Tuesday 31 January 2017


Two words to begin this review. Can you guess what they are? What other words are appropriate  to welcome back her of the magnificent hair apart from “Hello Sweetie”:
Right, I got that out of my system, thanks for bearing with me, but River Song – well she is rather special to me, from her debut in the Library through to Twelve taking her to the towers of Darillium I have found her a fascinating, intriguing and engaging character (with magnificent hair) – a tragic heroine for the ages, an impossible woman doomed by her love of but blessed by her love from The Doctor – basically I can never have too many River Song stories and when this set was announced I was suitably intrigued – River with not one but TWO Doctor’s – how would Professor Song get on with Old Sixie (Colin Baker) and Seven (Sylvester McCoy) and how would the very fragile and very very complicated web of her life be maintained? Well dear reader, read on.
This box set is a little bit complicated – it deals with a lot of high concept Sci-Fi elements lots of what the Moffat era has deemed “timey-wimey” while still maintaining  enough heart and soul to make me well up on several occasions and there is a very very funny in joke that I was hoping would get a mention in the fourth story “The Eye of the Storm” – because thats what this set is really its a storm, on a cosmic and a personal scale, certainties are ripped apart by a maelstrom of coincidence, the larger picture then effects ordinary everyday people as the stage is set for a storm to end all storms. One River, Two Doctors – who could possible want more??? And it all begins with a spaceship…
2.1 The Unknown by Guy Adams
On the spaceship Saturnius River Song and the rest of the crew including Maddie Bower (Anna Maxwell Martin), Ellen Byrne (Gemma Saunders) & Robert Murphy (Justin Avoth) are investigating a phenomena that has appeared in Earth’s Solar System and they are stuck, cannot go backwards or forwards just stuck in its thrall – lucky there is a stowaway on board in the shape of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). What a way to start it complex, its intriguing and it is very very dreamlike with characters misremembering the most simple things about themselves as the effects of the phenomena accelerate. River and Seven, how does it work, how are they together? Well to quote Miss Song “spoilers” but they definitely have a spark, not as strong or romantic as with 10,11 or 12 more of a respect. The story has the feeling of a sci-fi disaster movie with added paradoxes and is a rip roaring beginning to the set.
2.2 Five Twenty-Nine by John Dorney
Now this is rather special. Very special indeed. After the fast paced beginning the pace is rolled back to what can only be called “sedate” and yet there is a sense of urgency, something in the air, something about to happen, something awful, something heartbreaking and something final and it is going to happen at Five Twenty-Nine.
River arrives alone on an island investigating this phenomenon and is taken in by Emmett Burrows (Robert Pugh), his wife Lisa Burrows (Ann Bell) and their synthetic daughter Rachel (played by real life daughter of Alex Kingston – Salome Heartel) – this is the future, but the only real sci-fi element is Rachel – Emmett & Lisa live a simple life as sheep farmers on an island where they get on with living. And then reports come in of the world losing communication with the USA as a wave of nothingness travels from time zone to time zone on the earth arriving in each at Five Twenty-Nine. This is heartbreaking, its beautiful and it is a wonderful story about the love of an ordinary couple. I was reminded of the writing of Raymond Briggs, ordinary people, awful circumstances and no apparent way out. The highlight of the set.
2.3 World Enough and Time by James Goss
Having met Seven in the opening story it is now time for River to bump in to the force of nature that is Old SIxie. But Old Sixie here is masquerading as Managing Director of Golden Futures and  has a growing number of unanswered emails to cope with, and the he spots a beautiful lady with magnificent hair in his typing pool and his hearts so full of bombast and verbosity melt. Yes indeed Old Sixie is smitten with River & she is VERY keen on him. Old Sixie and River really sizzle together as they investigate the goings on at Golden Futures. Very much a “buddy-movie” style story as Old Sixie and River investigate and discover a conspiracy linked in not only to the first two episodes but to the actual end of the world. And the root of it all in money, greed, profit and an audacious plan to use the Doctor’s potential future as a source of energy AND then there is project Elysium but any more would be #Spoilers so thats all you are getting!
2.4 The Eye of the Storm by Matt Fitton
I do like a good joke and I am so glad what went on in my mind was paid off in the last scene before the credits. Anyhow, no more on that for the moment on to the final instalment. A Storm is coming, the worst storm in Earth’s history, the great storm of 1703 – thing is this storm may herald the end of the world. So far we have had River & 7, River solo & River & Old Sixie – in this finale we have River, 7 & Old Sixie all at once at a temporal nexus point – all apparently working for the same ends from different perspectives and getting their wires crossed. And the eye of the storm are a young couple called Isaac George (Paul Keating) & Sarah Dean (Jessie Buckley) and their love for one another may (or may not) cause history to be fractured forever. It is a very very complicated script, but it is humanised by some exceptional characterisation (and a very funny in joke) River shows herself as more astute than either of the Doctor’s in knowing the only way out of the situation and the price that must be paid for the correct outcome.
A melancholy ending with a smitten Old SIxie, an intrigued Seven, and a loose end from Five Twenty-Nine tied up very nicely indeed.
I didn’t think I could be any more of a fan of River than I already was – but this set adds so much to her character, her romance with Old Sixie, her trying to outsmart Seven, her humanity in trying to do the right thing for the Burrows family even though she knows it is futile – her poetry, her understanding of the power of a love so strong that it transcends time and space. And also the magnificent hair, never forget the magnificent hair :-) I know this was released in 2016, but this box set is my first review of 2017 & has already set the bar exceptionally high and is one heck of a ride. So as I award this 10/10 I will leave the final words to the lady herself as you anticipate listening to the series:

Written by Ed Watkinson

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