Audio The Eighth Doctor's third chronological audio era continues (there now being four thanks to the Time War). Although there's a new umbrella title, the Doom Coalition is very much of a piece with Dark Eyes at least in continuity terms with Liv Chenka continuing as companion and the Doctor still wearing his Weta-created leather jacket, highlighted by both the cover and a moment when we actually hear it crackle as he puts it on. I like to imagine Paul McGann actually wearing the thing in the studio during the recording to get into character. Tonally there is a slight shift with Eighth in much brighter, adventurous mood in a way which is analogous to Capaldi's first two television series and there's a genuine sense of wanting to return to something of the earlier eras with a more stand alone approach to the narrative with each of the episodes apparently deliberately paying homage to a style of Who story, the Gallifreyan conspiracy, alien invasion, celebrity historical and revolution.
Die Hard on Gallifrey. It's a notably odd choice to dive straight back into manic Time Lords after Dark Eyes, but The Eleven is a significantly different enough creation for the deja vu to be minimal and there's some bold storytelling choices right up front designed to surprise the listener as should always be the case. It is a pleasure to hear the Eighth Doctor close to being his old self again, the "with Charley" man of the lighter, funnier touch without the overwhelming darkness and McGann is enjoying playing the complexity. It's also fun to hear Nicola Walker slipping into playing Liv as the more standard companion role with less of her tragedy, embracing the adventure. Big Finish have begun to link the continuities in earnest with reference here to the "Omega Arsenal" also home to The Moment from The Day of the Doctor. There's only one or two obvious things I'd want to criticise or the very least question but I'll reserve judgement until I've heard the whole story. Just in case.
The Red Lady.
Hello Helen! Straight into an old school Eighth Doctor jape which wouldn't have been out of place in any of his earlier eras, with lots of funny business related to bluffing his way into museums and confidences in order to investigate the presence of the titular presence in numerous artifacts. Having had my various issues with Dark Eyes in its later series, Doom Coalition is setting out its stall as being closer to the television iteration with an umbrellas story thrumming away in the background linking episodes with their internal narrative motor. There's a genuine attempt to seek a different, lighter tone for the Eighth Doctor, bring him back to earlier values. Helen's in the mould of Liz Shaw or Anji Kapoor. She doesn't really need to travel in the TARDIS, she's a professional woman, a translator of old texts, in her own right, albeit having to deal with the sexism of 60s academia (one scene is purposefully teeth chewing in that regard). It'll be interesting as the series unfolds to see if the Doctor had an ulterior motive in choosing her.
The Galileo Trap
One of the elements of the Doctor's life which the Moffat era of the television series has been keen to explore is the idea of him essentially being friends with prominent intelligent people across history with them being entirely aware of who he is and how he might appear to them in different ways, notably in the case of Churchill. Here we have Galileo, played with fiery irony by John Woodvine, knowing the Doctor well enough as to want to warn him not to visit him in this era. But this being Doctor Who, we know that their previous meeting was with the Time Lord in his first incarnation during The Empire of Glass and though it's entirely possibly to grasp the structure of their friendship, the Eighth not being the man he was expecting, having read that novel or heard the audiobook inevitably deepens the listening experience. One of my disappointments about The Shakespeare Code will always be that it was too early in the revival's emergence to make the most of their history.
The Satanic Mill
Who is Edward Collier, the author of The Satanic Mill? The TARDIS Databank has scant information and googling his name reveals the Dutch painter, the English Buccanear and a Guardian cif profile for a musician. I'm just curious because it's unusual for Big Finish to give such a prestigious slot to a first timer and then for them to produce something which captures the Eighth Doctor's temperament so well and also pointedly seems to be referencing the classic series in how it splits the Doctor from his companions who independently discover an exploited world and decide to overthrow it, with the latter then threatened with death unless the former does something against the grain. As finales go, it feels like more of a pause, with a hint to some greater adversary than The Eleven who has something more disastrous than the destruction of time itself in mind. Is the upcoming 2017 (2017!) Time War boxed set going to be the direct sequel to Doom Coalition?