River Song returns with some new entries for her diary by Big Finish. Now on her sixth volume of The Diary of River Song, all the stops have been pulled out for the latest instalment. River meets friends of her husband but also a few foes too…
Following the fifth series of The Diary of River Song at the start of this year, Doctor River Song (“sometimes Professor, but mainly Doctor”) is back once again. Listeners have another new series to indulge in as one last treat before the summer ends. Rather than meeting up with the Doctor, this time River has found herself stuck in the middle of, or right before, four key events in the Doctor’s first four lives. Four events where if anything changes, disaster could unfurl. Good thing the universe’s most meddlesome archaeologist is here! (Well, one of them anyway…)
An Unearthly Woman by Matt Fitton
Kicking things off is master of multi-story management Matt Fitton, throwing River back before her dearest even began his trips in time and space. River has been lead back to Shoreditch of 1963 in search of something dangerous that needs to be stopped. Moonlighting as a new teacher at the nearby Coal Hill School, she finds her way into the concerns of Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Concerns over a particular student of theirs. Concerns that fellow student Susan Foreman seems to share with the three teachers…
Taking cues, and subverting those same cues, from the very first episode, Fitton gives us a lovely period piece and mystery thriller within the context of everything we already know. He is able to write his way around any character and make each exchange seem believable and engaging. The returning cast from The First Doctor Adventures, Claudia Grant, Jamie Glover and Jemma Powell as Susan, Ian and Barbara respectively, have not lost their touch and get on exceptionally well with Alex Kingston’s River. The supporting cast of Lizzie Stables, Edward Dede and Owen Aaronovitch also make this world utterly believable. It all made this particular reviewer long for a 1963 version of Class. Just imagine….
The Web Of Time by John Dorney
Continuing into the era of the cosmic hobo, the legendary John Dorney takes the helm for a trip back to a story that, a while ago, we never thought would be seen again. Doctor Song has been hired by a museum to find a painting. No biggie for a time traveller. Only thing is, she’s found herself in London 1968. In the middle of the Yeti invasion. Who should turn up but a Captain that knows her husband. Or at least, he will know…
After script editing The Great Intelligence for the last regular Counter-Measures set, Dorney now takes the reins on writing for a truly underrated Who villain and does so with style. At times during the story it can feel like River and Captain Knight are meeting up just because they can. However, Dorney attempts, and succeeds, in justifying the pairing by making the two characters work off each other in a convincing, and sometimes emotional way.
This is helped immensely by the brilliant performances by both Alex Kingston and Ralph Watson, returning to his original role of Captain Knight for the first time since 1968. Alongside them, Kathryn Drysdale, Mandi Symonds and Samuel Clemens all handle their roles very well. Ranging from the emotional, to hilarious and to the downright terrifying. If this is the weakest story of the four it is merely a reflection of the high standard of the remaining episodes. This is another great story. Let’s be fair, it’s a John Dorney story and they’re never bad.
Peepshow by Guy Adams
Guy Adams jumps in and decides to break from expectations. Instead of a prequel or prelude, he gives us a side-story, and a bloody good one at that! River needs some funds for a new trip but unfortunately, is currently out of pocket. Thankfully, she knows what goes for a high price. Miniscope parts are ridiculously expensive, so why not go back to the one the Doctor told her about and nick one or two? Well, she soon finds out why he was dragged into that particular carnival of monsters. Only question now is, can she get herself and all the other trapped creatures out, before the plug is pulled?
From the very beginning when things go south, Adams makes us well aware of what kind of story we are in for; a riotous action adventure, with a good sprinkling of humour. Plus, utilising a midquel setting instils action that is even tenser. Carnival of Monsters is happening simultaneously, adding time pressure to the situation. Well even more than the Drashigs already do.
Alongside Alex Kingston thoroughly enjoying performing the story, Dan Starky plays the Sontarans, and Adams himself gives voice to the Ogrons. Both creatures deliver equal parts humour and tense drama. However, the standout is River’s ‘companion’ for the tale, Clive Wood as security man Dibbsworth. Not only will he send you into an uncontrollable laughing fit, but he’s just about the most relatable companion River has had on her travels. Pure brilliance and a delight to listen to.
It has been two years since we sadly lost Trevor Baxter. Thankfully, through the works of Paul Morris we are reminded that Professor Litefoot is still out there in the world of Doctor Who. Another chance to hear Christopher Benjamin is also never a bad thing. Henry Gordon Jago has hit a snag in his career. He may have a terrific theatre, and a mesmerising magician, but the takings are disappearing quicker than missing girls. Thankfully, Jago’s been given a lifeline! He has a new singer, the aptly named River Song, a new choreographer by the name of Celestine, and a business proposition from an acquaintance of his regular magician, Li H’Sen Chang. A reclusive investor known as Angus Peel, if that is his real name…
The prospect of hearing the dulcet dictation of the incredible impresario that is Henry Gordon Jago is what is going to draw most people to this boxset. It can be safely said, it is completely worth it. Whist Morris opts for the prequel route, it’s done so in a masterful way, allowing not just a compelling story in its own right, but a set up of a good few elements from one of the show’s most beloved stories. Every little detail Morris includes pays off to something in the main story itself and it just makes it that more captivating.
The two leads of Kingston and Christopher Benjamin play off each perfectly (in more ways than one!). Supporting cast members Milly Thomas and John Paul Connolly help pull everything together into a perfect show. Special mention must also be given to both Nicholas Goh, as Li H’Sen Chang and Mr Sin, and Angus Wright as Magnus Greel who gives original actor Michael Spice a run for his money with this performance. To say more would spoil what is a truly memorable experience…
Ken Bentley remains the director on this range. When Bentley, Matt Fitton and sometimes John Dorney get together to plan out boxsets something magical always occurs. The War Doctor. UNIT. The myriad of Eighth Doctor mini-series they have put their names to, not to mention The Diary of River Song.
Taking a divisive character and getting her to her SIXTH series, with a seventh on the way in January, is a testament to the incredible cast and the talented writers. Add in Howard Carter’s magnificent score and sound work (that theme is still so beautiful and will never gets old), the series is a can’t miss event. The talents of Kingston, Bentley and Fitton, plus many other contributors have collectively created a fantastic spin-off so captivating and a pleasure to listen to. The only question now is, what is next for River?
Wait… is that…. Is that someone coming round on a ruddy great tractor?
Well, one can only hope….
The Diary Of River Song: Series 6 is available to purchase on CD and Download from the Big Finish Website, and will be available from other stockists from November onwards.
River Song has many ways to amuse herself away from her husband. And with access to the Doctor’s diary, she knows exactly when he might be around, and when best to slip in unnoticed and liberate valuable trinkets…
But first of all, she must ensure he makes it out of Totters Lane alive!
6.1 An Unearthly Woman by Matt Fitton
Coal Hill School has a new member of staff: an educated woman, who seems to specialise in every subject. Meanwhile, teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright have concerns over the behaviour of one of their pupils.
Susan Foreman is intrigued by Dr Song, but something else is stalking her in the darkness and fog of London, 1963…
6.2 The Web of Time by John Dorney
The capital has been evacuated. Monsters stalk the Underground. For River, it’s the perfect opportunity to steal a priceless artwork, so long as she can avoid looters, soldiers and an alien invasion.
With the gallant Captain Knight at her side, River faces the Great Intelligence and its Yeti army. But her biggest challenge may be keeping time itself on track…
6.3 Peepshow by Guy Adams
Miniscope parts fetch quite a price on the open market – luckily, River knows where she can find one that’s about to be decommissioned. Unfortunately, this particular miniscope is chock-full of aliens, as well as unsuspecting Earthlings.
River must face a carnival of monsters before she can claim her prize – across miniature habitats, Ogrons, Sontarans and Drashigs await!
6.4 The Talents of Greel by Paul Morris
River visits Victorian London on the trail of anachronistic technology. But when young women are stolen from the streets, she takes a stand. River’s investigation leads to theatre impresario Henry Gordon Jago, and his latest star act: Li H’Sen Chang and the unnerving Mr Sin. But if River’s going undercover at the Palace Theatre, she needs to have a song…
The Yeti & The Great Intelligence © Haisman & Lincoln and used under licence. With thanks to Hannah Haisman and Candy Jar
- Alex Kingston (River Song)
- Claudia Grant (Susan Foreman)
- Jamie Glover (Ian Chesterton)
- Jemma Powell (Barbara Wright)
- Ralph Watson (Captain Ben Knight)
- Christopher Benjamin (Henry Gordon Jago)
- Owen Aaronovitch (Mr Newbold / Mitchell)
- Guy Adams (Ogrons)
- Samuel Clemens (Corporal Buscombe / The Intelligence)
- John Paul Connolly (Casey)
- Edward Dede (Lloyd Walker)
- Kathryn Drysdale (Erin Harris)
- Nicholas Goh (Li H’Sen Chang / Mr Sin)
- Lizzie Stables (Sheila Page / Nightstalker)
- Dan Starkey (Commander Sturmm / Sontarans)
- Mandi Symonds (Maude / Neon)
- Milly Thomas (Celestine Sorbonne / Maisie Bunting)
- Clive Wood (Dibbsworth)
- Angus Wright (Magnus Greel)
- Script Editor: Matt Fitton and John Dorney
- Written by Guy Adams, Matt Fitton, John Dorney and Paul Morris
- Creative Director for the Haisman Estate: Andy Frankham-Allen
- Cover Artist: Tom Webster
- Director: Ken Bentley
- Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
- Music: Howard Carter
- Producer: David Richardson
- Sound Design: Howard Carter
- Theme Music by Howard Carter