Doom Coalition 4.

Audio Now that the Capaldi era is almost done bar the shouting from manbabies about his replacement, it's time for me to catch up of the Eighth Doctor's adventures, some short stories and audios and this latest boxed set. The upturn in quality continues from last time with a really solid, often strong final selection of stories and a final installment which doesn't anticlimax and due to Big Finish's expanded license doesn't need to allude to Gallifrey's future, can simply suggest that they're all doomed.  Once again, across the set, despite what's said in the accompanying documentaries, these two companions for the most part don't feel as integral to the story in a way that Eighth's previous friends have but arguably such things are more recent innovations and we're rarely bothered by such things when watching classic stories.  Plus that's not a criticism of Nicola Walker or Hattie Morahan who're both remarkable.  The making of indicates that these two will return in a future boxed set series which means we're stuck with this format for the foreseeable future.  God, I miss the stand alone stories.  Eighth never quite seems comfortable here.  Any-hoo ...

Ship in a Bottle

A three hander about the TARDIS team facing oblivion and never giving up hope.  It's an episode long version of the scene from The Stolen Earth in which the Tenth Doctor just gives up until Donna nags him into action.  All three have very specific points of view.  Eighth is hopeless, Liv won't give up and Helen has the very human response of sheer panic.  But for all that, it's not as way out or innovative as some other similar regulars only stories like Scherzo, which seems like one of the franchises bravest few hours as time goes on.  Cantankerous Eighth never sits well with me and his treatment of his friends in the early stages feels a bit like an artificial attempt at some conflict similar to that earlier story, but it lacks the bite to make us genuinely concerned about his behavior and the consequences going forward.  Nevertheless, like Absent Friends previously, it's the stand out installment in this set.

Songs of Love

The flip side of the cliffhanger resolution from the Doom Coalition 3 set and what amounts to an extra installment of the River Song Diaries.  The banner headline is Professor Song visiting Gallifrey, something which would have been impossible on screen this way, before the Time War, still recognisably the place initiated by Robert Holmes.  Her reaction is similar to someone who's lived in a different country for years before being brought back to their parents homeland, aware of what to expect, knowledgeable about the landscape through osmosis but still being disorientated.  Alex Kingston is superb in these scenes as plot threads from River's past but the franchise's future become important and she's able to twist the context to suite her own ends.  Once again your correspondent pleads with Big Finish for a Bernice Summerfield cameo in the next River Song series or a special release possibly also starring Iris.

The Side of the Angels

Like the "other" Master in Dark Eyes, the Rufus Hound version of the Meddling Monk is entirely new to me, having skipped over his previous Big Finish appearances.  A juicier role for Rufus Hound than he was given in the television series, he very much seems to be enjoying the ripe dialogue and flamboyant characterisation.  This is notably set before the Graham Garden incarnation possibly in order to lessen the potential fallout from Eighth of having to deal with the Monk's role in the death of Tamsin and especially Lucie, although the TARDIS Datacore pages indicates that there's some far messier history than that.  Otherwise, the episode is stuffed with the epic remodeling of NYC and an ingenious utilisation of the Weeping Angels, whom Eighth is well aware of, perhaps after meeting them in his Fifth incarnation.  I don't think classic and nu elements mixing like this will ever be any less strange.

Stop The Clock

And so yet another Eighth Doctor story resolves itself around a conquest of Gallifrey.  Overall this is fine, it certainly ties up everything which has come before it and has some excellent business for McGann to get his chops into, but there's not a terrific amount here that's different to similar predicaments with a rogue President of Gallifrey taking control, the genocide of the High Council and an overall sense of doom.  The script is amusingly cagey about who the current President is supposed to be, perhaps so that if necessary in the future, it can be one of the various incarnations of Romana or someone else if necessary.  But please, please, please can the next series have nothing to do with the Time Lords or Gallifrey?  I can't imagine the upcoming Time War boxes are going to be direct continuation of this.  That would be silly.

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