Sometimes, a box set from Big Finish is so wonderful that it doesn’t need a review to confirm its greatness. Doom Coalition 3 is one such set. Although do please continue to read this review.
Continuing the epic tale of the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker), and Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) trailing the psychotic Time Lord known as the Eleven, we reach a pinnacle point where events take a turn to the epic.
Is it the tenderness of the first episode, John Dorney’s Absent Friends, which left this reviewer something of an emotional wreck? Is it the exciting romp in history for all of the Eighth Doctor’s crew, in Matt Fitton’s The Eighth Piece? Spread out across different time zones but all fighting the same fight to solve the greater mystery of the Clockmaker in The Doomsday Chronometer? Could it be the epic Gallifrey-centred finale, The Crucible of Souls, full of twists and turns, culminating in a brilliant cliff-hanger forcing the listener to dive for the pre-order button for Doom Coalition 4?
Well, it’s probably all of those things working well together to offer some of the finest Eight Doctor stories in a long while.
It also helps that the performances are damn near perfect. McGann has never been more funny and more serious with his Doctor than he is here. It’s marvellous to listen to him work the character, switching from light to dramatic in a heart(s)beat. This isn’t just luck; this is his version of our favourite Time Lord that has taken years to perfect and it never shines through brighter than it does in this four-episode set.
Alex Kingston breezes through her scenes with such ease it’s almost unsettling. It’s a bold move to start introducing River to incarnations of the Doctor previous to his Tenth (or Eleventh, if you prefer) body, one that could go easily wrong if handled by lesser companies, but Big Finish pull it off with ease. Timelines aren’t affected, but one mild spoiler from this review will let the reader know that the Eight Doctor and River not only meet and talk but also work together as well, all without damaging continuity – so far, that is. And what a wonderful team they make. The dashing Eighth Doctor and the sexy River Song: it’s a match made in heaven.
It would be incredibly terrible to not offer the highest praise to Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan as Liv and Helen respectively. The Eighth Doctor’s latest time team is probably the best he’s ever had at Big Finish (better than Lucie Miller you ask? Yes indeed! What? Stop looking at me that way). Their chemistry together is both warming and enjoyable and serves the stories provided here well. Special mention must be given to both of them for sterling performances in Absent Friends. The actresses achieve an emotional resonance for the listener that leaves a lasting effect long after the story ends.
With John Dorney bookmarking Doom Coalition 3 with stories one and four and Matt Fitton filling the middle with a magnificent two-part story, pacing never lacks and one arrives at the end of this set all too quickly. There’s a cliffhanger too. Not just a cliffhanger-for-the-sake-of-it type of cliffhanger, but a real good one.
Doom Coalition 3 packs one hell of a punch and shows that the Eighth Doctor and his latest gaggle of friends are riding high at the peak of their adventures.
Long may it continue.
Doom Coalition 3 is out now from Big Finish: £40 for a CD set and £35 as a download.