It feels like only yesterday that River Song was getting her first Big Finish box set but here we are with number four and it includes the Fourth Doctor.
River Song is a divisive character. People tend to love her or hate her but Big Finish have ways of winning over even the most hardened of fans. In this case, if you’re a Fourth Doctor fan you’re likely very tempted, or at least curious. As with the other sets in her range this set can be listened to entirely on its own. The stories in this set are, however, meant to be listened to in order as it carries the over arching plot forward.
Time in a Bottle
‘Time in a Bottle’ has a fascinating story idea. There’s a place in space with no time. Surely that can’t be correct but of course River Song knows better. With the help of Professor Still, played superbly by Fenella Woolgar, the two will butt heads to get answers.
The concept is very strong but this introductory story, on its own, could have been incredible. The cast and production value are top quality and there are some engaging, and humours, moments but it’s pace and ideas are sacrificed to fill a place in the box set. This would have excelled as a 2 hour main range story, or a series, dedicated entirely to its own plot without needing to establish the box set.
Regardless, it’s a good introduction that sets up a promising premise.
Kings of Infinite Space
This particular reviewer had never laughed out loud while listening to an audio drama, until ‘Kings of Infinite Space’. Writer Donald McLeary offers some truly funny moments and the cast catch and deliver every humorous beat.
‘Kings of Infinite Space’ isn’t the most original plot, but it is very entertaining and doesn’t over stay its welcome. It’s well paced and fun and is everything you might expect a River Song story to be. There’s action, lots of locations and moving around, making it extra fun to visualise.
This is a story that doesn’t take itself overly serious but there are some truly well-earned low-key moments that elevate this to more than just a romp.
Matt Fitton treats us to a perfect concept for River Song, or should I say Melody Malone? ‘Whodunnit?’ is a murder mystery, like the board game (and film) Clue. We have some stereotypes, a lot of fun and of course the Doctor Who twists.
One could easily imagine this as part of the 11th Doctor series but once the twists start coming, it’s all Big Finish. Oddly enough, it’s only at ‘Whodunnit?’ that the overall grander plot started to cement itself for this reviewer.
This is exactly the kind of story you want River to encounter. It’s difficult to say more without delivering spoilers.
Someone I Once Knew
Fan favourite John Dorney pens the story we’re all giddy for. Four meets River. Baker and Kingston! Just a couple of reckless time travellers doing what they do. While most of us would have loved an hour of the Fourth Doctor and River being witty and flirty, that’s not what this story is. We have our taste of it early on, but the story wraps up the ongoing major plot with some unexpected emotional moments.
River Song is much more subdued than we’re used to seeing her. In fact, she’s the one caught off guard, and it’s refreshing. The two are separated for much of this story with the moments they do share together being lovely but even apart the chemistry is boundless.
The plot of box set is a fantastic one but it The Discordia only really clicked for me at the end and that’s because Alex Kingston gives such a strong performance here that she makes them come to life in a way I wasn’t feeling.
‘Someone I Once Knew’ isn’t the story I was hoping for but that’s how it’s able to make the box set work and be as good as it is. The Fourth Doctor is a device rather than a companion but he’s still the Doctor and those moments we get between these two actually enrich the bond between River and The Doctor.
Series four of ‘The Diary of River Song’ is a peculiar blend of Steven Moffat style stories with heavy dose of Big Finish. Not every story works completely in all regards but the final product as an overall series is strong and will be great for multiple listens.
Alex Kingston is such a pleasure and manages the comedy and drama beautifully. As always the guest cast and production/music are strong. The stories are less even for a box set but they are fun variety. They don’t work in harmony but that equates to this being a time travelling jazz album. The first listen may not be what you’re wanting but the more you listen to it and think on it the more it works. It’s perfect for River Song.
This title was released in September 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until November 30th 2018, and on general sale after this date.
When River Song visits a place where time has vanished, a genie escapes its bottle… the Discordia are freed – nihilistic time pirates, in devilish form, altering the past to make sure they never lose.
This time, River may have met her match. And involving the Doctor can only make things worse…
4.1 Time in a Bottle by Emma Reeves and Matt Fitton
River is recruited by a rival to explore a star system where time no longer exists.
Professor Jemima Still has picked up a signal from an impossible source and takes an expert team to investigate.
But their mission is about to unleash hell upon the universe…
4.2 Kings of Infinite Space by Donald McLeary
With the Discordia on their tail, River and her friends run for their lives across time and space. But when your opponent can twist cause and effect to ensure victory at every turn, then escape may well be impossible.
4.3 Whodunnit? by Matt Fitton
Melody Malone finds herself in a castle, with an assortment of strange companions.
But guests are being murdered, one by one. Time is running out for a mystery to be solved.
And Franz Kafka is hiding something in the attic.
4.4 Someone I Once Knew by John Dorney
River has tried in vain to keep the Discordia away from the Doctor. Now, as devils run riot through universal spacetime, her own past with her husband is being rewritten. There is one last hope for the universe. A love story – but one that must find an ending…
Written By: Emma Reeves, Matt Fitton, Donald McLeary, John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Alex Kingston (River Song), Tom Baker (The Doctor), Adele Lynch (Gammarae), Fenella Woolgar (Professor Jemima Still / Formidian Queen), Josh Bolt (Spod), George Asprey (Melak), Nicholas Asbury (Dante), Ewan Bailey (Human / Alien / Robot Voices), Tim Bentinck (Franz Kafka / Samsa), Alex Tregear (Miss Vermillion / Vermillion), Christopher Naylor (Lord Simon Whist / Captain Bartholomew / Discordia Underling), Shvorne Marks (Cissy / Thelma Sketch), Nigel Anthony (Rakkezar / Drayl), Nathalie Buscombe (Garen / Galerayna). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editors Matt Fitton, John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs