When Big Finish are on a good thing, they know when to keep going. This Doctor Who spin-off series has certainly proved to be a popular one thanks in no small part to Alex Kingston and her always wonderful performances as Professor River Song.
The first three volumes of this series generally punched above the line in terms of quality, but this volume suffers from a good idea stretched to breaking point and even the inclusion of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor in the finale, whilst bringing the set up a notch, cannot stop this from being a largely disappointing venture.
This set sees Professor Song meet a race known as the Discordia – time-travelling bandits with little regard to the laws of time. Looking like demons, they go around changing history to suit their needs and it seems as though River is the only one who notices. Things only get worse when one of them develops a crush on her.
The first two episodes by Emma Reeves, Matt Fitton and Donald McLeary push the boundaries in how much running and capturing can be possible in the space of an episode. The third episode (also by Matt Fitton) holds the interest a little more as it places Song in a whodunnit-style setting whilst keeping it connected to the overarching theme of the set. It is not until the final episode by John Dorney that we get an entertaining hour that keeps the listener interested. It is an excellent play on the running theme of River meeting earlier versions of the Doctor and Tom Baker puts in one of his most nuanced performances to date.
The cast are, as usual, very good, with special mention to Adele Lynch (Gammarae), Fenella Woolgar (Professor Jemima Still/Formidian Queen), Josh Bolt (Spod), George Asprey (Melak), and Nicholas Asbury (Dante) who do their absolute best with what they are given.
Ken Bentley directs the set but struggles to stop the padded feel of the episodes despite the excellent sound mix and music from Howard Carter, which is always top-drawer.
The bonus material is an extended interview disc with cast and crew talking about their experiences making the set.
So much of this set feels like it was rushed into production and that scripts were not really ready, which is a great pity. With volume five scheduled for early next year (and featuring a number of Masters performed by various actors) let us hope that this set is a glitch in the series and the usual production quality will return.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 6
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: September 2018
RRP: $41.79 CD, $20 Digital Download