Another month, and the end of another saga; this time for the Eighth Doctor. Doom Coalition 4 is the final box set of the phenomenal Doom Coalition story, and the stakes are higher than ever for the Doctor, Liv, Helen and River. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story in this release, Songs of Love.
Left to fend for herself against a bunch of power-hungry plotters hell-bent on destroying the universe, what choice does a girl have but to throw in her lot with the winning side? Using her past to her advantage, River Song returns to the ancestral seat of the Time Lords to make her last stand.
Considering this is the second story in Doom Coalition 4, it’s interesting that we start at the end of Doom Coalition 3, with Padrac sending the Doctor, Liv and Helen to the end of the universe. River Song is getting awfully cuddly with Padrac, congratulating him on stopping the Doctor. It appears that River may have joined the dark side, just because they’re winning. Rivers aren’t normally that shallow, are they?
Having Songs of Love start by running in parallel to Ship In A Bottle is a great idea, showing how the “winning” and the “losing” sides are acting is a really great narrative move.
It’s not long before we rejoin Liv and Helen, floating in space, without the Doctor, losing oxygen and seemingly without hope. Until hope comes, in some unknown form.
On Gallifrey, the Time Lords are getting nervous about these potential futures in which Gallifrey is no more, with the universe feeling the effects. Knowing what the next Eighth Doctor box set is, I can’t help but wonder if Padrac has inadvertently discovered the Time War ahead of time.
When River Song and Padrac arrive on Gallifrey, it’s almost like an coming back to a home that River had never visited; it’s one of those rare moments where I wish I could have seen the sight. River standing there in handcuffs against a burnt orange sky, Time Lords in their Time Lord garb, it’s so picturesque in my mind; even if it is amongst a time of uncertainty and evil. (Then again, when is any time on Gallifrey not rife with some conspiracy or plot?)
Something that happens in Songs of Love that I really didn’t expect was mention of the events in The Impossible Astronaut, with River being subsequently imprisoned for murdering a future Doctor at Lake Silencio. It’s nice to know that River’s timey-wimey nature extends to all of her Big Finish adventures, as well as the TV show.
Back with Liv and Helen, we find out where they eventually ended up, and they’re back on familiar soil. They’re back on Earth, sometime in the future, at least past the 25th century; and things aren’t looking good for Earth, it seems that the Sonomancer is back to her usual tricks of ending a world.
We learn more about Padrac’s plan, as he confides in the Sonomancer. He has plans for River and the Eleven, and neither of them seem particularly favourable for the other parties. Luckily, River has plans of her own, including bumping into certain people.
I’m surprised that the Time Lords utter two words in this release, especially whilst Padrac talks about his plans for “Harmony”, where the Time Lords guide the universal destruction around the entire universe apart from Gallifrey. Of course the Time Lords will probably like the sound of that plan, at least they could have a somewhat peaceful life.
River manages to get in touch with Liv and Helen and attempts to bring them to Gallifrey, although Liv is incredibly cautious, especially when she learns that Helen and River as seemingly in cahoots. It seems that the Doctor’s companions might be having a bit of a tiff; and with the Doctor not there to moderate it, it could quite easily get out of hand rather quickly.
It seems that Padrac is becoming mad with power, having the Sonomancer deal with any Time Lord that is seemingly standing in his way, I remember thinking in The Eleven that the Eleven would be the big bad in the Doom Coalition box sets, but it seems that it’s been Padrac pulling the strings all along.
There are links being forged in this story that links the events and characters of the War Doctor box sets into the politics of Gallifrey, especially Cardinal Ollistra. I love the fact that these events are all being put in place inside one another, as it gives the impression of a real world. Of course, listening to the War Doctor before we meet Cardinal Ollistra with the Eighth Doctor means we have some foreknowledge of the character, but it’s nice to see the Big Finish team building the Gallifreyan world in the run up to the Time War. It seems that Ollistra is more concerned about Gallifrey and the Doctor’s wellbeing than I thought.
One of the many things I love about Big Finish is that they take characters’ deus ex machina’s and make them useless; River things she’ll be getting away scot-free by using her Vortex Manipulator, but the Sonomancer destroys the vortex, rendering it useless. I love when characters are forced to stay and face the consequences, whatever they may be.
River’s manipulation of the Sonomancer is absolutely brilliant writing from Matt Fitton, and shows you the pain that River goes through when she’s dealing with the Doctor or fighting for him. This really is what true love must be like for her; the pain of loving an impossible man.
At the end of the story, Padrac is reacquainted with the Eleven, and it seems like he/they’ve been doing some digging, I’m glad that Mark Bonnar seems to be back and in top form in this box set.
The conclusion of the story is somewhat bittersweet if you’re a River Song fan, as she shows how selfless she is when trying to save the Doctor or the people the Doctor cares about. It seems like the perfect end for the River Song and Eighth Doctor story, although I’m sure that they’ll cross paths again in the future.
Overall, Songs of Love is an incredible Doctor-lite story which focusses on his companions and his enemies. Yet again, there are some great parallels, especially between the Doctor’s companions and the Doom Coalition, and it seems to set in motion even bigger events that are gearing up to, what I assume will be, an exceptional finale.
Should you want to purchase Doom Coalition 4, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for a limited time on both digital download, and the CD box set.