Hey there folks, and welcome back to Big Finishing Move here on One Of Us! In this fine series, I take a look at the various Doctor Who audio dramas presented by Big Finish Productions and let you know if I think they are worth a piece of your hard-earned paycheck.
It seems I just can’t get away from the Eighth Doctor (not that I’d want to, he rocks!). Counting my mini-marathon of his stories in celebration of The Night of the Doctor last year and today’s subject, Dark Eyes II, I’ve covered Paul McGann’s version of the Doctor almost more than all the other Doctors combined. This wasn’t the plan, mind you, just a fluke of both Big Finish’s and my own scheduling.
The Dark Eyes series directly follows the end of the regular Eighth Doctor Adventures series. It follows a much more world-weary Eighth Doctor whose soul has been more than a little bit crushed by the (MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD, SKIP THE REST OF THIS SENTENCE IF YOU DON’T WANT THE END OF THE MAIN EIGHTH DOCTOR SERIES SPOILED!) unfortunate and heart-breaking death of Lucie Miller. The nearly suicidal Doctor ultimately finds himself in the middle of WWI and with a new companion in a young nurse by the name of Molly O’Sullivan, played by the lovely Ruth Bradley. The pair went on a whirlwind adventure, the conclusion of which saw each going their separate way. The universe it seems, isn’t done messing with the pair however, as this installment (there will be four parts in total) sees the pair reuniting once again.
Part of the appeal for this series is that this is as close to the Time War as Big Finish has ever gone, both the Daleks and the Time Lords ramping up for what we know will become the conflict that threatens to destroy the universe and serves as the gap between classic and new series Who.
With all that said, let’s dig in here and see what is what!
TARDIS Team: Eighth Doctor, Molly O’Sullivan, and Liv Chenka
First of all, I’m happy to report that you do not have to have listened to the original Dark Eyes to understand what is going on here. Also, you won’t need to have listened to Robophobia, the Seventh Doctor story that introduced Liv Chenka or Unit Dominion which introduces Big Finish’s newest take on a classic foe. In fact, this whole series is a grab bag of characters and creatures from across the past couple years, but they don’t let that bog the story down. The writers do a good job of dropping just enough info that even if you are coming in fresh you can piece together enough of what happened to follow along. It rewards long standing listeners of Big Finish without totally alienating any newcomers, and for that I tip my hat to them.
Another feature I’m quite happy about is that in true “timey-wimey” Doctor Who fashion, this story has more then one entry point. I would suggest going in the regular numbered order presented to you so you can see how all the puzzle pieces fit into place, but you can go back and listen to each section as a standalone entry or have some extra fun mixing up the stories to match the chronology to a particular character. The story is so well woven that I’m willing to overlook the extremely convenient and overly-coincidental way in which they have Molly and the Doctor find each other because I honestly believe they will explain it away in the coming releases.
Nicholas Briggs is the overarching mind behind the whole series, but it is broken up into sections handled by both Briggs and other authors and each section can be considered a standalone so this set of stories is free of most of his bad habits and actually goes to show off what a good writer and collaborator he can be. More like this Mr. Briggs, this is where you excel.
Our plot for this set of stories finds the Doctor, Molly, and Liv drawn together and then drawn into an even bigger game in the continually rising tensions between the Daleks, the Time Lords, and something possibly worse than either of them. From the ravages of a Dalek-conquered planet, a deep exploration space vessel, and London both during the tail end of WWI and the 1970’s, the Doctor and Co. are going to have to make some hard choices and wade through a lot of horror and death just to make it to the other side, if all of them even can.
While everyone is at the top of their game and I do enjoy how Ruth Bradley portrays Molly, the standout has to be Alex Macqueen as a new twist on a classic enemy of the Doctor. It is extremely easy to figure out who he is playing, but given that this is a big reveal in Unit Dominion I’ll keep it unsaid here (one big spoiler in this review is quite enough). Macqueen makes this character sing and leave you hungry for more. It is kind of sad to think that Macqueen’s great interpretation of this enemy will never face his fellow In The Thick Of It co-star Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.
Dark Eyes II does more than just surpass its predecessor, it blows that sucker straight out the water. If you have any love for the Eighth Doctor at all this is a must have. Twenty bucks might seem like a big squeeze on the old wallet, but the amount and quality of the material here makes it worth the price tag. The next installment of Dark Eyes is set to drop this November, and if they can keep up the quality this may go down as one of the best things Big Finish has ever done.
Purchase Doctor Who: Dark Eyes II Here:
Keep in mind people, Big Finish isn’t the only name in audio dramas. One Of Us has its own series, Infinite Variations, which you should go give a listen if you haven’t already.
For next time, it’s back to the Fourth Doctor Adventures with:
Check out my previous reviews of Doctor Who releases from Big Finish: