One of the many things we should be grateful to former Doctor Who showrunner Stephen Moffatt for is the creation of the character Professor River Song. She thrived onscreen against three Doctors (to date) and now the character truly comes into her own in this series courtesy of Big Finish.
Alex Kingston brings her enormous personality to the role of River Song and it is so clear how much she loves the role and how much the fans love her playing the role. If you have not heard either of the previous volumes you will not be at too much of a loss although if you have not seen season 6 of the new series of Doctor Who then there will be some pretty big spoilers contained in this set.
This third volume contains some of Kingston’s most sparkling performances to date. It is helped that the four scripts (by Nev Fountain, Jac Raynor, Matt Fitton and John Dorney) link in River’s fantastic storyline from the TV show where she faced her past in the form of the villainous Madame Kovarian (the part being revived by original actress Frances Barber with relish). The cherry on top in this production is the inclusion of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison (continuing a theme of Song meeting earlier incarnations of the Doctor in previous volumes). Davison goes through the motions with due diligence but there is a sense that he seems to be enjoying not having to hold the whole production together.
The stories themselves are very confusing however, and as it progresses through the four episodes it becomes even harder to follow the plot. Having too many time shifts and too many regenerations of characters we do not know all that well makes for a hard time in keeping track of who is who. It is good to see, though, the writers attempting a lot more humour than Big Finish is noted for (especially Dorney’s script My Dinner with Andrew).
Ken Bentley turns his experienced director’s hand on the production and through some great editing and sound mixing, turns in four entertaining episodes. The action is never dull and it is obvious that the cast are having a ball (as evidenced on the bonus disc of interviews that accompany the set).
The supporting cast are strong but special mention must go to Joanna Horton (Brooke), Jonathan Coote (Maitre D’ / Chef / Assassin), Nina Toussaint-White (Brooke 2), Francesca Zoutewelle (H-One / H-Two / Mission Captain) and Pippa Bennett-Warner (O / The Deterrent). Coote’s Maitre D’ is a highlight of the set, delivered with dry humour throughout.
The sound design by Peter Doggart, Benji Clifford and Howard Carter (who also composed the wonderful incidental music) is up to the usual high quality we have come to expect.
Fans of River Song will delight in the continuing adventures of this much-loved character, and the good news is that Series 4 is coming later in the year.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 8
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: January 2018
RRP: $41 CD, $20 Digital Download