Sassy archaeologist River Song faces off against four incarnations of The Master!
After the rather disappointing fourth volume of this series, it is good to see the producers and writers have found their way back with volume 5 of the Doctor Who spin-off series The Diary of River Song.
Whilst past volumes have had the benefit of previous Doctors (from Tom Baker’s Fourth to Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor) with varying degrees of success, this set relies on the relationship between the other famous renegade Time Lord, The Master, in four of his (and her) incarnations, two of which make their Big Finish debut.
Eric Roberts makes his first reappearance since the 1996 telemovie as the Master and is cool, calm and collected throughout his episode. Geoffrey Beevers reprises his Master and has a grand old time, whilst Sir Derek Jacobi brings charm and menace to his appearance as the War Master (following an incredibly lacklustre second volume of his own War Master series). It is, however, the first appearance of Michelle Gomez’s incarnation (known as Missy) that really makes this set a must-have.
Of course, these fine actors all have the luxury of working alongside the wonderful Alex Kingston who continues to make River Song such an enjoyable character to listen to. Her portrayal of the cheeky archaeologist is always wonderful and perhaps this volume is her best yet on audio. She is helped by the top drawer scripts by Jonathan Morris, Roy Gill, Eddie Robson and Scott Handcock. These are fast paced, exciting scripts that make full use of the audio medium and the full skills of the players.
The supporting cast are all solid (but do tend to fall into the background behind the personalities of River and The Master). Some of the best performances come from Laurence Kennedy (Director), Timothy Blore (Luke Sulieman), Emily Woodward (Adella Franz Therian), Lucy Heath (Alison), Sasha Behar (Admiral Eno), Himesh Patel (Ayrton Valencia/Engineer), Tom Price (Hugo), and Jacqueline King (Michelle Lambon).
Director Ken Bentley and sound designer Howard Carter need to be commended for the excellent work they have done to bring these adventures to life. The pace crackles along and the atmosphere of the individual stories is perfectly captured. Carter also provides the wonderful musical score for this set which is also up to his usual high standard. As a bonus, there is an extra disc of interviews with the cast and crew that provides a lot of interesting information about the set.
This is a perfect jumping on point if you have not heard any of the previous River Song series or, indeed, any of the Big Finish audios. It is fun, frantic and never allows itself to get bloated or padded.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: January 2019
RRP: $43 CD, $20 Digital Download