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 third story, The Gift.
The TARDIS deposits its crew on Earth in San Francisco, 1906. There they find an actor-manager desperate to stage his definitive production of King Lear. But a real storm is headed their way when he becomes the possessor of a mysterious psychic ‘Gift’ which is hungry for power and intent on wreaking havoc and destruction. But exposure to so much psychic activity has the Doctor becoming increasingly erratic. Can he battle his demons and save the world?
The Eighth Doctor and San Francisco; they were always going to get back together weren’t they? This Doctor started his life off in the city in The TV Movie so it’s great to have him back in the city, even if it is 93 years prior to his first visit.
Helen starts this story absolutely full of remorse for her actions in Scenes From Her Life as she’s apparently feeling guilty for having compassion; something which I have a feeling might be a theme that becomes part of Helen’s character in the upcoming two Doom Coalition box sets, which I fear means her character arc won’t end too well.
James Jordan’s portrayal of the actor-manager Charles Virgil McLean is a characterisation of people whom I’ve met in my past, when I’ve been part of stage shows; the actor who really wants to act and direct everyone else, who has a totally set out vision which should be followed to the letter, the type of person other actors and actresses normally hate working with. I have no idea if the writer of this story, Marc Platt has encountered such a character in his life, but if he hasn’t, I can assure him, he’s pretty much got everything spot on with Charles. Nothing seems to be going right for poor Mr. McLean; it seems like karma though.
Whilst the Doctor seems preoccupied with needing a haircut in this frenzied state, it’s yet again up to Liv and Helen to take the reigns and try to get to the bottom of whatever it is that’s going on. This seems like something that’s going to become another running theme; the Doctor gallivanting off and Liv and Helen trying their best to keep him under control.
Charles’ story in The Gift portrays him as a desperate actor who’s totally down on his luck and seemingly in debt to some not very nice people. It’s clear that Charles is in way too deep; he really is passionate about his art. Good for him, even if he is a bit of an unlikeable character.
Liv going head to head against the guy that Charles owes money to just goes to show how headstrong Liv Chenka is as a character, showing that she always puts other people before herself. If there’s one companion that I feel could share what was going to be Ace’s fate of becoming an honorary Time Lady, it would be Liv.
As the Doctor meets Sam Sonora, a guy who’s convinced that tomorrow will be the end of the world he decides to tell him all about how he regenerated in this city in the future which provides this story with one of the best one liners in Big Finish history, “Well, have you tried living your life in the right order?”. One thing that I thought was really interesting about Sam was the fact that he acknowledges that he’s mad, personally when I see those type of preachers out and about I always think that they’re under the illusion that they’re the normal ones, and it’s all of us that are blinded by insanity.
One of the things that I found most interesting about The Gift wasn’t really the idea of Liv and Helen getting involved with an actor who’s seemingly in trouble with some type of mafia style organisation; but the fact that the Doctor seems to get on really well with Sam, someone who’s rather obviously not all there, but appears harmless enough. I think it would be a great idea for the Doctor to maybe have a person of limited sanity be his companion aboard the TARDIS as they could offer a totally unique and different perspective on everything that the Doctor comes in contact with.
The idea behind the gift of which the story is titled is a great one that I don’t want to spoil for you readers, so I’ll try my best to skirt around the issue, as I have a feeling that it may be part of the larger arc in the Doom Coalition saga. All I will say is that the gift isn’t as much as a gift than a ticking time bomb of a curse.
If there’s one moral to be taken from this story; it’s probably that greed is a very powerful and rather evil force to be reckoned with; and I think that The Gift would be a great story to let children listen to to help them understand this extremely moral dilemma. The Doctor’s verbal duel with Charlie in the TARDIS is an absolute work of art and one of Paul McGann’s best performances of the Doctor that I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear.
Overall, The Gift is a rather good story that deals with a lot of themes that I feel are relevant in our capitalistic societies, the performances in this story are some of the best I’ve heard in Doom Coalition and it introduces some absolute gems of characters, especially Sam whom I’ve grown a massive soft spot for. The ending of the story should make any listener yearn for more, luckily we have The Sonomancer still yet to come.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Gift, 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 final story from Doom Coalition 2, The Sonomancer!