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 penultimate story in the box set, My Dinner With Andrew by John Dorney.
Welcome, Mesdames et Messieurs, to The Bumptious Gastropod.
The most exclusive, most discreet dining experience outside the universe. For the restaurant exists beyond spacetime itself, and the usual rules of causality do not apply. Anything could happen.
It is here that the Doctor has a date. With River Song. And with death.
River and a man who looks and sounds exactly like the Doctor, but northern, are frolicking through a garden. Then River invites him on a date. Well, I say invites… it’s more of a demand really. I wish I had the confidence to demand dates with people I’m interested in. Shame I’m only Daniel and not River Song, eh?
In my opinion, this is what a pre-title sequence should be, it’s funny, quick witted and filled with a dozen questions that all need to be answered. Is there much context? Absolutely not. Does there need to be? Absolutely not. Is it great fun to listen to and speculate? Absolutely.
It’s really interesting how it seems that the structure of this story is running parallel with that of a meal. You start with the amuse-bouche (the pre-titles), and then it’s onto the starter (seemingly the first act), it’s incredibly clever of good ol’ John Dorney to use a meal like this as a basis for narrative structure. Obviously it’s not something I’d want all the time, but sometimes being slightly mad in your script pays off handsomely.
Then, the Doctor has a reservation at one of the greatest restaurants ever, The Bumptious Gastropod; a restaurant that exists outside of time and space, outside of dimensions, and is extremely exclusive. The Doctor, obviously, is somewhat hesitant; he has a table booked that he didn’t book, and he’s being referred to as one of The Bumptious Gastropod’s most esteemed guests. That’s when things get a bit timey-wimey. Enter River Song.
Considering the Doctor has no idea who River is, it’s safe to assume that this story probably takes place before A Requiem For The Doctor, although it might not. Who knows? In fact, it’s soon cleared up exactly what’s going on. And it’s sealed with a kiss…
It’s soon clear why River was so shocked and flustered when she saw the Doctor in the restaurant, as it turns out that she had an engagement with someone else. Someone who River doesn’t always see eye to eyepatch with…
Then there’s even more timey-wimeyness with the Doctor, Brooke and River all arriving at The Bumptious Gastropod. It seems Brooke had a reservation there too, under the name Kovarian… River quickly manages to stop a potentially deadly dilemma from taking place.
The meeting between Brooke and Kovarian is really brilliant; there’s not a better way to reintroduce Madame Kovarian into River’s storyline. It’s all incredibly timey-wimey, and it takes a while for you to get your head around. Thankfully the Maitre D’, played by Jonathon Coote is the brilliant comic relief that is needed to nurse any temporal headaches you may have.
It’s then that we go back to the beginning of the story with Andrew, the Doctor’s doppelgänger, and then he goes back to the future with River and is immediately forced to strip. Sounds like a typical date with River, really. Then the brilliant Maitre D’ seemingly becomes River’s conscious, and there’s a few brilliant scenes between the two whilst they look on to the events that are unfolding.
If you were to ask Peter Davison which story he’s had the most fun acting in during his time as the Doctor, I wouldn’t be surprised if he said he enjoyed performing My Dinner With Andrew the most; Dorney’s script really has given him an awful lot to work with. Even though there’s two Peter Davison’s on the cover of this release, he gets to show more than two sides of himself in this story.
Yet again, there’s a revelation in regards to Brooke, and it’s one that’s been slowly revealed and alluded to since we met her at the end of The Lady In The Lake. As I said, it’s a revelation, but I’m not sure it’s the last revelation we’ll have about her.
The conclusion to My Dinner With Andrew is incredibly complex and complicated, there’s a bit of a bootstrap going on, and River has a lot of things to sort out. River has a mission; one that she’s always got to do.
Overall, My Dinner With Andrew is the most complicated, timey-wimey bootstrap paradox laden story to date. Yet, John Dorney makes it simple enough to grasp the basics of what’s going on, but complex enough to make you marvel in the wonder and repercussions of time travel. If there’s a character in the Doctor Who universe who is qualified to lead a story that’s so involved with the intricacies of time, it’s River Song. Will this story be everybody’s cup of tea? Probably not; I can imagine a fair few fans will think that this is Moffat-esque in it’s use of time, and that will deter them. Those people, I say, are fools. This story is not just about time travel, it’s absolutely filled with comedic moments and characters, as well as the reintroduction of Kovarian. Yet again, this shows how varied the talent at Big Finish is.
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.