River Song is back once again, letting us glimpse at her infamous diary in the third series of The Diary of River Song. She’s previously encountered the Eighth, Seventh and Sixth incarnations of her husband, the Doctor, but now she’s getting ready to meet the Fifth, as well as an old enemy… Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story in the box set, A Requiem For The Doctor by Jacqueline Rayner.
River has joined the Doctor and his friend Brooke on their travels, and they stop off in 18th century Vienna.
Brooke thinks history is dull. Until people start dying.
Mozart’s legacy is not just his music. River has more than one mystery to solve before a killer is let loose on the people of Vienna – and on the Doctor.
We’re starting this tale with good ol’ Mozart in a bit of a state. He’s just finished his final work, his requiem, then he goes and dies. That’s nice of him. All before that, frankly epic, opening score for The Diary of River Song. God, I love it.
After the titles, we’re thrown back in the adventure of the Doctor, Brooke, and River, who are all having a rather questionable meal. There’s even a little Easter Egg, seemingly referring to another one of the Fifth Doctor’s adventures, Fallen Angels. It’s somewhat of a brave move to spend an entire six minute scene set at a dinner table, where there’s nothing more than a conversation happening, but Jacqueline Rayner’s script managed to make it so engaging and full of little hints of things yet to come that it was thoroughly entertaining to listen to.
It appears that the time around Mozart’s death has been rewritten, and it’s up to the Doctor, River and Brooke to work out what’s been going on. Somewhat unsurprisingly, there’s more than one death for the new TARDIS trio to investigate. There’s also a great little moment where the Doctor and River have a bit of back and forth about the ridiculousness of a Sonic Screwdriver.
The ongoing spat between River and Brooke is really interesting. Brooke has seemingly been the Doctor’s companion for a while, yet she gets incredibly jealous and pushed out the second River hits the scene. Normally, I’d sympathise with Brooke; but there’s something about her that just seems… off, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Saying that, there’s a really cute little scene between the Doctor and Brooke, as they discuss their relationship, and how River won’t get in the way. The Fifth Doctor really is a softie, isn’t he? All caring and compassionate and kind. Imagine him meeting the Twelfth Doctor in his early days.
It appears that there’s a potion going round that can kill certain people put leave others totally unharmed. It plagues you with dissolving slugs from the inside out and death is not quick or painless. The revelation on how it works is really odd, and totally Doctor Who. (Not to be confused with Totally Doctor Who. What a show that was.)
If there’s one thing that A Requiem For The Doctor is full of, it’s extremely complex female characters; whether it be River, or Brooke, or Giulia, or Antionette, each one of these women are extremely layered and flawed and real. It’s a testament to Jacqueline Rayner’s talent as a scriptwriter that she’s able to make all of these characters so different yet all so multidimensional.
The final act of A Requiem For The Doctor has some really high stakes; is it the entire universe? No. But that doesn’t mean that the stakes aren’t high; sometimes the stakes are the highest when they’re incredibly personal. The cause of all the pain and suffering in the final act is extremely inventive, and rather grotesque. Sometimes sound design can be more visceral than sight.
One thing that surprised me was that the story seems to end rather well, and yet there’s still an entire scene left. Brooke and the Doctor have a final scene in which Brooke asks the Doctor why River is so knowledgeable about everything. Then things take… a bit of a turn. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s a very good reason why Brooke isn’t on the cover of the upcoming two releases.
People might say that Big Finish doesn’t impact on the Whoniverse, and to those people, I would say “You are incredibly, absolutely, and unequivocally wrong.” Listen to this and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The cliffhanger to A Requiem For The Doctor is a brilliant one, in fact, I’m going to hazard a guess that this might be the most important one in The Diary of River Song’s entirety to date. I can’t wait for the answer to the question we’re posed. Hopefully we’ll get it in My Dinner With Andrew.
Overall, A Requiem For The Doctor is one of those fairytale Doctor Who stories. There’s an evil potion, a lot of references to the tortoise and the hair, and true love to save the day. If what I’m describing doesn’t sound that great to you, I’ll be honest; the fairytales I’m talking about aren’t the happy go lucky ones we’ve come to love from Disney. This fairytale is grim. It’s dark, full of death and pain and sorrow. This is my kind of fairytale.
Should you want to purchase The Diary of River Song: Series 3, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £20 for the download, or £23 for the CD box set.