After almost 15 years, David Tennant and Alex Kingston reunite as The Tenth Doctor and River Song in this new collection of three audio stories from Big Finish Productions! Here’s our review:
1. “Expiry Dating” by James Goss
The set opens with the fast-paced, universe-trotting Expiry Dating by James Goss, which is the first story in 15 years to feature the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and River Song (Alex Kingston). Luckily, Goss wastes no time in pairing them up, and before the theme music even kicks in, River has enlisted the Doctor (via a letter written on psychic paper) to break into the mysterious sounding Apocalypse Vault.
The two characters spend much of the story communicating through letters, only meeting up a couple of times, with River repeatedly trying to get the Doctor to do what she wants, and the Doctor doing the exact opposite. Along the way, he goes to a planet of bees, gets locked up in a dungeon and fights werewolves with Jane Austen, all of which make for a fun, varied episode.
This story features cameos from Peter Davison and Colin Baker, playing the Fifth and Sixth Doctors respectively. They both get some refreshingly different material to the norm, and there’s even a moment where one of them bumps into the Tenth Doctor, making for a fun little interaction.
Overall, Expiry Dating is an exciting, pacy way to reintroduce the Tenth Doctor and River Song after so long. I thought it a little too similar to R&J from The Lives of Captain Jack earlier this year, so some of the novelty of the story was lost, but all in all this is a strong story with a powerful, emotional ending.
2. “Precious Annihilation” by Lizzie Hopley
The Doctor and River reunite in London, 1912, where jewels are starting to mysteriously explode. In order to learn the truth behind these lethal gemstones, they travel into the past, encountering a whole host of weird and wonderful characters and even braving the high seas on a ship full of mutineers. It’s a thrilling, action-packed adventure, though all the location hopping does make it a little hard to follow at times.
The relationship between the Doctor and River is at its least effective here, though Tennant and Kingston put in spectacular performances as usual. Unlike Expiry Dating or Ghosts, there’s no real reason why this should be a Tenth Doctor and River Song story; it could easily have featured any other Doctor and companion pairing with very few changes to the storyline.
Anjli Mohindra takes on a few different roles here, as do Barnaby Kay, Joe Sims and Joe Jameson. While their performances are top-notch, the fact that each actor plays at least two roles (with Sims, Jameson and Mohindra playing three each) makes it a little distracting, and sometimes hard to distinguish between characters.
Howard Carter‘s sound design was particularly strong here. He brings to life the hustle-and-bustle of London, a creaking merchant ship and much more to life with flair, while also tacking swordfights and exploding jewelry. This is definitely a very aurally-rich story.
All in all, Precious Annihilation is a fairly standard, by-the-numbers Doctor Who story. It’s not particularly tailored to the Tenth Doctor/River Song pairing like the previous episode was, but it’s still a fun way to pass the time. Strong (if unremarkable) stuff!
3. “Ghosts” by Jonathan Morris
Ghosts by Jonathan Morris is the final story in the set, bringing the Tenth Doctor and River Song together for one last time on the spooky planet of Demonese 2. The two soon encounter the titular ghosts, who reside on the planet, but realise that something is wrong with them. Joining a group of stranded tourists, they must face a mysterious, murderous mist, which they must defeat before they learn the truth about what’s going on here…
Just from the plot alone, this is the strongest story in the boxset. It has a strong focus, a great atmosphere and some truly mind-blowing twists. Mina Anwar, Tim Bentinck, Emma Swan and Sam Benjamin make up the guest cast for this story. Each puts in a strong performance, though their characters are rather thinly sketched compared to those in the other two stories. Nevertheless, the Doctor and River are characterised so well that this really isn’t much of a problem.
Aside from that, there’s not much bad to say about Ghosts. The story is compelling, Howard Carter‘s score is the best in the set and David Tennant and Alex Kingston are given some of their best material in this story too. Definitely a strong way to end the boxset.
Overall, The Tenth Doctor and River Song is one of the best boxsets that Big Finish have released this year. With strong direction from Nicholas Briggs and truly fantastic central performances from the two leads, you’d never know this set was recorded remotely during lockdown: it works so well! Each story is strong in its own right, but the collection as a whole is definitely far more than just the sum of its parts. It’s just so exciting to hear David Tennant and Alex Kingston play off against one another after all these years, and I really hope we hear more from this pairing soon. Highly recommended.
The Tenth Doctor and River Song is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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