Another relatively successful page in the diary of River Song.
The Big Finish motto is “We Love Stories”. Whilst that is undoubtedly true, a more accurate motto might be “We give you more of what you want!” Now in its eighth series, The Diary of River Song has proven to be a very successful property for the audio company. This is in no small part due to the mostly excellent scripting throughout the series but also through the seminal performance of Alex Kinston as River Song. Without her inspiring leadership and abilities in front of the microphone, this set would not be anywhere near as entertaining.
The four stories presented this time around delve into the past as well as the new. Fans of the earlier volumes will no doubt remember the android Rachel from series two. She is played beautifully once again by Salome Haertel. The James Goss-penned Slight Glimpses of Tomorrow kicks the series off with River and Rachel reuniting before taking her on a trip to help a planet in dire need of some scientific advancement. Sadly, things do not go to plan as River seems to forget the golden rule of time
A Brave New World by Tracy Ann Baines comes across as a little silly at times and brings the tone down from episode one. This episode finds Rachel and River on a spaceship and it appears as though the crew needs a LOT of help. Fortunately, Rachel is a quick learner but it might all be a little too late. There are some good moments towards the end of this episode and the sound design by Howard Carter absolutely hits its peak with this story.
A Forever Home by Alfie Shaw finds River locked in a cage and being prepared like some sort of animal. Her captors are a robot cat called FE- and familiar robot dog called K9 (voiced by the always impressive John Leeson). All is not as it seems, though, as the Doctor appears to have put her there for a reason. This is a cracking episode that plays a lot to Kingston’s strengths in delivering sarcasm. It moves along well and the listener is constantly guessing what is actually happening. The ending might be a tad confusing to some, though, and if you are a cat lover, you may not like the implications of River’s final actions here.
Queen of the Mechonoids by Jonathon Morris rounds out the set by bringing back the Second Doctor villain, the mechonoids. This time however, they are being ruled by River Song and space agents Anya Kingdom (last seen in a Fourth Doctor adventure and played once again by Jane Slavin) and Mark Seven (Joe Sims) are sent to destroy them all. Nicholas Briggs dives into his voicebox of tricks to brilliantly recreate the sound of the mechanical monsters (only seen in 1966!). This adventure feels little more than a standard run-around and, ultimately, is a bit of a let-down after the previous episode.
Ken Bentley’s wealth of experience as director is once again put to outstanding use here and despite some of the flaws in the scripts, still manages to keep things rolling along without getting too bogged down. The bonus interviews are a welcome insight into the recording process as well as providing some interesting details about the stories themselves.
While this may not be the best volume of this particular series, it is certainly well worth the listen for fans both long-term and casual. Undoubtedly, series nine is on its way with all the speed of a vortex manipulator.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Distributed by: Big Finish Productions
Released: January 2021
Approx RRP: $45 CD, $20 Digital Download