River Song has had a bit of a fandom redemption I feel thanks to Big Finish, sure she had a ton of fans thanks to her TV outings (myself included) but the Classic Who fans and those who weren’t massively enamoured with Moffatt’s writing style would probably need a lot of convincing to like Doctor Song. That’s where the Diary of River Song range seems to come in, offering a fun bridging of the worlds of Classic and New Who along with plenty of original stories. I’d heard the second, fifth, and sixth volumes before coming into series 11. I had really positive experiences with the former two but was hugely disappointed by what felt like fanservice for the sake of fanservice in volume 6. But Friend of the Familyoffers a new avenue for the series; a distinct absence of Doctor Who elements. Previously we’d either have had a prior Doctor, companion or foe but here we have a completely original and stand-alone story which gives River the time to shine she deserves.
If there has been a Doctor Who spin-off range from Big Finish Productions that consistently managed good stories while still being very reliant on past pieces of Doctor Who lore, it is The Diary of River Song. Ten series have gone by and only now we have an announcement of a box set with absolutely no returning elements coming out in January 2023. Now luckily the previous nine box sets have had some through line, a story arc or just a simple theme linking all of the stories together, but Two Rivers and a Firewall, the tenth series has a problem, and it’s a big one.
The 1963-1989 run of Doctor Who is fascinating in the fact that in the 160 serials (including The TV Movie in 1996), there are few stories that are direct sequels to previous stories, much less sequels within the same production team. Generally the closest you would get are stories like Attack of the Cybermen doing a sequel to The Tenth Planet and Attack of the Cybermen over a decade after the prequel’s release or Snakedance to Kinda and Mindwarp to Vengeance on Varos essentially being extensions of the themes of the previous story, but doing its own thing. The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon are an oddity as they both share the same setting, several of the characters, and feel like a natural extension of the same story. Peladon being the setting of both is a big factor in why the two stories feel so connected, the sets are the same and it feels like the planet is evolving and changing. The Curse of Peladon aired as the second story from Season 9 beginning at the end of January 1972, so as it is the 50th anniversary of Episode One while I am writing this, Big Finish Productions are celebrating with Peladon, a four story box set revisiting the planet throughout its history as well as continue the spirit of Peladon stories in reflecting the politics of the real world using allegory for a stark contrast of the good and bad of today’s world.
October was already set to be a celebration of the Third Doctor era, bringing out the second Third Doctor Adventures set this year, but July saw the announcement of The Diary of River Song: New Recruit, sending River back to Season 7 with the Doctor travelling Europe and Liz and the Brigadier left back at UNIT. Of course, Tim Treloar reprises his role of the Third Doctor for the final story, but this is a celebration of the early years of the Pertwee era with a twist, putting River in the role of the Doctor and Liz as a companion making for a very different dynamic. Each of the four stories pastiches a Pertwee style story with the final one in particular providing one last twist for a Pertwee story which Big Finish have been unable to do until very recently which ends the set with one very pleasant twist. This twist is one which listeners would not want to have spoiled, and the TARDIS Wiki articles for these stories do provide spoilers so I implore potential listeners to avoid looking anything up about these stories. This review will only include light spoilers for plot details, but none of the big twists will be spoiled.
With each installment in Dalek Universe, the scope and tension has been building to unravel the mystery of just what’s happening with the universe that the Tenth Doctor is now before the Time War and with Anya Kingdom and Mark Seven. The initial promotion as a full fourth series for the Tenth Doctor was perhaps the most accurate description of the three box sets as a whole, all taking place right after The Waters of Mars; and Dalek Universe 3 sets up The Day of the Doctor, and actually helps transition the Tenth Doctor towards the end of his life. Like the first set, Dalek Universe 3 is only two stories, a single episode and two parts, essentially echoing the structure of one of his televised series (without the third two-parter to fill in the usual thirteen episodes as this is only nine episodes). And with any finale, this set is built around wrapping everything up from the heartbreaking installments at the end of Dalek Universe 2. This review will contain spoilers for Dalek Universe 2, so it is highly recommended to at least be caught up with the stories to this point before continuing. This is also a set which cannot be listened to in isolation, despite its high quality.
If you follow the reviews I have written in the past for IndieMacUser I have indulged in discussions on how Big Finish have during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what hasn’t been discussed yet is the releases which have been disrupted. Luckily Big Finish Productions rarely announce releases before recording has at the very least began, yet The Diary of River Song Series 8 has become one of those releases which had to be changed while recording was occurring due to the pandemic. Continue reading →
There is a saying that every cloud has a silver lining, and for Doctor Who fans, especially those invested in the expanded universe, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns has created a big silver lining. The devastating shutdowns of the arts has made the entertainment industry turn to other methods for creating content, and Big Finish Productions made no delay in taking advantage of many actors who were now available to record remotely due to the pandemic. One such actor is David Tennant who had already worked with Big Finish as the Tenth Doctor in three individual volumes, plus a myriad of cameos, and with lockdown meaning he was available, Big Finish commissioned a special fourth box set featuring the Doctor’s future wife, River Song. The Tenth Doctor and River Song is essentially the fourth volume of The Tenth Doctor Adventures range, and was wholly conceived during the pandemic due to availability. Three stories were produced and released in late November 2020 in a box set and as three individual stories, all set after Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead for the Doctor and at various points in River’s life, picking up on the implication that the Tenth Doctor would have met her again in this incarnation from that story. The overarching theme of these stories is exploring how that relationship is different from the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors’ dynamics with River. The Tenth Doctor through all three stories treats River like a mystery to be solved, and becomes more and more annoyed at her constant evasions.Continue reading →
Meet the Impossible girl and say goodbye to the Ponds! The Blu-ray steelbook of Doctor Who series 7 will be released Monday 14th December, featuring new and exclusive artwork.
Series 7 is the final full series of adventures with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. This series also said farewell to Amy Pond and Rory Williams, played by Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, and introduced Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman.