Following on from the last boxset, Doom Coalition 2 flings the listener head on into four brand new adventures for the Eighth Doctor and his latest TARDIS cohort.
Looking at this particular Doctor’s time at Big Finish, it’s amazing to hear the evolution of Paul McGann’s performance. This time round we have a Doctor that is lighter in tone than he previously was. Gone are the shackles of Edwardian Adventuresses, other universes and Dalek Time Controllers, this is a new Eighth Doctor: cheeky, funny, brave and ready for any adventure. It’s a far cry from the far more sombre McGann model that we stared off with in 2002. This helps to realise Doom Coalition’s true potential, this is a television epic in audio form.
From the whirlwind opening story Beachhead (one of Nicholas Briggs’ finest scripts to date a fine mix of classic and new era Who) to the dark and mysterious Scenes from Her Life, there’s a fun return to San Francisco in the early 1900’s in Marc Platt’s The Gift before events culminate with a little background help from the Doctor’s future wife in Matt Fitton’s The Sonomancer. Each story contains action, drama, mystery, intrigue, heart and doesn’t let up for one second. The sheer speed in which you digest this set of stories will stagger you, it’s just that good.
With Doom Coalition 2, we have a contained boxset that one can enjoy without prior knowledge to the first set. However, with The Eleven making his presence felt throughout proceedings as well as a powerful new player to the game first appearing in Scenes from Her Life, events are surely heading towards a very grand finale indeed so be warned, once you’re hooked on this (and you will be) there will be an agonizing wait for the next set of stories.
Speaking of returning characters, the Doctor’s good lady wife makes an appearance in The Sonomancer, awaiting an answer to a call she sent out to the Doctor. Once again, the timelines aren’t quite syncing up and so poor old River Song doesn’t get the chance to talk to her beloved as he wont meet her for another three bodies and at this stage, she’s a responsible psychopath. But fret not, faithful listener, this only helps to reaffirm the larger Doctor Who universe and better establish the link between old and new. Rather than offering a typical story where the Doctor and River meet and then he conveniently has his memory wiped in order to forget her, we are offered a powerful Time Lord and a powerful child of the TARDIS working separately and yet together at the same time. This is all (technically) before they’ve met, from one party’s side at least, and helps to add the romantic element to their relationship, destiny and soul mates are hard to fathom when time travel can help the process, yet with Doom Coalition 2, we feel that the Doctor and River were always meant to be, no matter what they did.
Whilst we have a ripping good set of yarns, kudos must also be given to Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka and Hattie Morahan as Helen Sinclair. The Eighth Doctor’s newest friends hold well together. This is a TARDIS team that supports one another, their relationship goals clearly defined and their chemistry playing out well. Never has this incarnation sounded as comfortable as he does at the helm of the TARDIS with these two by his side. Long may it last.
It wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion that Doom Coalition 2 was going to be an outright success but this review can confirm that it most certainly is. It also bears repeat listening as well, the stories are that good that they get richer with each listen.
Well played Big Finish, can we have Doom Coalition 3 now please?
Doom Coalition 2 is available now on CD or via download from Big Finish.