You’d think by this stage, Doctor Who would find it very difficult to tug at the heart strings as well as it still does. And yet Doom Coalition 4 manages to do just that; it also helps that it’s a massive success and one of the best Eighth Doctor stories in the history of Doctor Who.
Believe the hype (was their much hype? Certainly in Doctor Who Magazine at least): this is a ball-beltingly glowing end to what has been a stunning story.
From the opening three hander (only the three leads here – still absolutely brilliant), the Doctor-light Gallifrey and River Song respite, the action orientated return of the Monk with the Weeping Angels in New York to the fittingly epic end, everything here works so well. The end of the Eighth Doctor’s last epic, Dark Eyes 4 is a walk in the park compared to this.
“What exactly works so well?”, you ask from, behind the sofa (come on out, the Daleks are long gone and, by now, so is the Eleven). Well, just about everything – just about.
Ship in a Bottle traps the TARDIS crew in a shuttle bound for nowhere following on from the end of Dark Eyes 3. It takes the brave step of having nothing but the three leads, which would be a problem if: a) they weren’t so brilliant together and as actors in general; and b) John Dorney hadn’t written one of the finest Big Finish stories to date.
Make no mistake: action and drama are evenly offered here and not a minute is wasted.
Songs of Love, by Matt Fitton, takes River to Gallifrey and puts Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) and Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) in mortal danger. It doesn’t really need more explanation than that. One might say that this episode sounds more like the Big Finish Gallifrey spin-off range, but that does the story as a whole no harm and serves to allow everyone to take a small step back and give the listener some time to reacquaint with their separate motivations.
Stepping things up a notch is The Side of the Angels, possibly the set’s finest offering. The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and friends up against the Weeping Angels in New York is worth the ticket price alone but add into the mix the machinations of Cardinal Ollistra (Jacqueline Pearce) as well as the Monk, played here in new incarnation that looks and sounds a lot like the actor Rufus Hound. You’ll find that this is a breath-taking example of Doctor Who at its most fun.
Which leads us all to our grand finale, in the shape of Stop the Clock. The lines have been drawn, the players are all in position, and the end of the Universe is at hand. How will it all end?
Well, with a shout rather than a bang.
It’s not that it’s a bad ending – in fact, it’s entirely satisfying – but there are moments where it feels slightly forced rather than a natural end. Certain villainous characters get a suitable comeuppance, some seem to be wiped away in the blip of a sound, leaving one slightly confused as to whether they’ve been taken care of or will be back for more. It’s less of a deliberate ambiguity and more of a slight convolution towards the conclusion. There’s a Steven Moffat-style ending which asks questions that clearly link in to the future adventures of the current TARDIS team; again it doesn’t spoil the story but feels slightly over indulgent at the end of such an epic run.
However, all in all, Doom Coalition 4 reaches a satisfying finale. This second round of Eighth Doctor box sets has certainly been an excellent run over the last couple of years and here, as we reach the culmination of perhaps one of the Doctor’s biggest adventures, the listener can be assured they will walk away with closure and a new found excitement with the thought of more stories from what is turning into the Eighth Doctor’s new golden age.
Doom Coalition 4 is out now from Big Finish, priced £40 on CD or £25 as a download.