Doctor Who – “Doom Coalition 1”

After the apocalpytic events of Doctor Who: Dark Eyes, the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka continue their adventures in space and time. But an ancient danger is stirring under the citadel of Gallifrey.

The Eleven – a insane Time Lord who has retained his previous personalities – has escaped, and the Time Lords are powerless to stop him. Now the Doctor, Liv and their new friend Helen Sinclair are the universe’s only chance of survival…

Paul McGann is the Doctor in Doom Coalition 1.

X X X X X

Cast
Paul McGann (The Doctor)
Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka),
Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair)
Mark Bonnar (The Eleven)
Robert Bathurst (Padrac)
Caroline Langrishe (Lady Farina)
Bethan Walker (Kiani)
Ramon Tikaram (Castellan)
David Yelland (Walter Pritchett)
John Woodvine (Galileo Galilei)
Harry Myers (Cleaver)
Esther Hall (Virginia)
Gunnar Cauthery (Cavalli)
Ewan Bailey (Count Licori/Father Locke/Orbs)
Matthew Cottle(Paine)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Spz9OgsRihQ

X X X X X

Doom Coalition 1 begins a new chapter in the audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor. Introducing both a new companion and an intriguing villain, the four stories that comprise this box set mix political intrigue, old-school horror, an historical adventure, and a showdown with the fate of Earth at stake. Combined, Doom Coalition 1 is a solid series that shows vast promise for the overall story arc.

The Eleven. A Time Lord whose previous personalities live on in his mind: arguing, plotting, jostling for supremacy… He is also Gallifrey’s most dangerous criminal. And he has escaped.

The Doctor is recalled to his homeworld to lead the hunt. As they search the Capitol’s corridors of power, the Academy halls and the cells of the highest security penitentiary, Liv realises the worst monsters may be among the Doctor’s own people.

For inside his fractured mind, the Eleven has a plan. And its deadly consequences will extend through space and time…

The Eleven kicks off Doom Coalition 1 with a race-against-time story that would feel right at home as an episode of 24 or Spooks. Matt Fitton (Stage Fright, The Wrong Doctors and several stories in the Dark Eyes range) provides the set-up for the series by introducing the Eleven, a Time Lord who suffers from a unique form of regeneration disorder where all his previous personalities are still active inside his mind; personalities that are, for the most part, psychopathic. The Doctor (in a nice cameo by Sylvester McCoy) was responsible for capturing him and turning him over to the Time Lords for incarceration. But even locked away in the most secure prison on Gallifrey, the Eleven has a plan in motion to ensure his escape, the first part of a plan that will see the death of the Doctor’s latest incarnation.

Even if The Eleven was a stand-alone story, it would still be worth a listen. Fitton takes the listener to Gallifrey and in the process gives them a nice look into Time Lord society. There’s the young student Kiani who was interviewing the Eleven as part of her Academy thesis (played by Bethan Walker, aka the poor pizza girl from the unfortunate Torchwood episode Cyberwoman who becomes the Doctor’s temporary companion in this story. She does a good job playing the Gallifreyan studying to be a Time Lord who knows the legends surrounding the Doctor, being awed at his presence without sinking into being an annoying fangirl. Caroline Langrishe plays Lady Farina, the current head of the Celestial Intervention Agency and someone dedicated to recapturing the Eleven without the help of the Doctor. She perfectly nails the arrogant, overconfident Time Lord vibe, casually dismissing the Doctor, his “merely human” companion Liv, and underestimating the danger of the Eleven, much to her regret. On the other side of the spectrum, Robert Bathurst’s Padrac is a Time Lord who actually attended the Academy with the First Doctor. Instead of being a pompous Time Lord looking down on Liv, Padrac understands the Doctor’s interest in other races, and in many ways Padrac is Liv’s companion during this story.

Where The Eleven excels is how quickly it moves. There’s plenty of action, tension, and intrigue going on throughout this story, with all the players dealing with the Eleven’s schemes and the problems they create during a chase across Gallifrey. They’re thrown into danger that they’re forced to either fight or think their way out of, always one step behind the Eleven. The brief moments where the action slows down allows the listener to catch their breath before diving right into the next sequence, and by the end of this fast-paced tale the listeners understand the danger the Eleven proposes but they also understand why the Doctor is going to chase him across time and space…across time and Earth.

An anomaly in time brings the Doctor and Liv to London in the 1960s, where they meet a young lady named Helen Sinclair – desperately trying to make a name for herself in the face of sexism and prejudice.

Whilst the Doctor tried to uncover the secrets of a mysterious artefact, a far deadlier mystery awaits Liv and Helen in the collection of a recently deceased antiquarian.

Because that’s where they find the Red Lady. Because if you do, you might not like what you see.

The Red Lady is a straight forward horror story along the lines of the classic Eighth Doctor story The Chimes of Midnight. John Dorney, writer of The Rocket Men, Requiem for the Rocket Men and Iterations of I, weaves a story that’s a bit Lovecraftian and a bit Hammer. Following a temporal anamoly left in the wake of the Eleven’s flight from Gallifrey, the Doctor and Liv land in 1960’s London, where a young language scholar named Helen Sinclair is studying the collection of a deceased antiquarian who acquired a vast collection of artifacts, paintings, and writings over the years from numerous ancients cultures for the sole purpose of not letting anyone else view them. With his passing, the museum has begun to catalog the collection, only for those who gaze upon the collection to find themselves unable to turn away from a certain tapestry, even as to look at it means their certain death as the Red Lady slowly moves from a far away blur to a richly detailed figure reaching for your throat…

The Red Lady is the best story of the four. Dorney puts all the horror trappings into this tale; mysterious deaths, plucky investigators, certain doom, and a desperate race against time where the outcome is in doubt. This story could have been a module for a Call of Cthulhu campaign with the way it unfolds – the more secretive a piece of information is, the more people will do anything to lay their eyes upon it. The Red Lady introduces a new companion to the TARDIS, language scholar Helen Sinclair, played by Hattie Morahan. Morahan is a veteran actor of screen, television, stage, and radio, and she dives right into the audio format with seeming ease. Her first appearance sees her defiant in the face of sexism and prejudice from her museum supervisor, and it’s a delight when her next scene has her confront the Doctor and Liv in her office and stand her ground, failing to fall for the Doctor’s quick words and feckless charm. It’s not until the Doctor and Liv help her translate some ancient documents that she’s won over, and even then it’s not an instant sell for her to trust them. It’s refreshing to see a companion who doesn’t fall right in lockstep with the Doctor. It’s with her assistance as someone who has yet to see the Red Lady that the trio manage to defeat the Red Lady in two nail biting sequences where it falls on her to be the rock for the Doctor and Liv to stand upon. Aside from being a cracker of a tale, The Red Lady serves as a great introduction for Helen, who joins the Doctor and Liv at the end of the story.

Helen Sinclair doesn’t know what hit her. One moment she was trapped in a dead-end job in 1960s London, and now she is transported back to Renaissance Italy over three centuries before. Florence is a city in turmoil. A new plague stalks the streets. A ferocious behemoth rampages through the vineyards. And Galileo Galilei, celebrated scientist, astronomer and old friend of the Doctor, is imprisoned in his own villa for heresy.

But why has Galileo summoned the Doctor? Who are the mysterious Fortuna and Cleaver? Why have they been sent to Earth? And what is Galileo’s secret? Is it the last thing he saw before he went blind?

The Galileo Trap is the weakest of the four stories, which is a bit of a letdown considering it comes from the pen of Marc Platt (Spare Parts, Ghost Light). It’s still a pretty solid historical story set in Florence as a mysterious plague holds sway over the town, a plague somehow tied to the famed astronomer Galileo, under house arrest by the Church for heresy. Platt gets the historical aspects down cold (along with the idea of alien tourists visiting Earth for a holiday) and also does a good job giving Morahan a chance to show just how much Helen is a fish out of water when it comes to time travel, as opposed to the standard cliché of a companion paying lip service to the concept while navigating the past with relative ease. The problem with this story is the one-dimensional nature of its villains, two bounty hunters hired to capture the Doctor and take him to the Eleven. There is little more to their characterization than the fact that they’re aliens and they hate each other. Veteran actor John Woodvine is fantastic as Galileo, however, a brilliant man who is slowly getting older but still has his wits and his wit about him, chiding the Doctor for falling into such an obvious trap.

Throughout Doom Coalition 1, Nicola Walker (Ruth Evershed from Spooks) does a great job as Liv Chenka, a human from the planet of Kaldor who gets mixed up with the Doctor during the events of Dark Eyes and stays with him after the conclusion of that story arc. Haven’t yet heard Dark Eyes, I can only speak for her turn in this series of stories. But she’s definitely a companion worth listening to. From the in media res introduction of the pair during The Eleven, Liv is a companion who has tangible chemistry with the Doctor; smart, brave, giving as good as she gets, willing to trust in what the Doctor says even when she believes she shouldn’t, and most importantly there to point out the flaws in the Doctor’s plans when even he doesn’t see them. Walker’s delivery in the audio format is so natural and nearly flawless, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the Doctor and Liv first met during the events of Dark Eyes.

The Satanic Mill – a vast Victorian factory floating in the deep of space.

As the Doctor closes in on his quarry, long buried animosities come boiling to the surface on this ancient and powerful satellite, in a final confrontation that could have unimaginable consequences.

And even that is only the beginning…

Since the box set is called Doom Coalition 1, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Satanic Mill doesn’t quite settle accounts between the Doctor and the Eleven. This is Edward Collier’s first story for Big Finish and it does a great job showcasing the Eleven and his plans for the Doctor. The Doctor, Liv, and Helen discover the Eleven is holed on in an slave-labor run industrial mill orbiting the far side of Earth’s sun and travel there to stop his nefarious plans. But this is exactly what the Eleven wants because if there’s one thing the Doctor can’t resist, it’s a chance to free the oppressed masses…

The Satanic Mill is a straight-forward story that follows in the footsteps of The Eleven. It moves quickly and brings the listener along for the ride as the TARDIS crew is quickly seperated and forced to work their way through the Eleven’s machinations. Liv and Helen have their moments in freeing the laborers and doing their best to save the Doctor from the Eleven’s trap, but this story is all about the Eleven. The Eleven is an amazing concept for a Time Lord whose regenerations have simply gone wrong. Instead of having the memories of his previous incarnations, it turns out that those incarnations are still prevalent in both his head and his speech. The Eleven (so named because this is his eleventh incarceration) is in control, but more often than not his other selves will have their say, spewing out their hatred and venom and worst of all opinions on the current situation, much to the annoyance of the Eleven. There are eleven different accents, eleven different personalities that have to be portrayed in the Eleven’s performance, and Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty) is simply AMAZING in the part. From his very introduction in The Eleven all the way to his mad scheme to use a prototype stellar converter to turn the Earth’s sun into his own personal Eye of Harmony, Bonnar gives all eleven personalities their own unique voice. To hear it is an experience I can’t do justice in text. It’s the kind of performance that should win some kind of award because Bonnar deserves recognition for it.

The box set format, four hour-long episode every few months, seems to fit Paul McGann very well. His energy and enthusiasm is readily apparent throughout all four stories with a Doctor fired up and eager, almost to the point of zealousness, to stop the Eleven and bring him back to Gallifrey. It’s the zealousness that is of interest to me. While Big Finish has slowly been showing how the Doctor is being broken emotionally by the events leading up to the Time War (without being able to mention the Time War, although that all changes in 2017), hearing the angry determination in the Doctor’s voice as he rushes right into the Satanic Mill knowing full well it’s a trap and demanding in no uncertain terms to know the Eleven’s long-term plans even as the Doctor is making his escape from certain death is a bit eye-opening. There’s no boredom or sleepwalking on the part of McGann, and its his enthusiasm as well as the Doctor’s that keeps the listening interested throughout this box set.

The Eleven gets away of course, but Doom Coalition 1 ensures that listeners will be eager, not frustrated, at his escape. Four solid stories (with The Red Lady being the best of the bunch) and an amazing villain provide the hope that the long term story spanning four box sets will be worth the listen the entire way through.

Cobi’s Synopsis – One of the most unique villains in the show’s history along with three solid episodes and one absolute cracker make Doom Coalition 1 a great start to the next epic story arc for the Eight Doctor.

Next up – As a dark chapter dawns for the universe, a friend is at hand. But how can River Song help the Doctor if she can’t meet him?

Paul McGann is the Doctor in…Doom Coalition 2

Advertisements

About cobiwann

A guy who's into a niche fandom of a niche fandom - the Big Finish audio plays of "Doctor Who." Also into the show itself, both old and new, plus pop culture and a smattering of human insight.
This entry was posted in Big Finish Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s