Dark Eyes 2 reviewed

Dark Eyes 2 cover smallHot on the heels of the BBC audio award for Dark Eyes we have February 2014’s release of Dark Eyes 2. This four disc Eighth Doctor boxset gives us the return of Molly o’Sullivan (Ruth Bradley), Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) as last seen in Robophobia (reveiwed under Robots  – Seers – Houses) and Alex Macqueen’s Master (from UNIT: Dominion). The four stories are by Nick Briggs, Alan Barnes and Matt Fitton.

Is this another potential award nominee? Find out or check out my Prog Rock review of Dark Eyes 2...

The four stories

The Traitor cover smallFirst The Traitor by Nick Briggs. In some ways this is a microcosm of many elements of the Dalek Empire series in that we have the occupied world of Nixyce VII and as usual humans all working in the mines. Liv Chenka has a level of comfort as she works with the Daleks keeping injured workers alive. She is a traitor hated by all and this is thrown in sharp relief when the Doctor arrives. At first he tries to sabotage the Daleks mine encampments for super-weapons (no dirigible planets here) but can’t in a scene that is shades of Parting of the Ways.

Liv views this incarnation of the Doctor as a traitor as his net effect has been to help the Daleks defeat a rebellion and destroy a space fleet of unknown aliens. On some level this story almost doesn’t happen – without the Doctor the Daleks would still complete their weapon and the ending would be identical.

The White Room cover smallNext Alan Barnes takes over the reigns with The White Room. Of them all this is least immediately connected story though does bring back the Viyrans (and this may be to point subtly to the Charlotte Pollard stories. Of course the main point is we get re-united with Molly and she gets her Dark Eyes back. There is a good story going on as well about experimentation, germ warfare and mad scientists. Molly is excellent in being the voice of humanity and pointing out the horrors of the situation to the Doctor.

Some fantastic imagery of the transparent virus victims, a well and the Black Death – a great story.

Time's Horizon cover smallMatt Fitton starts joining the threads in Time’s Horizon and we quickly get a new setting for Liv Chenka who has spent several centuries frozen as she travels on-board a ship headed for the edge of the universe where they find the body of a stowaway, a mysterious energy field and of course the Doctor and Molly then arrive. We learn then that the various stories are being experience in different orders for Liv and the Doctor.

Liv has the Doctor treated as a traitor but all gets overtaken by events as the ship’s crew fall under attack from The Eminence (Seeds of War  and the forthcoming Fourth Doctor Destroy the Infinite). We start to get a glimpse of the overall story and Liv ends up travelling in the TARDIS as they return to the 1970s to investigate the Ides Institute.

Eyes of the Master cover smallAnd the story comes to an end (or does it?) in Eyes of the Master. In the first boxset Dark Eyes 1 the Ides Institute was a nice piece that Nick included but didn’t close down. Time has changed and Dr Sally Armstrong is now alive and working with The Master. The opening scenes start off very gently which is Matt’s way of relaxing you before the horror of just what the title means becomes obvious. Interestingly Sally Armstrong is almost less human than The Master in the way she treats others with contempt and shows no conscience at all.

There are some nice Liv / Molly moments at the start where Nicola Walker gets to bring some more depth to her character as the women chat about how wonderful it is to travel in the TARDIS.

The story pulls together lots of bid ideas – the Master, the Eminence, the Celestial Intervention Agency and just who has sanctioned what. We also have a vintage mini and some moving moments when one of the minor characters (who is blind) meets Molly who hasn’t aged since 1918 when she gave him the keys to the Doctor’s Baker Street House.

All gets resolved with some difficulty and the Doctor leaves to tackle the events of the first story. Molly meanwhile has an encounter of her own which ends in a cliffhanger. Fingers crossed that the Doctor and Liv are re-united in Dark Eyes 3 as they search for Molly and cross swords once again with The Master and Sally.

The story telling

I liked the apparently unconnected nature of the four stories and that not all elements had to come together in the end. There are some very strong moments and perhaps some that work less well – the Doctor’s escape from his prison cell just happens but then not all of life has to be a great adventure and perhaps later boxsets will fill in more details. Molly’s eyes were still a theme but not a dominant one this time.

[pullquote]Nicola Walker would work well with Peter Capaldi in my view[/pullquote]

I can’t but point out how good the cast were (and John Dorney is in there) and Nicola Walker is great (and would, like many other Big Finish companions, work well with Peter Capaldi in my view) which is not to down-play Ruth Bradley or anyone else.

The arc

There is an arc and it does get to some measure of resolution but pieces are still left dangling. I enjoyed trying to work out how the piece fitted together with some flashbacks and some just entirely out of sequence. The Master gets up to a lot that happens off-stage as well and there are still odd questions – what else is the Ides Institute up to, why has the Doctor popped back to his house in 1918, what is the purpose of his house and does he still have it even now, will Dark Eyes 3 still feature Daleks – and let’s face it they aren’t the main element of this set of stories, just one of them.

Final thoughts

At times I liked this more than the first boxset and by the end I know I need to re-listen to appreciate everything that was going on. What do you think – hit, miss or maybe?

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