Audio Hmm. What to make of The Eminence? The idea that at some point in the future of this fictional universe everything will recede to be replaced by this single entity is evocative and might even explain who's knocking on the door of Orson Pink's craft in Listen. But it's also inherently the kind of idea which would be fine in a single story, like the evil from beyond time in The Satan Pit or the mad computer inadvertently created by the Doctor in time for The Face of Evil, but loses interested when pressed into service as it is here as kind of "not Daleks" in the Mechanoid mould (somewhat due to Nick Briggs's unavailability) in what also feels like Big Finish's attempt to create their own Time War or War in Heaven to play about in, ironically just as they were on the edge of licensing the new series. The Death of Hope even paraphrases the Doctor's own description of fighting on the fringes of that later conflict, helping where he can without getting directly involved. It's fair to say with this as the secondary antagonist and as you'll see a primary antagonist I found unbearable, I was less than impressed with the joyless exercise that is Dark Eyes 3.
The Death of Hope
Part of the problem is that I simply don't like this incarnation of the Master as played by Alistair MacQueen. You're not supposed to like the Master, but as with any villain you should at least be able to tolerate their presence, but between his prosaic sentence structure and MacQueen's enunciating delivery, I find him very difficult to listen to. Which is an especial problem in this opening installment in which we essentially hear the Doctor Mystery Science Theatre 3000 an installment of a non-existent spin-off series for his foe. On the one hand this is as bold a choice as the opening episode of Dark Eyes 2, but at a certain point in here, I began to think about the fiscal implications. Having spent £5 on an episode of Doctor Who starring Paul McGann (one quarter of the overall cost), I'd quite like actually hear him do something. If I'd paid current the full cd price of £40 for Dark Eyes 3, that would have been a whole £10 to listen to a Doctor-lite episode.
The best episode of the set, mostly due to a pretty sneaky twist at the end and some of the sound design. Otherwise this is a heavy handed allegory about colonization, imperialism and negotiation and as anyone with long memories will remember from my initial reaction to Planet of the Ood, I generally don't like being preached to. Neither of the groups of inhabitants of the planet Ramosa raise themselves above generic and about the only real draw are the interactions between Liv and the Doctor which really are unlike anything else we've heard in these Eighth Doctor audios, she being someone who needs saving psychologically more than anything else, to go through much the same process he does. Some notable casting - it's Sacha Dhawan who was so brilliant as Waris Hussein in An Adventure in Space and Time. Can I suggest once again if not Romola Garai, why not him?
Let's quickly run down the treatment of the primary female characters in Dark Eyes 3. Spoilers ahead (duh..). Molly is hypnotised and drugged for much of the duration and essentially a macguffin and no Ruth Bradley's availability isn't an excuse. She spends all of this episode in a box. Dr Sally Armstrong who seemed like a promising friend to the Doctor in Dark Eyes 1, is hypnotised by one madman to do his bidding and eventually dies horribly having had her brain sucked out by another. Liv Chenka who spends much of the duration thinking she's going to die from radiation poisoning, not telling the Doctor this until it becomes a useful motivational tool for him, kidnapped, forced to nursemaid Molly, also hypnotised. Pretty much every female character is hypnotised, drugged or brainwashed at some point. Admittedly Doctor Who's often failed to distinguish itself in this area, and a lot of male characters come of badly too, but it's especially notable in Dark Eyes 3.
Rule of the Eminence
In which everything ends with a chronological dry run for elements of three Russell T Davies season finales, all of which were of course produced years before. The Master hypnotises the entirety of humanity to do his bidding in a similar fashion to becoming the whole of humanity in The End of Time (whilst bluffing the Doctor and I suppose us with a false version of the Saxon ruse from The Sound of Drums). Molly's dispatched in a similar way to Donna in Journey's End (and yes, ok Jamie and Zoe in The War Games). Perhaps, just like the Daleks who essentially repeated their planetary weapon strategy from The Daleks Invasion and Earth over and over, the Master is later simply having another go at these approaches. One must be cautious about ticking off (literally in this case) Doctor Who stories for their familiarity, much of its fifty-odd years are variations on a theme, but... Oh well, four episodes to go.