Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
After just listening to and reviewing ‘The Chimes at Midnight’ for its Vinyl release it was really interesting to go from the early audio days of the 8th Doctor, when the character was so young and carefree, back into the sometimes darker world of the Doom Coalition series. Definitely the same character, but as we know less about this Doctor on the whole, they have really been able to do a character arc with him, that they might have less freedom to do with the other Doctors.
But back to Doom Coalition 3 and as always with the Doom Coalition series and the 8th Doctor, this delivers hard!
I will give warning now, given this box set’s stories lead on from each other, there will by necessity be spoilers, but I’ll keep them as light as possible!
The first story I don’t mind telling you, moved me to tears. ‘Absent Friends’ centres around a small town that is getting a mobile telephone mast. As with any town that gets said mast, it is protested. It’s set in the late nineties and when they set the premise of the story around something that you know is a common real event, that happened a lot more at the time (before we were not used to mobile phone towers and mobile phones being so common I think the uproar was even more) then it really gives a natural real-life feel to a story. You may be wondering where my extremely manly few tears I shed come into this? Well with the mast erected people start to get calls from people they have recently lost. They assume it’s just a prank at first, but it soon seems something more is happening. As someone who has lost my Dad some years back, when one of the calls is from Liv Chenka’s Dad this really hit me. Imagine talking to one of the people you have lost who meant the most to you in the world. It’s a simple device that pays off big time.
John Dorney deserves a special shout out on this one as the writer and Nicola Walker as Liv gives a heart breaking performance. Added to all this the B story with Helen Sinclair played by Hattie Morahan is also great. She in the middle of this goes back home to look up her brother. She poses as her own daughter and seems the ramifications of when she left her life so suddenly and what it did to her family.
Next we have ‘The Eighth Piece’ & ‘The Doomsday Chronometer’, a 2 parter by Big Finish stalwart Matt Fitton. I like that each of the stories in this box set feels more connected than DC2 and it’s kind of nice to have these 2 stories sit as a 2 parter within that. The Doctor and his 2 companions split up to go after 3 threads of a clock with was linked to the time disturbances in the first story. This gives the perfect show-case for all three actors. We also meet up again with River Song, undercover as a nun in a psychic wimple (yes, you did just read that sentence). We are teased to begin with as to whether or not the 8th Doctor will get to meet River properly this time. She is disguised under the wimple which projects a false face, so it is possible for them to meet without harm to the timeline, but the Doctor at least to begin with is in the wrong time zone. In the end, we aren’t disappointed and Alex Kingston and Paul McGann are a match made in heaven. I don’t want to give away too much more of this story, but it’s a great tale in of itself and serves as a bridge between the first story and the last in the set.
Finally the ‘The Crucible of Souls’ is a really exciting end to this boxset. I was wondering when we would get back to the Eleven and between the last story and his one we are in a very interesting way. The Eleven has crossed his own timeline and we are now met with an earlier regeneration of his. Firstly a kind version in The Doomsday Chronometer who never reveals himself (The 8), then there is some confusion which leads the Doctor’s friends to think that a newly regenerated Eleven (The 9) is the Doctor. Confusing as it may sound now but it makes sense in the story. John Heffernan is great as the 9 in this story and matches the absolute insanity as laid down by Mark Bonner as the 11 whilst making it his own. We get a great conclusion to this whole story that leaves us on a cliff hanger that will surely lead into an amazing last Doom Coalition boxset that I cannot wait for.
In conclusion I think to truly appreciate the whole story. Before Doom Coalition 4 comes out; I will mark out some time to listen to the preceding boxset to remind myself and I know when I do I will particularly look forward to this one. I feel that DC3 has really raised Big Finish’s already high game when it comes to the Doom Coalition series and matches the highs of Dark Eyes in this set. It also had me stopping and thinking how amazing it is that just this series within the 8th Doctor adventures has had more series than some TV shows get! Once you take into account all the 8th Doctor adventures, then even without invoking everything else BF does in the Whoniverse then it’s a good reminder of the amazingly creative and successful work they do.
Great set of stories, all nicely linked together, but they all also tell their own story too. This one gets a strong 9/10 sonic screwdrivers.
Download here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doom-coalition-3-1223
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