It’s always a happy day when a new Eighth Doctor download lands on the digital doormat, and Doom Coalition 2, his latest outing, does nothing to change that – except, perhaps, leave a question hanging on the aether…
The set opens with Nick Briggs’s Beachhead in which an attempt for a break at the seaside ends up with the fall-out from a mistake made by the Doctor in a previous life, and an altercation with a couple of miffed Voord. But why are the aliens there at all?
The second story, John Dorney’s Scenes from her Life, involves a degraded Tardis housing lunatic inhabitants who are conducting obscene experiments on prisoners in their hold – including one eponymous ‘her’, who’s incarceration hides more than it reveals.
Third up is Mark Platt’s The Gift, in which 1906’s San Francisco is subjected to a psychic device intent on possessing the locals and wreaking havoc and destruction – not least on the increasingly fragile mind of the Doctor.
Lastly, Matt Fitton’s The Sonomancer sees a far-off planet exploited for its mineral wealth being defended by one River Song – who’s asked for the Doctor’s help, but not got the Doctor (to coin a phrase) she was expecting…
Paul McGann now surfs the Doctor with ease, and his portrayal in Doom Coalition2 is every bit as good as its ever been. From the measured, languid tones as he sums up the situation, to the deranged surreality of his confused mental meanderings in The Gift, he is every bit the Doctor throughout. Hattie Morahan’s companion, Helen Sinclair, is allowed to grow a little in this set too, especially in the last story where she teams up with River in a satisfyingly complementary fashion.
But best of all for me, mopey erstwhile bot-wrangler Liv Chenka is back – and this time, she’s not mopey!
And it’s an absolutely joyous transformation. The relish with which she sets about her (spoilers!) mechanically augmented and lava-surrounded fight to the death with superb new Whovillain ‘The Eleven’ is absolutely palpable, and Nicola Walker’s gnashing and snarling performance is exciting to the point of actually becoming visible – which ain’t bad going for audio! (Hats off to Mark Bonnar, too, for his many performances as the Eleven – a baddie I would pay good money to see in the TV series.)
I will make one criticism of this set – and, a first for me, it’s the sound design. Yes, I know! I never thought I’d say such a thing. But there’s a real discrepancy here between the sound level of the dialogue and that of the background music and sound effects – with the net result that, listening to this in the car on a long journey with the volume set nicely for all the talking, as soon as the dialogue stops and the interstitial music and an explosion or two cut in, Aunty Mabel gets blown out of the back seat and has to run along the hard shoulder for two junctions to catch up. Sadly, it actually caused us to stop listening after an hour of constantly turning the volume down and up again – and that’s not an experience I’ve come to expect from Big Finish.
But… it’s a great box set with great performances, and it involves one of the best (for me) Doctors there is. Sound levels aside, it’s hard to fault it – you should run out and buy it forthwith.
If only so that you, like me, can point at the left-hanging question, and ask… Doom Coalition? What the shrubbery is that all about?
Written By: Nicholas Briggs, John Dorney, Marc Platt, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Alex Kingston (River Song), Rebecca Night (Matilda Gregson), Julia Hills(Phillipa Gregson/Dispatch), Kirsty Besterman (Ishtek/Lilly), Andrew Dickens(Voord Guard/Police Sergeant/Mr Rogers), Emma Cunniffe (Caleera), Vincent Franklin (Lord Stormblood), Jacqueline King (Lady Sepulchra), Hamish Clark(Swordfish), James Jordan (Charles Virgil McLean), Paul Marc Davis (Pepé Gonzalez), Cory English (Sam Sonora), Laura Harding (Ethel Halliday/Mariam),Enzo Squillino Jnr (Aldo Deluca), Derek Ezenagu (Ruslan/Ivo), Janet Fullerlove(Yeva/Wife), John Banks (Husband/Guard/Mineworker/Galactic Heritage/Shopkeeper) and Mark Bonnar as The Eleven.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executvie Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Doom Coalition 2 is available from BigFinish.com.