Audio Huh. Doom Coalition 2's a strange listen. For all the introduction of the newer much greater adversary, the return of the Eleven and River Song, it feels inessential, a group of episodes which exists because it's time for some more Eighth Doctor adventures, rather than because there are any especially interesting stories to tell. They're fine, none of them are utterly horrible, but in places the narrative is either a bit manic and incoherent and in others stretched out. The treatment of the companions doesn't help; for the first time in ages neither seems to have a connection to the wider arc, Liv somewhat in the Fitz Kreiner mode of being around because she is and Helen being rather too generic to be dynamic, both of their back stories having been fully explored in previous adventures (though both actresses are entirely listenable and funny). Certainly there's nothing here which captures the heights of the glory days, the Charley years or the Lucie stories. This month's DWM is more positive, especially about the earlier episodes, but even their writer spends a lot of time talking about the calibre of the cast. Perhaps once Doom Coalition 3's released we'll have a clearer idea of how these fit into the wider tale.
During his interview on the making of documentary, writer Nick Briggs struggles to explain what's so great about the Voord, using the words "classic monsters" because in fact there's nothing great about the Voord. Admittedly the BDSM update on the cd cover gives cosplayers new lines of enquiry, but even in The Keys of Marinus they're just sort of there, a placeholder for the humanoid soldier type antagonist hole which would later be filled with the Cybermen (literally in fact depending on which comic strip you've been reading). Which means their resurrection doesn't have quite the same delight cache as perhaps the Nimon or the Macra, at least for me, so when their plans unfold, especially on audio, what you're left with is having to listen to half the cast sounding as though they have a bucket on their head whilst outlining their nefarious plans. Beachhead otherwise is fine. It doesn't have the opening bang of some of these boxed sets, but if you decide it's more like episode five in a much longer series akin to an early With Lucie story, then you become more sympathetic. Hopefully they'll return to the idea of one of the Third Doctor's non-adventures when there's more duration to do it justice.
Scenes From Her Life
Something which I've often pondered is the extent to which the TARDIS or at least the Doctor's TARDIS stops being a magical vehicle when we know that there are hundreds if not thousands of similar vehicles in existence. As well as the various models which have appeared on television owned by various other Time Lords, in the spin-offs we've seen Battle TARDIS some the size of freighters on the outside, sentient humanoid TARDISes (Compassion notably) and now we have one which is bigger on the outside, the sections usually hidden behind the gateway spread across the time vortex like the intestines of a Tyburn victim after a good quartering. My guess is that it depends how it's treated in the narrative. Have Jenna Coleman's giant watery eyes gazing at the interior and Murray Gold giving twangly voice to Clara's theme and it's something pretty bloody special. Make it effectively an intergalactic taxi cab as it so often became in the classic series, not so much. That said, the TARDIS city encountered here is wonderful and would certainly be less so if the television series had attempted something similar in CGI. Once again audio provides us with some something indescribable and leaves us to conjure the images.
"Zagreus sits inside your head, / Zagreus lives among the dead, / Zagreus sees you in your bed, / And eats you when you're sleeping." It's inherent in Doctor Who that it tends to reconsider old ideas and here we have the Doctor possessed once again by a "gift" which makes voice go funny, makes him all powerful and a danger to his friends. Thankfully the solution on this occasion is easier than in the last decade when it became the precursor to one of the oddest sets of stories in the franchise's history, instead favouring some TARDIS-ex-machine, which may become important in Doom Coalition 3 (or as I suspect explains what happens to Rose in The Parting of the Ways). McGann's in his element in this whole story, running the spectrum from mad Doctor to clever Doctor to nefarious Doctor to finally the adventurer again. Nevertheless, as with the rest of the stories in this box, there's a sense of the character being in a slight holding pattern, being dragged along by events, never quite the protagonist of his own adventures. The events of the previous stories should weigh heavier on him but he sounds rather blase about the whole thing.
Big Finish's nuWho license apparently stretches up to and include Eleventh's regeneration in Time of the Doctor and yet here we have another River Song story clearly set, at least for her, between The Husbands of River Song and Silence in the Library. When she refers to the "magician, the spiv and the geography teacher" she can only be referring to 12th, 11th and 10th. The whole thing's pleasingly naughty, like the old Gallifrey spin-off stories when they obliquely referenced the Time War or the BBC Books novels which reference Ninth before he was properly introduced on-screen. Otherwise, well, yes, I'm disappointed. Pre-release this seemed like it was going to be a proper meeting between Eighth and River but once again Big Finish are adhering to continuity and not having them meet with one of his companions forced to keep her confidence on the matter. Admittedly, it'd be cheap to repeat something akin to the memory wipe forced on the Sixth Doctor so that he could forget Charley's existence, but there has to be some way of getting around this narratively speaking which doesn't break Tenth's first encounter. Otherwise every one of these River Song and classic Doctor stories is going be a cheat.