Rating this story: 8/10.
Saturday, 31 October 2015
REVIEW - DOOM COALITION BOX SET #1
Big Finish presents the next chapter in the life and times of the Eighth Doctor, who is one of the most developed incarnations of the Doctor. He has gone through so many story arcs (Charley Pollard, Divergent Universe, Lucie Miller, Dark Eyes) and so many changes that it’s normal to wonder what else to do with this Doctor. Big Finish decided to give us Doom Coalition, a series that looks to set a new bar when it comes to telling Doctor Who stories, regardless of format. Let’s have a look…
I had every confidence in Matt Fitton to capture my attention with a great opening story to set up the arc. What I didn’t foresee is just how much he’d up his already impressive game with this first installment. Right off the bat, we’re introduced to one of the best Doctor/Villain showdowns with the Seventh Doctor paying a final visit to the Eleven. It’s clear from Seven’s demeanor that the Eleven is a different kind of enemy, perhaps even more dangerous than the Master or the Daleks. How I’d love to one day see the prequel to this story.
As for what the Eleven is, he is a stroke of absolute brilliance! He is another Big Finish experiment gone categorically right, being the eleventh incarnation of Time Lord, but still having all of his previous personas swimming around in his head at the same time, sort of like having the worst case of multiple-personality disorder. The story does a magnificent job of giving us insight into his character and his relationship with his other selves which already turns him into a very well-rounded character. The Eleven does a fantastic job of showcasing his menace by bringing Gallifrey to his knees in just a couple of hours.
Those of you who follow my Big Finish reviews, you’ll know full well that I have mixed feelings on Liv Chenka. Well not anymore. While she isn’t as involved as in other stories, she is quite likable here, partly due to her personality adopting a sunnier disposition so no complaints here.
Actually, no complaints at all. This is a solid story that dives into and explores so many different characters and relationships (Doctor/Liv, Doctor/Eleven, Doctor/Farina,Padrac/Liv, Eleven/Liv, Doctor/Kiani, Kiani/Eleven) and does all of this whilst still rolling at a pretty decent pace, telling a very gripping and outstanding urban thriller.
We even get a direct “Omega Arsenal” reference to link to New Who!
Rating this story: 10/10
THE RED LADY
Normally when you have a big grand opener, it’s usually a good idea to take things down a notch and settle the viewers. Make them want more, but not quite giving it to them yet. The Red lady combines this idea with a odd macabre mystery that sees the Doctor and Liv picking up another companion in Helen St Claire, a museum curator.
Arguably the most fascinating aspect about The Red Lady is the plot. It is a really clever take that fuses different genres together, but still paints itself (see what I did there) as a child of darkness by giving us a very Midnight-esque enemy. Unlike Midnight however where the mystery remained unsolved, The Red Lady’s explanation and ultimate resolution may take several listens for others to fully understand, which works against its brilliance.
If I had to sum up my first impressions of Helen Sinclair, I’d have to say that I don’t like her. Her first scene is a base breaker. One argument can be made that she is just a shouty feminist barking at the world or that she is a strong, independent 30-ish woman angry at the discrimination surrounding females in the workplace. Oddly enough, I don’t fall in either category, but instead found myself in the middle. The Red Lady is definitely a great companion introduction story and much like with Donna Noble (who I liked from the very start), Helen quickly burrows a place in your heart and you come to enjoy her character. By the end of the story, I was rooting for Helen more than Liv.
Another highlight would be the Doctor. While Paul McGann always sounds like he’s giving a 100%, here it feels like Paul went: “What the hell, let’s push 200 and see what happens.” And what happens is a brilliant mixture of Classic Eighth Doctor fusing with Dark Eyes Eighth Doctor to become some kind of Super Eight. One of McGann’s best performances yet.
The lack of the Eleven works against this story as while he is mentioned and the story tries to make him this ghost stalking the shadows even if he isn’t involved, it still isn’t enough and it doesn’t really pay off. Another issue I found with the story is the climax which I found hazy and difficult to understand, requiring me to listen to it once more. It’s quite exposition heavy and all kinds of “we’re talking, just go with it.”
Rating this story: 8/10
THE GALILEO TRAP
This third installment is probably the weakest entry in Doom Coalition so far. However, it features more plot points related to the arc than The Red Lady and it features a character I’ve always wanted to see the Doctor meet – Galileo Galiley.
I love the characterization of Galileo. The story really wanted to give us a full exploration of the close relationship the Doctor has with Galileo and their past together. From ‘recorder lessons’ to changing faces, the scenes with these two characters are the best bits of the story.
On that note, special shout out to the Doctor. Paul McGann really lets loose and digs deep to show us how dedicated the Doctor is to protecting both history and his friends. His tactics are classic Eighth Doctor, but the way he speaks smells like Dark Eyes. It really works and conveys the intense passion for life that this incarnation is famous for.
Whatever happened to the characterization of Helen? She is like a completely different person here. Her only role seems to overreact to how awesome it is to travel with the Doctor (which is always welcome), and get captured. What?!!!!
I’m a little iffy on the villains for this piece as well. They have some very good moments and some very poor ones as well. It’s like of like a rollercoaster. Up and down. Up and down. I’m still undecided whether they’re good villains or poor ones. One thing is for sure, they are “entertaining” to listen to which does help the case.
Rating this story: 7.5/10
THE SATANIC MILL
Doom Coalition 1 comes to an end with The Satanic Mill, an episode that tries to do a lot of things in the short hour it’s given. Some of these succeed, while others fail. What doesn’t fail however is the Eleven, a character that continues to provide a fresh breath of air when it comes to Time Lord villains. His unique condition puts him in an entirely differently category to rogues such as the Master, the Rani and even Morbius. It is interesting seeing the Eleven work both with and against himself all at the same time and The Satanic Mill does a good job of showcasing just how intelligent this creature this, boosting him to rival Alex MacQueen’s Master in my eyes. Believe it people!
Doom Coalition has done a great job so far of showing us the effects Dark Eyes has inflicted on the Doctor. I didn’t believe it was possible for this incarnation to bleed even more passion than Paul McGann pushes his Doctor to do so here, but he manages it. The Doctor’s interactions with the Eleven prove to be the highlight of this story.
I also have to give praise to Big Finish when it comes to Liv Chenka. While she hasn’t really done much throughout this box set save for a couple of moments, she is genuinely more likable now and I don’t mind her hanging around the Doctor nearly as much as I did in Dark Eyes 2-3. Having said that, it would be nice to see her do something more significant to the plot.
The Satanic Mill mirrors The Eleven in a lot of ways. Both rely on presenting us with a captivating villain to listen to, betting much of its success on us enjoying what we hear. Unfortunately, unlike The Eleven, The Satanic Mill falls short of the mark by failing to provide us with a sufficient resolution to a great setup, resulting in a somewhat anti-climax, a feeling of ‘so that’s it?’ and confusing the listener into thinking that the most enjoyable part of the story is somehow missing from the box set.
Sadly, I must also point out that Helen feels very ordinary in every story after her introduction. She accomplishes little, takes part in less and while she is not unlikable as a character, I do have to wonder what the writers were thinking when they created her as she doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. With River Song set to steal the show in Doom Coalition 2 (come on, River always steals the show when she pops up), I do have to wonder how the writers are going to make her character more interesting given how crowded the TARDIS team is going to be.
Rating this story: 8/10.
This series has some dud moments and it has some epic moments. It’s just like any other series (be they on TV or audio) and I find myself easily overlooking the low points because of how towering the high points are. This box set did manage to set up great villain and a new, interesting story arch for the Eighth Doctor. It has managed to prick my curiosity and I can’t wait to find out what’s in Doom Coalition 2 next year.