It’s absolutely no secret that I love the Eighth Doctor, especially with Big Finish; Paul McGann’s incarnation of the Time Lord is my favourite incarnation; so, when Doom Coalition or any other Big Finish release featuring the Eighth Doctor releases, I get hyped. Seriously hyped. Yesterday, Doom Coalition 3 was released from Big Finish, so today we’re reviewing the second story in the set, The Eighth Piece!
15th Century Prague: in the castle dungeons, a prisoner raves about the end of the world. Outside, Liv Chenka seeks out the workshop of a strange Clockmaker to see what he is creating.
England, 1538: Lord Thomas Cromwell finds his duties interrupted by otherworldly forces – clockwork soldiers, an unusual nun, and a mysterious scholar calling himself ‘the Doctor’. Perhaps the truth can be extracted in the torture chamber of London’s Bloody Tower?
Rome, 2016: Helen Sinclair has an appointment with an enigmatic Professor, whose greatest work is almost complete. Only the Eighth Piece is missing…
Tick tock goes the clock. River Song and time have a past (or is that present or future? Or is it alternate reality?) and a penchant for messing up when they get too intwined. River literally froze time for the Eleventh Doctor, and it seems that time will once again play a pivotal role in her working with the Eighth.
We start The Eighth Piece with a man being tortured. It seems as if this man knows the truth; the real truth, the ultimate truth. The end is coming. As the torturer says, it’s the curse of a prophet, he knows the truth but no-one will believe him. Poor guy.
After the titles, we’re whisked away to 15th Century Prague with the Doctor and Liv, where science is advancing at a rapid pace. The Doctor’s now destroyed Sonic Screwdriver has informed the TARDIS that there’s a chance another piece of the Clock² from Absent Friends is here, and so he decides to drop Liv off to go and search for it. What’s interesting to me, is that writer Matt Fitton decides to tell the audience about these drop offs after the Doctor has already left Helen in Rome 2016, giving the listener the impression that we never truly know exactly what the Doctor and his companions are doing all the time, and that these stories are just slices of adventure that have been gifted to us. It’s a great little narrative trope that I love Matt Fitton for.
Having three storylines being told at once, throughout different periods of history is a great way I think, to show that time isn’t linear when you’re time travelling. It’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff. The idea that all of these events are happening hundreds of years apart and yet, are happening at once is absolutely fascinating and I love that the Big Finish writers don’t dumb down ideas for fear that the audience are idiots. We’re smart, we is.
Thomas Cromwell soon finds a mysterious cog in 1538 that a church is keen to keep hold of. If you know anything about England in this time period, you’ll know that the crown and the church didn’t see eye to eye at all, and that Thomas Cromwell wanted to abolish Catholicism. What a great Secretary of State he was. We learn that one of the Monks can hear voices, but not from God; the Monk hears voices from the Devil himself.
When the Doctor rocks up to the Monastery, he’s brilliantly direct, straight up asking if there’s any suspicious technology that he could have. This is one of the reasons I love the Eighth Doctor, he just doesn’t do subtle too well.
Within fifteen minutes we’re reintroduced to everyone’s favourite archeologist in the Doctor’s life,
Bernice Summerfield River Song. (A Bernice cameo would be nice though), and she’s busy interfering with history with a gun. The cover kind of gave that away though. I hate to digress, but wow, this box set has some truly amazing artwork. Tom Webster once again knocks it out of the park.
River seems to pair up with Thomas Cromwell as she’s interested in what he’s carrying; as are some robotic clockwork-esque men. Of course, once things go awry, River is quick to leave and follow up and something else. Does this woman not know how to take a break?
Back in Rome, Helen learns that a wondering beggar is being kept prisoner, and a man known as the Clocksmith seems keen to keep him locked up. What’s stranger still, it seems that this beggar knows of Helen’s antics. Also, how sinister does a name like the Clocksmith sound?
Having River confess her love and adoration for the Eighth Doctor is really odd to hear, especially as in her previous nearly-meetings with him in The Sonomancer and The Rulers of The Universe she’s been adamant that they mustn’t meet. The fact that she seems to miss him by a fraction of a second either shows that River is either brilliant, or that she’s becoming more and more careless. One or the other. I’m sure we’ll learn the reasoning later.
Something that is really interesting, to me at least, is how infamous Helen’s antics in The Red Lady have been; it seems that almost everyone in the world of curation knows about the tale, and Helen has to keep reaffirming that the incident had nothing to do with her; it was her distant Aunt that did it, and it’s just a coincidence that they look so alike and share a name. As Helen has had to lie about her identity twice in as many stories so far in this box set, I’m beginning to wonder if this is sewing the seeds to something greater in the near future.
We learn about the clockwork-esque men, called the Solvers, a Time Lord myth about a sentient puzzle box with a hive mind. Remind you slightly of the Moment or is that just me?
Thomas Cromwell and the Doctor begin to be on the trail of a mysterious clock that seemingly counts down to doomsday (It’s not July 8th 2006). The Doctor’s reluctant team up with Cromwell makes for a really interesting dynamic; a man with a huge ego working with a man who tries to have a small of an ego as possible. Chalk and cheese. The idea of the Doctor teaming up with someone whom he isn’t overly fond of. I get the feeling that this type of dynamic is what Mark Gatiss was going for between the Twelfth Doctor and Robin Hood in Robot of Sherwood, but it didn’t quite hit the nail on the head like this does.
Back with Helen, we get to learn about a device that has recently been restored (mostly), the Doomsday Chronometer (which is also the title of the next story in Doom Coalition 3). It seems that all of the pieces have been found, except one. Try and guess which piece it is. Go on. Guess. If you deduced that the title, ‘The Eighth Piece’ might have something to do with it; you’re right, well done.
Good ol’ Cromwell believes that the Doctor might be a spy, an assassin or a vagabond, maybe all three, and decides that the best method to get information out of him is through the good old fashioned way of torture. Having Paul McGann’s Doctor on a rack may be some peoples idea of heaven, but for me, I just found it troubling; which is great for making you feel as if the Doctor is in a real sense of danger.
One thing I love about John Dorney and Matt Fitton working together is how they both use seemingly insignificant points from the others scripts, and then turns it into something extremely pivotal. If, like me, you assumed that the antics at the end of Absent Friends was rather throwaway, you’re going to be intrigued as to how a small piece of information proves to be so important to the plot in The Eighth Piece. Nothing is worthless or mundane.
The conclusion to The Eighth Piece is really intriguing, introducing another Time Lord (ish) and a new Type 70 TARDIS. (I wonder how many Types of TARDIS there are?) The introduction of this new Time Lord, along with the Eleven and the Sonomancer makes you wonder whether each of these Time Lords and Ladies are each part of the Doom Coalition.
Overall, The Eighth Piece is a solid story, that follows a more traditional style of Doctor Who storytelling opposed to Absent Friends. Whilst it may not be Matt Fitton’s strongest work, he has yet again set the bar very high, and introduced elements into the Doom Coalition series that makes you want to listen to the next instalment straight away.
Should you want to purchase The Eighth Piece, it’s currently available as part of the Doom Coalition 3 box set from Big Finish which can be purchased here for £20.00 for either the CD or the download.