Welcome one and all, welcome back to Big Finishing Move here at the good ol’ One Of Us! This is the little pocket in the site I’ve chiseled away for myself to review the works of Big Finish and let you know if they are worth your cash or you should save it for another bid on that chipped Elvis collector’s plate over on Ebay (I see you).
Today we are here to take a look at the final chapters of the Dark Eyes saga. Originally released as a one off box set way back in 2012, the Dark Eyes series has grown into one of the biggest and most ambitious projects Big Finish has ever done. The series has had its ups and down, but was it able to go out out like a champ or did it sputter and die like a car out of gas.
Let’s find out!
TARDIS Team: Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka
It has been a long and messy road since the Doctor first met Molly O’Sullivan back in WWI. Still reeling from the death of Lucie Miller, The Doctor felt like giving up and going into seclusion, but the mystery and powers behind Molly’s dark eyes proved too interesting and big a threat to the universe and the timeline to ignore. With the day saved, the Doctor and Molly went their separate ways, the Doctor returning her to her proper place in time. This separation was short lived as either destiny or dumb luck through them together once again as the power behind Molly’s dark eyes became embroiled in a power struggle between the Daleks, the Eminence, and the Master. In their travels, the Doctor and Molly picked up Liv Chenka, who had first met the Doctor in his previous incarnation in Robophobia. Once again having saved Molly and having defeated the Eminence, the Doctor felt the only way to keep her as well as the universe safe would be to have her once again returned to her proper place in time. That done, the Doctor and Liv set out to stop the other forces at work and handle the overall damage to the timeline.
Like I said, things have gotten a bit messy.
The biggest problem in this series has been the rising star of Ruth Bradley. As Bradley’s career has taken off over the last few years, it has been increasingly hard to book Bradley due to her busy schedule. Bradley maintains she loves the character and Big Finish has repeatedly stated they loved working with her, but more prominent gigs kept pulling her away. This threw a wrench (or perhaps I should say spanner) into Big Finish’s plans when they decided to expand the series as its focus was the Doctor and Molly’s relationship, her being the titular “Dark Eyes” and all. Hell, Bradley doesn’t even appear in this installment, instead we get a Molly O’Soundalike in… well, that would be telling (What?! I try and keep these reviews as spoiler free as possible, go listen to it if you want to know so bad). The point here is that a bunch of stuff had to be reworked from part three onward, the saving throw here being the quality of writers they had on hand in Matt Fitton and John Dorney and the character of Liv Chenka being in prime position to step up and fill as much of Molly’s role as possible. They don’t pull everything off perfectly, but given the situation they did a bang up job.
If this installment were to have a subtitle it would have to be “The Ascension of Liv Chenka”. So much of this set is spent with her growing and developing as a character. Liv spent a good portion of this series under a death sentence and she works to make her peace with that only to be given a second lease on life. Here we see a Liv Chenka who is staring to embrace and even enjoy her life again. Nicola Walker is given a chance not to reinvent Chenka, rather to expand her and loosen her up a little. Chenka remains stern, pragmatic, and direct as she always been, but we begin to see a more playful character as she banters with the Master and start to get passed some of her social awkwardness. The diminishment of Molly’s role has lead to the development of Chenka in ways we may never have otherwise seen. Chenka isn’t the most fascinating of the Doctor’s companions, but she has huge room for exploration and growth which I believe may lead to some great stories in the future.
The villains really shine in this one as both of the standout performances come from their camp. Alex Macqueen continues to sound like he is having the most fun in his life playing the Master. Macqueen consistently delivers his lines with the right balance of drama queen and sinister crazed super-genius required to make the character work with his own special kind of flair. The result is a performance true to the core of the Master and yet entirely Macqueen’s own. Macqueen even comments in the special features how the writers have adapted their styles to better fit his word choices and cadences. Meanwhile, Nick Briggs turns in a rather complex and sinister performance as the Dalek Time Controller. Briggs, who voices all the Daleks in this (and that is no small number) infuses the Controller with a life all his own. He is getting to do things and go places with the Controller he doesn’t normally get to do with his normal shouty Dalek voice and you get the sense that Briggs had a smile on his face delivering every juicy line.
Dark Eyes IV serves as a fitting end for the series, it wraps up all the plot lines in satisfactory ways and leaves plenty of space for new and exciting things to come for the Eighth Doctor moving forward. You will need to have listened to all of the Dark Eyes saga to enjoy this, anybody just coming in on this installment will find it completely impenetrable. Despite its obvious issues, I like Dark Eyes IV and the Dark Eyes saga. It never lived up to the high bar that was set with Part II, but even at the worst parts of the worst installment (Part III) showed a great deal of creativity and love for the property. If you are a McGann fan looking for a sweeping epic starring his Doctor, you’ll find the Dark Eyes saga satisfies.
Purchase Doctor Who: Dark Eyes IV Here:
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For next time, were back with the Fourth Doctor for: