It’s a good day when we’re back with the Eighth Doctor, even if I’m admittedly biased as he’s one of my favourite Doctors. This month, we’re treated to Doom Coalition 2, the second box set out of a colossal four box set story. Today, we’ll be reviewing the second story, Scenes From Her Life.
Investigating the appearance of the Voord on Earth, the Doctor, Liv and Helen follow a trail which takes them to the other side of the universe. There they discover a mysterious and almost deserted gothic city lost in space and time, in which the grotesque inhabitants are conducting a vile and inhumane experiment. The Doctor and his companions must hurry to save the lives of those in danger before the experiment is a success and the unimaginable consequences become all too real.
There’s nothing like starting off a story with torture in my opinion; and that’s exactly how this story starts. A series of experiments that are seemingly failing, an accomplice of a madman (and not a madman like our madman) and some toffs. Welcome to the world of Doctor Who folks. Hamish Clark’s portrayal of Swordfish, a person who reminds me a lot of Frankenstein’s accomplice, Igor is portrayed brilliantly; even though you can’t see him, you know Swordfish is hunched over and a slime ball. Lord Stormblood and Lady Sepulchra’s experiments are extremely gory and instantaneous, this story really does start out in the vein of Frankenstein, and I love it. I mean, the Eighth Doctor has already travelled with Mary Shelly in a trilogy of stories from Big Finish.
We join the Doctor, Liv and Helen exactly after the events of Beachhead with them trying to work out why the Voord planet has been destroyed. This story is very reminiscent of The Stolen Earth and it’s absolutely great. Helen and Liv again prove their determination to help out the Doctor by choosing to stay with him on this very dangerous goose chase, even though he gave them the option to be dropped off somewhere safe. This really does give the impression that the Doctor knows just how precarious getting to the bottom of this mystery may be.
When the Doctor discovers an old TARDIS all battered and bruised, the exterior absolutely perished showing the inside without the outside; it’s a very interesting idea and it’s one of the few times that I wish the story was audiovisual instead of just audible. I would love to be able to see this city sized TARDIS floating around in space. One thing I really enjoyed about part of the Doctor’s plan to land his TARDIS on part of the leaked interior of the other TARDIS is the fact that the Eighth Doctor is filled with self-doubt; something that I don’t think a lot of Doctor’s would admit to. He’s totally unsure as to whether the plan would work, and he openly admits it, which is something I can’t really see many of the newer Doctor’s doing unless the instantly brushed it off and did a whole “Of course I knew it would work” speech.
The Doctor interacting with Lord Stormblood and Lady Sepulchra is some of the most comedic dialogue that I’ve heard in Doom Coalition, as it’s extremely apparent that the Lord and Lady are both doolally. The fact that at the beginning of the story we heard them both openly torture and brutally murder people they’re keeping prisoners makes their characters extremely sadistic, which I absolutely love. Sadistic characters do extremely well in Doctor Who.
When it transpires that the Lord and Lady are inside the battered TARDIS which is where the Voord planet should be, it’s really interesting to note that neither of them are aware that they’re in a TARDIS and that a lot of their memories are totally distorted; speaking of an orange sky that they can vaguely remember… Aren’t orange skies familiar?
In my opinion, Liv and Helen are two of the best companions that the Doctor’s ever had the honour of travelling with, especially when they’re both together. They’re a mix of compassion, intellect and doctorishness (yes, that’s a word now). When they depart from the Time Lord, it would be interesting to hear them have their own spin-off, as long as they don’t leave the Doctor in a coffin. Which they better not. I hope Big Finish are reading this. Don’t you dare.
In Scenes From Her Life we’re reintroduced to one of my favourite Doctor Who villains ever, the Eleven; that poor, tortured soul. Mark Bonnar again does an absolutely stellar job of portraying all eleven regenerations of his Time Lord extremely well. Whilst he has one of the most challenging Big Finish roles to date, having to essentially play eleven characters within a fraction of a second, and having to distinguish them purely through his voice acting is such a tough feat which he tackles excellently.
John Dorney, the writer of this tale, has done a beyond stellar job of writing for three of the most insane, sadistic characters in Big Finish history; where Lord Stormblood and Lady Sepulchra are somewhat tragic villains, as their insanity is through no fault of their own, it’s through the fact they’re stuck in the Time Vortex unable to move, whereas the Eleven is seemingly knowingly insane.
If there’s one thing that’s slightly off putting with this story that could also be confusing for less seasoned Big Finish listeners, is the way that certain parts of this story are set during the events of The Eleven alongside the events happening in Scenes From Her Life; whilst it’s meaningful and makes sense, if you haven’t heard The Eleven in a while, it could prove to be quite confusing. I recommend listening to all of Doom Coalition 1 immediately before listening to Doom Coalition 2 if you’re concerned you might not be able to understand; trust me, it’s worth it.
Unlike Beachhead, I think the resolution to this story isn’t rushed at all, even though it does end somewhat quickly; with Helen using her compassion and tugging at the Doctor’s heartstrings (or hearts-strings) to spur him on to doing the seemingly right thing. Seemingly. That’s all I’m saying… spoilers!
Overall, Scenes From Her Life is a great Big Finish release which has an absolute cracking twist that surprised me somewhat; this has just become another reason for you to start listening to Big Finish.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Scenes From Her Life, I will give a rating of:
Should you want to purchase Doom Coalition 2, it’s currently available both physically and as a download for just £20, which you can purchase by clicking here and make sure you join us tomorrow where we’ll have the review for the third story from Doom Coalition 2, The Gift!