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 final story, The Sonomancer. This time though, we have someone else on the Doctors side. Hello Sweetie…
On the other side of the galaxy a mining company is exploiting the already unstable planet of Syra for every precious mineral it contains. River Song is attempting to save the native people. She needs the Doctor’s help, but she also knows he mustn’t yet discover her true identity. The final confrontation sees the Doctor once again face his enemy the Eleven in an attempt to prevent the destruction of Syra and the genocide of its inhabitants.
A year ago, if you’d’ve told me that River Song will be opening the finale of an Eighth Doctor box set, chances are I wouldn’t have believed you at all; but that’s exactly what’s happened. River is trying to get the Doctor’s attention because she’s in danger. Again. One thing we can rely on with River is that she’s always going to be in some kind of peril. This time though, she’s up against the Eleven, the incredibly dangerous Time Lord; now I’m normally one of the people that believe that River can get out of most situations fairly unscathed but as I’m writing this, before hearing anything after the title sequence; I’m genuinely intrigued as to how she’s going to go up against the Eleven. It transpires that the Eleven isn’t working alone anymore, and instead he’s apparently under the rule of Caleera, yet another corrupt Gallifreyan.
The Doctor, Helen and Liv find themselves on Syra, which is convenient for River as they’re trying to follow the quakes that they found in The Gift. It seems that the TARDIS crew are picking up bad vibrations, and it’s giving them excitations (or the opposite, whatever that is).
I really enjoy it when the people of a planet treat their planet in a way that’s so different to the way we treat ours; I know there’s the whole ‘Mother Nature’ thing, but I doubt anyone actually believes that they’re’s an omniscient being that is nature. The idea that the Syran’s believe that Syra itself is a living entity that breathes and bleeds is really interesting to me, as it really does give the impression that they’re part of a culture that’s so different to our own.
River stuck in a confined environment with a locking mechanism is never going to end well; we know that she’s escaped the Stormcage on numerous occasions, even though it’s meant to be inescapable, however she finds herself yet again trapped in such a place with an alpha-numeric pad as her only form of escape whilst she waits for her husband to come and save her. Admittedly, I quite like the idea of a short trip featuring River just waiting for the Doctor to show up and he doesn’t; it could be extremely comical.
The idea that the Eleven might not really the big bad of Doom Coalition like I initially thought is really interesting, as he seems more than content to serve someone else for a higher purpose.
I don’t know if it’s because I listen to as much Big Finish as is humanly possible or not, but for me the idea of mining on a planet that shouldn’t be mined is very reminiscent of the War Doctor story The Thousand Worlds as neither of them are going to be mining without consequence; I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but I feel like it’s too soon between the releases for the idea to feel fully fresh.
Earlier in Doom Coalition 2’s reviews, I talked about how Helen is seemingly becoming more and more independent and adjusted to the crazy life that comes with being a member of the Doctor’s TARDIS crew; and in The Sonomancer it really seems to be the episode that gives her the opportunity to shine as she has to negotiate with the Syran’s on her own.
In The Sonomancer, we get to learn more about Liv’s backstory too, which is really interesting as since her first appearance way back in Robophobia, she’s been somewhat of an enigma however in this release we get to hear a little bit about her relationship with her father that adds to the realism of the character. The Doctor and Liv too have an absolutely great chemistry, they’re played as equals instead of a master and his apprentice. Come to think of it, if the Master ever got a companion they should so be called the Apprentice. Anyway…
When Helen meets Professor River Song in the mining capsule they’re both being kept in as prisoners it’s a great small scene where Helen realises that the Doctor knows a lot of people, and a lot of people rely on the Doctor. The chemistry between Helen and River is really strong, as it would have been so easy to have written River as a jealous wife when she finds out that the Doctor has another female travelling around with him, but she doesn’t. What’s great about having River in these stories with classic Doctors is that she can also pull in references to the New-Who ones, asking which one is here, ‘the magician, the spiv or the geography teacher?’, little does she know that it’s actually the Eighth Doctor who’s here for her. Like in River’s previous meeting with the Eighth Doctor in The Rulers of The Universe, she’s not allowed to meet him as it would ruin the course of time, meaning that Professor Song will have to think on her feet more than she anticipated.
The battle between Liv and the Eleven in the mine for me was far too short, and could have easily been five minutes longer to let Mark Bonnar get to flex his extremely bulging acting muscles like he got to in The Eleven. Instead a certain character managed to come and save the day, you probably won’t need more than two guesses to work out who it is.
If there’s one thing that I found slightly out of character though, it was just how violent River was to the Eleven after they’d already seemingly ‘defeated’ him, using some Venutian Karate which she learned on one of her honeymoons; nothing like them referencing the Third Doctor for the second time in this box set. I’m guessing that these references were just a strange coincidence, although with these interlinking Big Finish box sets you can never really be too sure.
Like I’ve said, Mark Bonnar again portrays the Eleven extremely well, making each and every entity in the Eleven’s head very distinct and unique, making it easy to differentiate all of the incarnations from one another. Speaking of absolutely great performances, I should talk about how Alex Kingston is great at voice acting as River Song; I know that in The Diary of River Song some people criticised her vocal acting ability, but personally, I feel like she’s done an absolutely cracking job in every Big Finish release she’s been a part of.
The threads from the previous three stories in Doom Coalition 2 all converge in The Sonomancer, giving the impression that there’s a much more sinister plot going on than anyone listening ever anticipated.As I listened to all four releases from Doom Coalition 2 within quick succession, it’s very apparent that all four writers for the stories worked closely in collaboration with one another, with the themes and tones seemingly bleed from one story to another; it really does give the impression that Doom Coalition is going to be a sixteen hour operatic saga, opposed to four box sets with a slightly related thread running through them all; and I love it.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For The Sonomancer, 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!