Saturday, 12 March 2016



Doom Coalition series one introduced us to one of the most if not the most creative villains Doctor Who has ever produced in the Eleven, a criminal Time Lord with a personality defect that allows all ten of his other incarnations to live on inside his mind. Doom Coalition 2 continues the Eighth Doctor’s quest to capture the Eleven.


The first instalment took me by surprise by not being The Impossible Astronaut-esque opener that we’re used to with these box sets. They usually tend to drop a huge bomb on the listener to let us know that [insert curse word] is about to go down. Beachhead doesn’t drop any jaws, save maybe mine…as I was not expecting a filler episode.

The Doctor, Liv and Helen go on vacation in Stegmoor in 2017 where they encounter the Voord. Remember them? From about 50 years ago in just that one story with the guys in the diver’s outfits? Yes that’s the one. I’ve never been a fan of The Keys of Marinus, but that’s more down to it being harder for me to connect with stories that old rather than the stupid design of the monster. As with Marinus, the Voord are utterly forgettable and not even the remotest bit interesting.

Beachhead involves a subplot regarding one of the supporting characters and an encounter the Third Doctor had at Stegmoor during his UNIT days, but the story dialogue makes it difficult for the listener to tell if this is an off-screen adventure or an actual Classic story you should already be familiar with. This constant “is it isn’t it” completely took me out of the story at numerous points as I tried to work out if I should have prior knowledge or not.

The story is also for the most part filler, save for maybe one piece of dialogue that could’ve just as easily have been mentioned by happenstance in the second episode. Helen Sinclair is also in this story. She doesn’t do much, but she’s in it. Enough about that.

Liv is one of the story’s highlights, given that she seems to do the most. The character has grown on me during these last couple of box sets, but she still feels very bland as a companion and there doesn’t seem to be the Eight/Charley, Eight/Lucie and especially Eight/Molly chemistry between her and…oh yeah Eight!

Rating this story: 7/10

Scenes From Her Life

Where is the Eleven? Seriously, this box set is about an escaped criminal called the Eleven. He is the breakout character so why hasn’t he shown up yet? Oh he has? One short flashback scene doesn’t count.

The second story has the Doctor, Liv and Helen follow the one piece of dialogue evidence mentioned in the last story and stumble into an ancient TARDIS housing a couple of crazy people with accents so thick and silly that half the time I had no idea what they were saying, but they were at least interesting with a couple of cool twists that gave this story that “slow-burn” feel.

The Twitter hype surrounding John Dorney’s episode had me greatly anticipating it, but I can’t help but be disappointed by the direction it chose to go. Dorney introduces us to Kaleera, a powerful telepathic Time Lady being tortured. He also uses flashback storytelling to give us more insight into Kaleera and the circumstances that led to her present predicament. Ironically though, she becomes less interesting as the story progresses. She goes from being a tragic character you connect with and sympathize with to a rather generic and flat one with no real reason for doing what she does. She just does it because. She even ducks the question in the next story when the Doctor calls her out on it.

I have finally managed to track down Helen’s purpose for being in the TARDIS: She is there to make Liv look cool. That’s it. That’s Helen Sinclair for you. She is Mickey Smith in School Reunion before he broke everyone out of the school. She is the tin dog of this box set, but not nearly as useful. She has the same problem in every single story which is why I’m not going to repeat myself in every paragraph. She is not interesting. She is not explored in any way. There is no character development for her at all. She is quite literally the definition of a generic companion. The box set tries to team her up with Liv, but Helen falls into every trap, trick and pitfall laid out for her. She has some clever lines, but it’s mainly banter as well as a means so that Liv has someone to tell her ideas and suggestions to. The Liv/Helen chemistry fails miserably when compared to the Nyssa/Tegan, Peri/Erimem and Ace/Raine dynamic that has come before.

Paul McGann however is especially delightful to listen to. He anchors the series whenever it feels like I’m being pulled too far out. He truly is a great Doctor and his interactions with the TARDIS crew (not his, the other one) are fun to listen to.

Rating this story: 7/10

The Gift

Arguably my favourite story of the box set. What The Gift lacks in the Eleven, it makes up for with creativity which is something when it comes to this third instalment.

This is also the Eighth Doctor’s best story of the lot. He is mad, he is passionate, he is everything that makes this Doctor so wonderful to listen to and more. He truly feels at home in this story. The setting is San Francisco almost a century before this incarnation was born and we are treated to the most colourful cast of characters yet. Not the most interesting, but colourful. With such a variety of American accents as well. They still all sound like Brits trying really hard to sound American, but it’s easily forgiven given what transpires.

The Doctor and Liv are at the top of their game here; Liv naturally taking things more seriously than the Doctor who spends half the episode looking for a barber, but standing next to Helen, it’s clear that the latter’s presence on-board the TARDIS has done wonders for Liv’s character in regards to leadership and strategic thinking. Liv is the companion while Helen is the companion’s companion. Barely.

As I mentioned, this story also somehow feels both connected and disconnected from the box set. There are clear plot elements carried over and introduced for the finale, but the lack of the Eleven severely disappoints this listener. Dark Eyes had Daleks in every other episode and we will probably never hear from the Eleven again after Doom Coalition 4 so I have a hard time working out why the box set chooses to build up another villain when that villain lacks the charisma, the intrigue or even the creativity of the former.

Rating this story: 8/10

The Sonomancer

It’s about bloody time! The Eleven finally shows up, along with River Song, but the main dilemma this reviewer has is which one of them is more underused in this piece.

Doom Coalition 1’s The Satanic Mill wasn’t the best finale Big Finish has ever produced, but it feels like Heaven Sent compared to this box set’s finale. I blame none of the writers for this. Something else went wrong somewhere else because this is not what I expected from the box set finale and it’s not at all what I wanted either.

Note that this isn’t a bad story. None of the stories are bad stories on their own or even viewed together as The Sonomancer ties the box set together, but this series feels as though it was forced onto the Eighth Doctor and his quest to stop the Eleven. Take out the Eleven and this could easily have been a main range series for another Doctor. That’s how little Doom Coalition 2 has to do with the Eleven. He shows up yes, but he is simply a lacky for the Sonomancer when he is supposed to be the Master, the Morbius or even the Rassilon of this series. The Sonomancer (the character) is about as interesting and developed as the Kandyman which makes the fact that the Eleven is their assistant even more horrendous.

When it was reported that River Song was going to meet the Eighth Doctor in her own spin-off, I was ecstatic. She is my favourite companion of ALL TIME and while not perfect, her scenes together with Eight in Rules of the Universe made me super excited to hear her pop up in Doom Coalition 2. But as it turns out this was simply a clever lie on the part of Big Finish and not something I’m okay with. River Song steals all her scenes as per the norm, but she doesn’t interact with the Doctor at all. Yes the Doctor/River chemistry that fuelled the hype for this crossover is non-existent.

This is especially disappointing because Eight is the perfect Doctor for River to have secret adventures with. He gets amnesia all the time so Big Finish can just use that to avoid continuity errors.

I do hope River is used more sparingly in the future. I can understand the pull of the character in Big Finish. She is currently the only character who has carte blanche to meet all the past Doctors and Song’s chemistry with the Doctor (in all of his incarnations) is one of her greatest attractions (not counting her physical attractions of course), but this whole thing with her being in the story and meeting the Doctor but not really being in the story and meeting him is an issue that Big Finish needs to address in future stories.

As I mentioned Eight has had numerous bouts of amnesia, as have Five – and Seven! And Six for that matter! So ‘River Song’ meeting the Doctor can easily be explained away by them forgetting they’ve met when one of these laser-guided amnesia bolts strike.

Speaking of which, River makes mention of ‘the magician’, ‘the spiv’ and ‘the geography teacher’, referencing the Twelfth, the Tenth and the Eleventh Doctor so this box set takes place after The Husbands of River Song (for her at least).

Rating this story: 7/10

It’s clear this box set tried to go into a different direction by removing focus from the Eleven, but in a series where he is the most interesting player, benching the character feels like asking to lose the game. If you don’t feel as strongly about the character as I do (if you couldn’t tell), then you’ll enjoy this box set. Otherwise…

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