Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
River Song (Alex Kingston) makes a welcome return to Big Finish in her 4th series (doesn’t feel like it’s been that long!) She meets with a brand new foe, the Discordia, a new mission to stop them and a new Doctor to meet, the 4th (Tom Baker).
This feels somewhat like a different beast for River. Whereas other boxsets for her have pretty much linked into events we already know about and times in River’s life we might be more familiar with; this set creates something new. Although Alex Kingston can’t help but bring life, fun and energy to the role, this feels a little more intense and there is a feeling of a greater threat that River feels responsible for in the Discordia. The Discordia themselves being a very well realised baddie, with a unique reason for their cause. With only mild SPOILERS sweetie, the Discordia are a race who were let loose by the Time War and can reactively change time to win. A really good enemy for River, especially when she struggles to get hold of her husband.
There is also a nice flow to this set. Time in a Bottle by Emma Reeves and Matt Fitton lays down who the Discordia are and what the set will be about. Kings of Infinite Space by Donald McLeary gives us a galactic chase story that shows a bit more of how the Discordia work. Whodunnit? by Matt Fitton is a bit of a departure from the main story, or so it seems! And is as fun as it is dramatic. Then there is Someone I Once Knew by John Dorney. The 4th Doctor and River together. Tom Baker and Alex Kingston working together is magic. In the best possible way they devour the scenery in their scenes playing off each other. Being just as large and wonderful as these characters lend themselves to being. With some clever writing and use of the set up this particular enemy allows for, the 4th Doctor gets to be more knowing; which suits him so well. We also get to see a romantic side of the 4th Doctor that fits what we already know of him perfectly. This story ties up the set very nicely and the greatest trick that Big Finish seem to manage effortlessly is to have the Doctor in someone else’s boxset and not have him take over. All of these writers have done a great job. I’d give some extra credit to Reeves and Fitton as well, as the first story had some heavy lifting to do to set a lot up but it comes off naturally.
The guest cast is well chosen and guided by director Ken Bentley. I don’t think I need to say how wonderful Tom Baker was anymore, he’s Tom Baker after all! George Asprey as Discordia Captain Melak gives a great foil to River and shows the perfect balance of evil, cunning and a good chunk of the arrogance that is always the bad guys downfall. Nicholas Asbury the wonderfully, outrageously accented Dante. There is also a heart wrenching performance by Nigel Anthony as Rakkezar in the last story, but throughout this is a strong cast.
With River slated to meet the Masters and Missy next this series goes from strength to strength. 9/10.
Buy/download here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-diary-of-river-song-series-04-1742