, loss, bravery and, well “spoilers” if I were to say any more. A stunning box set, utterly stunning – Doctor Who as it should be, ticking all the boxes and THEN leaving the audience wanting more. And I couldn’t really ask for any more than that. As my review clock counts down to its final score, I can do it no greater honour than awarding it 10/10.

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