Sunday, 27 December 2015



I spent most of my Boxing Day in the company of the enigmatic and always flirtatious River Song. Immediately following the delightful The Husbands of River Song, I popped in series one of Big Finish’s latest New Who title and man, what a day that was. But first let me tell you something: There is nothing quite like nursing a River Song hangover.

The Boundless Sea

Following the traditional style of box sets, The Boundless Sea has the job of setting up the four episode arc and does so in a very satisfying way. Most of the credit goes to the casting for this story. Alexander Vlahos (Big Finish’s The Confessions of Dorian Gray) is utterly spectacular as Bertie Potts, River’s companion. We also have Oliver Dimsdale as Archie Ferrers and the legendary John Banks lending his wide range to yet another Big Finish story.

Story wise, The Boundless Sea feels very space-Indiana Jones… or Indiana Jane, if you like. In spite of being a lot of fun, this tale hits many potent emotional targets towards the end, courtesy of River Song.

Those of you who are huge Benny fans (like myself) and feel as though River is stepping on some archaeological shoes, the style of her stories couldn’t be more different to Miss Summerfield’s. This series sounds very much like the spin-off fans want to watch on television. The sound and music is beautiful and convincing and the plot, while nothing too extraordinary, does manage to put all the pieces on the board and even disguise some of them as other pieces to surprise you with later.

The story even tries to give the antagonist some back story and while it’s a nice sentiment to have, it doesn’t quite hit all the right marks, but it doesn’t detract too much from the main story either. Do not worry about continuity new listeners, the first episode goes easy on those.

Oh and guys, there is definitely communication (and presumably enough of it) between Steven Moffat and the folks at Big Finish. River Song has her Sonic Trowel with her!

Rating this story: 9/10. A story which focuses more on introducing its characters and plot rather than hyping up how good the next instalments are going to be.

I Went to A Marvellous Party

diary-of-river-big-finish-marvellous-partyCarrying on directly after the last tale, the second story switches gears, taking us from an Indiana Jones movie to a classical murder mystery at a fancy party. Alex Kingston and Alexander Vlahos continue to have wonderful chemistry. They are really magnificent. It is a delight listening to Vlahos, whose voice recently seduced me into diving into The Confessions of Dorian Gray audio range.

Back to the review, there is more than one mystery to solve here. For instance what is River Song’s husband doing at the party and why hasn’t the bow tie wearing Doctor shown himself to his wife yet?

At its heart though, while it is still quite an enjoyable listen, this story feels very filler compared to the rest of the box set. It’s only real narrative purpose seems to be a way of introducing the third episode and its plot points.

Rating this story: 7.5/10. Not quite The Husbands of River Song, but still a fun romp if you like murder at the dinner table!


Perhaps the most experimental, if not unusually structured story in the box set. Big Finish’s reply to Steven Moffat’s acclaimed Heaven Sent I’m thinking. The line between fantasy and reality is thinner than ever as we finally meet River Song’s husband Mr Song, or as the rest of the universe knows him…the Doctor!

diary-of-river-big-finish-signsI can’t really go into anything because this story is the most susceptible to spoilers. The plot is also very difficult to track down initially, making sure to leave the viewer as stumped as poor Professor Song. This makes the episode innumerably cleverer and again draws a lot of parallels to Heaven Sent without feeling like you have to compare the two.

There are also some genuine soft and sweet moments between Mr and Ms Song and some rather cruel twists as well! What this story does fantastically well is turn one of the most important plot devices in the Steven Moffat era and horribly pervert it.

If I had to find fault, I’d have to say that this story features the poorest written – poorly preformed line in the history of Doctor Who – for me, at least. Even Alex Kingston can’t save this grating piece of dialogue. It’s one line, but boy it is awful.

This episode also jumps back and forth a lot, making it one of those stories where you have to maintain constant focus or risk getting lost. This element makes me feel as though such a story would’ve worked a lot better as a television episode.

Rating this story: 9/10. Disturbing, humorous, touching and shattering.

The Rulers of the Universe

diary-of-river-big-finish-rulersIt took every bit of restraint I had not to skip ahead to this story and listen to Paul McGann’s Doctor interacting with River Song. It was torture and sometimes made the other stories feel like chores because I knew this story was the one everyone was really after. Naturally Big Finish went ahead and put it last! [Insert curse word]

As with most box sets this year, The Rulers of the Universe ties the arc of series one together in satisfying fashion. River Song meets the Eighth Doctor at a point when the Time War is starting to reach its peak. The Doctor is trying to pick up the pieces and stop bullets where he can, but he is drawn into a moral trap and forced to rely on River Song’s help. There are some genuinely good bits from the pre-War incarnation here. McGann proves he could have been the Time War Doctor. He could easily have.

The stakes are rather high as well. The Doctor is in danger of dying prematurely while River Song is in danger of destroying her own past if the Doctor learns who she is. Oh and we have pre-Time Lord-esque natives hell bent on universal destruction.

A lot happens in this final story, but it’s the scenes between the Doctor and River that people will enjoy the most. Unfortunately, like The Husbands of River Song where the Twelve/River moments only really start after River realizes she’s with the Doctor, the Eight/River scenes aren’t as plentiful, but they are entertaining and makes you even more hungry for Doom Coalition 2.

I am also happy to say that the plot comes to a satisfying conclusion, though this story suffers from pacing problems in the middle. It does however showcase what a fantastic temporal tactician River Song is. It is one of the strongest reasons why I love River Song so much. Unlike 99% of the Doctor’s companions, she actually understands time travel – the rules and methods one can utilize – and can use it as a weapon when she needs to. And this is just classic River Song in action. Textbook enigmatic! If the Eight/River scenes are the number one thing to look out for, then this is a close number two. Matt Fitton is a genius and really needs to write for the television series. 

Rating this story: 8/10. Bring on Doom Coalition 2!

And lastly, since this is my last Big Finish review for 2015, let’s rank the box sets.
Why? Well why not?
  1. UNIT: Extinction – 5/5
  2. Jago & Litefoot & Strax – 5/5
  3. The Diary of River Song – 5/5
  4. Doom Coalition: Volume One – 4/5
  5. Dark Eyes: Volume Four – 4/5
  6. The Sixth Doctor: The Last Adventure – 4/5
  7. The Fourth Doctor Box Set: Volume 1 – 4/5
  8. The War Doctor: Only The Monstrous – 3/5
  9. The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield: Volume Two – 2/5
2015 has been one of the highlight years in Big Finish’s illustrious career, delivering on so many levels: The Sixth Doctor’s last story, UNIT’s redemption, The Eleven, David Tennant and Catherine Tate joining Big Finish. These are just a few of presumably many things Big Finish has lined up deep within their non-irritable bowels. If this is what 2015 looked like, then 2016 can’t get here fast enough!

The Diary of River Song is available on Big Finish's website HERE.
Note: If you liked this review, please like and share it. If you’re interested in getting into Big Finish or want suggestions on which stories are great, check out my ranking of them HERE

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