Audio When Apple updated their Music app, they expunged audiobooks and dumped them into iBooks on phones, pods and tablets. Unfortunately the process included a lot of guess work, which for me meant that my carefully curated collection of Eighth Doctor audio turned into rather a mess and the various sections of Dark Eyes 2 became muddled with the episode titles being reduced to list of "tracks" none of which were in the right order. The knock on effect of that was that even though I worked out which was supposed to be the first episode, I went straight into the third and for various reasons didn't realise for about twenty minutes, assuming the sudden appearance of Molly to be part of the bold storytelling reflected in the first. Luckily I realised in time so didn't end up listening to this lot in completely the wrong order.
Which is of course ironic since this bold storytelling involves the story being told in completely the wrong order. Heading into spoiler territory for people who haven't heard this, Dark Eyes 2 employs a clever ouroboros structure in which the Doctor's story climaxes, or just about climaxes at the end of the first episode and we then have to listen to the other three in order to discover why he makes what seems like a momentously out of character decision (although in some ways for anyone remembers the thematic underpinnings of Deimos and The Resurrection of Mars isn't out of character at all). When I do go back and relisten to this, which I plan to, Dark Eyes has that quality, it will include listening through this from two back to one again to see how that changes my attitude to the Doctor's attitude. Such storytelling isn't unknown in Who with Flip Flop as a key example.
Quick word about covers. On a few occasions just listening to the audios without looking at the covers has had an impact on how I listen to the episodes since some items which if you've looked at the covers are in no way revelations are just that, notably an amazing piece of casting in Eyes of the Master. Which I'm now going to spoil here too so look away before the next sentence. When he appeared in the actual television series and gave an interview to DWM it was pretty apparent that Frank Skinner was a fan and here he is before Mummy on the Orient Express in what must have been, as he thought, his one chance to be in Who. Best bit, especially in relation to this project? According to the making of, during the recording he was reading Mark Morris's The Bodysnatchers, which was only the third EDA and he was too shy to bring it to the recording to have it signed by McGann. Bless him.
Tonally, The Traitor is closer to how I imagined the first Dark Eyes would be, with the Doctor slightly weary revealing something of his predecessor's malevolence. Later episodes explain his mental state and his slightly more ambiguous attitude to the Daleks. The introduction of Liv Chenka is well handled and even having not heard her introductory story Robotopia, Nick Briggs's script and Nicola Walker's performance present us with rounded character and a complete, as I found out later, reintroduction. As with other recent adventures, Dark Eyes 2 is heavily networked into Big Finish's Who mythology but never to an extent that we feel like some of the narrative is missing, all the necessary exposition is here and carefully thought through. The cliffhanger is chilling, earning the familiar sting.
The White Room
The appearance from the Viyrans almost had me wondering if we'd get a Charley cameo and a final resolution between those two, although given how packed these four episodes are already, putting such a momentous piece of drama at the fringes of this would have been a waste. Alan Barnes's script is mainly a chance to see what a Molly story would be like without there being a wider context though and of all the episodes this is the most "stand alone" albeit with some set up for the Eye of the Master. Perhaps the most significant moment is when the Doctor says he has "no money, no country, no family and no friends" which is either him lying or a notice that he's trying not to get attached to anything anymore because of what it can do to him psychologically, a bit like soldiers who go to war not wanting to know too much about their colleagues so that they won't grieve when they're gone.
There are always special moments in any drama, especially Doctor Who, when you're almost giddy with delight at how clever the writers have been irrespective of suspension of disbelief and the discovery of the Doctor and Liv appearing at different points in each other's lives but with the added confusion for the Doctor that they've already met but under different circumstances as a different incarnation doubly impressive. Yes, it's a more simplistic version of his relationship with River Song and he quickly cottons on the ruse, but within the context of this story, it's fascinating. Unlike River, Iris or Bernice for that matter, there's a reality to Liv, I hesitate to say reality, which is reflection of the experiences she's had with the Daleks and life in general. She's not easily impressed with the Doctor's life which makes her one of his more compelling associates,
Eyes of the Master
Given that this is the first "recorded" meeting between the Doctor and the Master since the TV Movie, the tendency might have been to make more of them crossing paths but given that they've already bumped into each other in the novels and comics and also that the Master's own timeline is a tangled mess, writer Matt Fritton quite rightly decides to go with the "You again" and "I might have known" approach whilst referring to the evil genius's recent run in with Seventh in a boxed set I haven't heard. In constructing the semi-conclusion to the story, the writers (because this is a joint effort) have decided to go small, effectively ending this series with a zombie battle albeit with big expositional ideas introduced through the Master. It's now becoming clear that what Dark Eyes is actually a sixteen episode story arc in the manner of the novels and I can't wait to hear where it goes next. Eight episodes to go.