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 final story in the box set, The Furies by Matt Fitton.
Stories of the Furies abound across the cosmos: vengeful spirits hounding guilty souls to death. Madame Kovarian taught them to a child raised in fear, trained to kill, and placed inside a spacesuit.
Kovarian knows the universe’s greatest threat, the Doctor must be eliminated. An assassin was created for that purpose.
But if Melody Pond has failed, Kovarian will simply have to try again…
Brooke has regenerated. It’s time for Kovarian to celebrate. They’ve killed the Doctor. Properly killed him. The Doctor is dead. Champagne for all! There’s something familiar about this new incarnation of Brooke, and, if you’ve seen the cover, you can probably guess who she looks like. River Song is back, and she’s alone with the woman who tortured and conditioned her from birth; and it’s time for River to get revenge. What a way to do a pre-title sequence.
There’s something slightly odd about River though, she’s not able to get her own back on Kovarian as swiftly as she’d like. It’s not long before Kovarian once again has the upper hand and River is once again her prisoner.
The idea that River is stranded on a ship with Kovarian and a lot of River’s “sisters” is deeply unsettling, there’s something extremely unnerving about this new batch of pseudo Time Lords and Ladies. The fact it’s a ship full of slightly unhinged, perfectly trained assassins who all share the exact same philosophy as one another. It’d be like being trapped in a room with a dozen versions of yourself, but these versions of yourself all hate you. Considering they’re more or less exactly the same as you, they know everything about you, your strengths, your weaknesses, your insecurities. The only person who could ever stop River Song from saving the Doctor would be herself, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
If you were wondering exactly what the title, The Furies, means, we get a slight inclination in a really unnerving scene between River and Kovarian; it seems that the Furies were part of a story that Kovarian used to scare River as a child; it’s moments like this that really remind you just how much torture, torment, abuse and conditioning River went through throughout her life under Kovarian’s influence. That’s why River really needed a Doctor.
There’s a great scene where River talks about Kovarian’s effect on Amy and Rory too; two characters that, personally, I feel don’t get enough mention in these Diary of River Song box sets, they are her parents after all. River brilliantly scorns Kovarian’s actions, not due to what it did to herself, but the deep emotional and psychological impact it had on Amy and Rory. It’s times like this that I love Matt Fitton as a writer; he could just have loads of explosions and a fight between River and Kovarian, but instead, he chooses to have these smaller, much more personal and human moments.
What’s more interesting to me is that The Furies seems more like a character study of Kovarian than anyone else. Whilst there’s loads of clones of River, Brooke, and River herself on board, Kovarian is presented as a really conflicted character; she’s so incredibly paranoid and so deluded about her position in the universe that she really is presented as one of the most interesting and complex characters that Doctor Who has produced.
There comes a point though where looking into character development has to take a back seat, and the action has to start; since the Doctor is dead, it seems that the Furies are wanting to get their own revenge on Kovarian. The entire ship is under attack from some powerful force, and River has to help in order to stay alive as well.
Again, it seems that Peter Davison gets his time to shine in The Furies, seemingly playing a part of Kovarian’s conscious. As well as somebody else entirely. It’s nice when things come together nicely, and Brooke manages to get a bit of a redemptive character arc.
The conclusion of The Furies is arguably one of the most satisfactory endings to a box set ever; it’s not kind, it’s not nice, but it’s deserved in terms of the narrative of this story, and it’s deserved for the characters within it. There’s no direct lead to the next series of The Diary of River Song, out in August, but I like that. It means River can have as many adventures as we like in the meantime.
When I think about it, it’s stories like this that is what I love about Big Finish, they can take an out and out baddie that was portrayed on TV and give them so many more layers, so much more complexity, that you have to sit and think about their morals and their actions in a whole new light.
Ultimately, what Matt Fitton has managed to do in this release is present a trifecta of incredibly headstrong, powerful women who are still all flawed in their own way. If there’s still any naysayers out there who say that either River Song is a one dimensional character, or that Jodie Whittaker, or any woman for that matter, shouldn’t play the Doctor, I implore them to listen to this release and have their views questioned in an incredibly scripted, brilliantly performed and entertaining hour of audio drama.
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.