Audio Done. It's just over ten years since I posted a review of Gary Russell's novelisation of the TV movie with the Pertwee logo to Behind The Sofa (also now hosted on this blog) and now I'm finally caught up with the continuing adventures of the Eighth Doctor. Admittedly, as I said the other day, there's still a smattering of short stories, some comics and the odd audio (so I'll still be posting reviews for completists sake), but in terms of the main trunk of publications I'll now be listening at the same rate as everyone else. Before you start talking about Night of the Doctor, I don't think it's really relevant unless Big Finish decide they're going to work towards it and that doesn't look like it's happening soon, instead favouring an approach of populating the Eighth Doctor's Time War period as a kind of separate era. Despite the Doom Coalition, it has to be at the back of their minds to do a box at some point set in that period. But then I still hold out hope for a resolution to the way he left it with Charley Pollard ...
A Life in the Day
One of the greatest hours Big Finish has ever recorded. If there's something I've missed in the Dark Eyes mission approach to narrative, it is the rather more classical form stories in which the Doctor and his companion land and have to deal with whatever's thrown at them (desperate as I am for the return of Eighth to the main releases), so it's rather nice to have a version of that, albeit linked to his search for Molly O. Writer John Dorney also intelligently writes to character, so while the Doctor's investigating, we have Liv discovering her deep past in a rather sweet romance with Kitty's brother. She's a weary figure, still shell shocked by her run in with the Daleks and then the Master so what seems like her first genuine laugh, at a Buster Keaton film of course, is genuinely poignant, instinctively captured by Nicola Walker. It's only later that I discovered she was married to Barnaby Kay who plays, Martin her date and the centre of the drama.
The Monster of Montmartre
Moulin Rouge! meets the Daleks is a killer premise and writer Matt Fritton makes the most of it, although I'll admit there's a moment when I was slightly disappointed when I was reminded that the story wouldn't resolve itself here and would lead into the rest of the story arc. You could well imagine a version which is about the Doctor trying to convince the spouse that their domestic arrangement will ultimately lead to death and destruction which of course it does. Rachel Stirling makes a welcome return to the audios after The Crimson Horror on television and arguably even more brilliant (and sonically unrecognisable) as the brilliantly named Demesne Furze in the Fourth Doctor story Trail of the White Worm which features the Geoffrey Beavers version of the Master. Why couldn't we have had that incarnation of the Master? Nope, still not a fan of the MacQueen version which makes ...
Master of the Daleks
... a difficult listen in places. The Eighth Doctor has amnesia again for part of this story and doesn't do much other than blunder about only partially being able to recognise the Daleks before sleeping. But my fiscal discussion in regards to The Death of Hope is less relevant here because John Dorney's script is so much fun with its embrace of the alternative history genre and the mighty Dan Starkey playing every Sontaran and somehow managing to make them all sound distinctive and often very funny. Just as Nick Briggs is an expert in Dalek voices, Starkey knows his Sontarans, and I remember seeing a clip of him during the anniversary year perfectly mimicking the voices of the various television versions from across the years. Clearly the best part of this hour's when they're called upon to battle each other, notably when Starkey allows a newly birthed Sontaran go full Strax entirely unphased by the killing machine that's about exterminate him.
Eye of Darkness
Like I said, done. In the unusual position of having to carry not just the completion of this boxed set but the whole of Dark Eyes, there's a lot of business to attend to and on those terms I'm not sure it succeeds. Sorry. If the series was supposed to be about anything, it was about giving the Eighth Doctor back some of his hope after the death of Lucie and although I enjoy nihilistic storytelling as much as the next film studies graduate, to essentially end the next run of stories with a similar dilemma and in a similar way is really quite disappointing. Whilst I appreciate the need to move on and reinvent characters, do they always have to (sorry) embrace the darkness? Dark Eyes has had its moments, sometimes episodes in length, but I probably would have prefered it to have ended with the original box, the notion of that being its own era and then moved on, having never really enjoyed the overall story or some of the characters. But as we saw with the Lucie run appearing out of the wreckage of the Divergent Universe, this is a franchise that keeps bouncing back. The Doctor is nearly smiling on the cover of Doom Coalition. So anything's possible.