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 final story in this release, and the final story in the Doom Coalition saga, Stop The Clock.
The time has arrived. Events are in motion. The end of the universe is at hand and the Doctor and his friends have one hour to save eternity. Starting now.
Right from the off there’s a sense of impending doom, with a clock ticking constantly. Then Padrac has the nerve to try and diss the archives of Gallifrey, the Gallifrey Archive. (Yes, another mention to the best part of Gallifrey again, thank you John Dorney!) I dislike Padrac even more now. He might be trying to destroy the entire universe, but don’t you DARE insult the quality of the Gallifrey archives. We’re great.
The way that Padrac uses the Sonomancer is utterly detestable, making your skin crawl with just how insincere he is. Luckily for Gallifrey though, the Doctor uses his past presidency to his advantage, giving him the edge over the Eleven.
Once the Doctor is back in the Capitol, he quickly manages to assert himself and integrate flawlessly into the Time Lord hierarchy. Only one half of that statement is technically true, and you can probably work out which. Even with time very much of the essence, it’s nice to hear the Eighth Doctor’s lighter, more sarcastic side get a moment to shine.
It’s nice for the Time Lords to not all be either cowardly or evil in this story, as it seems that for once, the Doctor isn’t the only Time Lord who wants to stop the formidable foe; there’s a group of Time Lords who have the same agenda. I know this might be pushing the Eighth Doctor even closer to the Time War, but I feel like he might have an army.
Mark Bonnar yet again manages to shine as the Eleven, giving a plethora of performances in quick succession, as the Doctor figures out how to get information out of him; my only hope is that Big Finish will utilise such an inventive and genius character in the future; potentially with the Seventh Doctor in a story set just before the opening moments of The Eleven. It’d be nice to get a bit more detail on what happened.
If you think that Mark Bonnar does a stellar job at playing the Eleven, just you wait until you hear another version of the Eleven played by a different actor. It’s equal parts hilarious, terrifying and brilliant. Just like any decent character should be in my opinion.
Back to Mark Bonnar, he gives an utterly bloodcurdling performance as the Ten, I think I’d like a series where Mark Bonnar plays each incarnation of the Eleven for a story. An eleven part story, starting with the One, all the way to the Eleven. It could be like Short Trips, as Mark Bonnar could easily play different parts.
It’s not long before the Doctor’s plan backfires, and it seems as if his tenacity and self confidence may be his downfall after all. The Eleven manages to prove his worth to Padrac, by seemingly handing the Doctor on a (metaphorical) plate, and I must admit that Padrac’s response isn’t one that I expected at all.
Considering that, throughout this box set, Helen has been questioning her worth aboard the TARDIS, I think it really pays off in Stop The Clock, especially when she’s alone with the Eleven. The Eleven, being the murderous tyrant that he is, is so keen to kill her, forcing Helen to prove herself and save her own life with words. Just like the Doctor would want her to; no violence, no threats, just talking. I think that this may have been the moment where Helen finally feels as if she’s making the Doctor proud.
I know I say this every time I talk about the subject, but it’s true; I really don’t praise the sound designers enough when reviewing Big Finish’s work. They’re all exemplary. Benji Clifford, sound designer of this episode, if you’re reading this, I take my hat off to you for a sequence where time starts to go wrong. You’ll know what I mean, it’s so disconcerting in the best possible way; and really conveys the damage to time without being able to see any of the effects. It’s brilliant.
One thing I think I’ve realised whilst listening to Stop The Clock, even though it could be argued that I’ve realised this fifteen episodes late, is just how unique Helen is as a companion. All this time, I’ve talked about how Helen is ordinary, and doesn’t have any discernible qualities or attributes, but in a way, that’s what makes her unique, especially if you compare her to the companions under Moffat’s reign. Helen is just normal, she has no destiny, she has no higher calling, she’s just a normal human who got whisked away by a man in a blue box. Helen is the everyman. Anyone could be Helen, and Helen could be anyone. The Doctor caring about Helen is the perfect metaphor for the Doctor’s compassion as a whole. It’s just a shame it took me so long to realise.
The conclusion to Stop The Clock, and by extension the conclusion to Doom Coalition as a whole, sees Padrac get his just desserts, and, in one line, made me feel so sorry for him as a character, even after everything he’s done. The Doctor and his companions set off for a new adventure, even though there are a few loose ends. Well, we’ve always got something to come back to now, haven’t we?
Overall, Stop The Clock had huge shoes to fill, tying up a sixteen hour saga whilst also leaving room for the Eighth Doctor and his companions to go on more adventures. Is it the strongest story in Doom Coalition? I don’t think so, but it’s a satisfactory ending. I know we have the Time War box set coming in November, but I can’t wait to see what Big Finish has planned for after that. There’s so much for the Eighth Doctor to do…
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.