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Reviewed: Big Finish's The Diary of River Song Series 2

Of course, the questions that you’re here to answer is: is it any better than series 1? And you’ll be happy to know, it is.
River Song is back with a bang for her second series of adventures with Big Finish but this time, she’s got more than one Doctor to deal with. Does more Doctors mean a better story? Not necessarily but in this case it works rather well in catapulting River into an unfortunate chain of events.
Perhaps the part of this box set that niggles this reviewer the most is that it gels together in a very odd way. There’s a running theme of the apocalyptic throughout these four stories, Earth’s days are apparently numbered but the fun bit is finding out how & why, the slightly less fun bit is the explanation. This reviewer won’t spoil it for you, and it’s by no means terrible, but perhaps a little too convoluted. Certainly, the Doctor’s Seventh incarnation and River exchanging an info dump on the plot whilst trying not to flirt is interesting but a little difficult to keep up with at times.
But maybe that’s being a bit harsh because the box set on its individual merits has just those, merits of its own.

Certainly, the two stand out stories for any listener will include Five Twenty-Nine & World Enough and Time. The former is a stand-alone story for River with no Doctors in sight as she tries to unravel a strange discovery she has made. This is essentially a four-header and exemplifies just how good an actress Alex Kingston is, River stands on her own at the end of the world and proves that she’s every bit as brave and clever as her husband pretends to be. There’s also some incredibly deep moments, ones that may well produce a tear in the eye and the need to hold a loved one close immediately after. The latter story is River’s first (presumably) encounter with old Sixy. It helps that the pace of this tale is fast and punchy, with some very witty dialogue as well. Professor Song helps to humanise the Sixth Doctor even further by having him flirt with her-it’s an incredibly bold move when mixing old Who with the new but works splendidly here, one of the Doctor’s angriest incarnations becoming shy and, probably his worst nightmare, effete.
Whist the opening for the box set, The Unknown, is a solid opener, it perhaps poses too many questions too quickly, serving up a large amount of trepidation. There’s the immediate problem of memory loss for the main characters whilst dripping in moving the season arc forward as well. It works, but somehow diminishes the first (from a listeners perspective) meeting of River and the Seventh Doctor.

Perhaps where things get most confusing is The Eye of the Storm. It’s a tricky one to love when there’s so much in it to indulge in. River, two Doctors and the end of the world. Plus some nicely written supporting characters to pack a punch for the finale. But the resolution is difficult. There’s a constant spring in each leads step, the three protagonists all trying to trick & deceive one another, all trying to save the day in their own way. It can be amusing at certain moments but also messy at others, whilst there’s moments to appreciate (who doesn’t love the idea of River and Doctor’s Six and Seven all together) the listener will have to buckle down and concentrate, because getting full understanding from the end will require focus.
The Diary of River Song Series 2 proves a couple of things. Firstly, there’s lots of life in the old girl yet, adventures await Doctor Song and she’s only too willing to jump into them headfirst. Whilst it’s clear that Big Finish don’t merely want to do a carbon copy of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield, it may be an idea next time to let River have more to do on her own. This review is not against Doctors appearing in her world but maybe one at a time in the future.
The Diary of River Song Series 2 is available to buy now from the Big Finish site for £35 on CD and £30 via Download. 

Mez Burdett

Reviewed: Big Finish's The Diary of River Song Series 2

by Mez Burdett time to read: 3 min
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