The third of what we are told will be four Dark Eyes boxsets was released in November 2014. The central protagonists are the Eighth Doctor, Molly, Liv Chenka and the Master. Gone are the Daleks and back is the Eminence. Add Dr Sally Armstrong, Narvin and a good sprinkle of new characters and aliens and next stop universal domination; at least that’s the Master’s plan.
How did it all unfold and was it worth waiting for?
Matt Fitton took over the whole boxset of four stories, a measure of how large a role he now plays after only a few years writing for Big Finish.
First The Death of Hope is a great, almost self-contained tale with a clever title delivering exactly what the story is about. The story has the Doctor separated from Liv and Molly and finding out the Master has kidnapped Molly for his own purposes. Enter Time Lord and CIA member Narvin (from the Gallifrey stories).
The story unfolds on two levels – one has the Doctor getting up to speed and being manipulated into fighting on Narvin’s side; the other has the Master and Sally Armstrong using Molly in an attempt to manipulate the Eminence. Hope, of the title, is a girl native to an Earth colony in the middle of the frontline of the war with the Eminence; played by Georgie Fuller she is a character the listener identifies with. This does not bode well for her survival when the Master is in town.
The action jumps forward in The Reviled a story set on another Earth colony. The Doctor meets up with Liv and both try to avert a tragedy as the lobster like natives of a colony world want to round-up and execute the human colonists before they can become more of the Eminence’s Infinite Warriors. We see humanity at its grubbiest as people try to survive. The Doctor has a plan but it doesn’t suit the Master – he wants the colonists for his own plot.
The action unfolds, again, on two levels with the colonists attempts at freedom juggled along by both Sally Armstrong and the Master’s trickery.
Third is the wonderfully titled Masterplan. The action takes us to the Ides Institute (which crops up in previous boxsets) and the genesis of the Eminence. The Doctor is desperate to change history, Professor Markus Shriver is desperate for what he believes is his moment of history.
This story finally brings the Doctor and the Master together and the repartee as they find themselves trapped on a doomed spaceship is excellent. Elsewhere Liv and Armstrong face a life of death choice that Liv is better equipped to survive – we learned previously that she has a terminal disease. The format is a terrific way for Matt to show us the differences between the characters. Everything doesn’t end up quite as anyone planned.
Events crescendo to a conclusion in Rule of the Eminence with Molly once more back in the centre of the action. History is at a pivot point with the Eminence war over and a new President of Earth to be announced. Behind the scenes the Master is pulling the strings and working with Eminence takes over the Earth in a plot to build a new, galaxy conquering army. The Doctor makes a narrow escape from death and Narvin is captured. All looks suitably bleak and only Molly holds the key.
Of course it all ends well without closing down any number of plot elements leaving us hungry for more.
As one should expect, Matt has constructed an intricate story that Ken directs to within an inch of its life bringing a great sense of story to the whole piece. The extras CD makes it clear that Ruth Bradley’s availability for recording was limited leading to the fragmented use of Molly. This does make the story less of a Dark Eyes than it might have been though the retrogenitor particles are centre stage. Molly seems to be taken off stage at the end – what does this all mean.
The Doctor and Master are kept apart for a lot of the set; given how well they work together is this a missed opportunity or good artistic balance? I’m undecided. What I am sure of is that Narvin worked well in the mix and we don’t always need Daleks in the story. I was bothered by other bits; Ruth Walker is excellent as Liv Chenka – why oh why was her illness disposed of in a few lines? Yes future medical science will be miraculous but the Doctor had no chance to do this. Has it undermined her character or has the opportunity been taken to infect her with something else? Is Liv the new dark eyes of the title.
The four chapters all worked conceptually and none seemed short-changed to make the boxset work – I did think there was too much looking in on time rather than action in Death of Hope but styles need to vary or we all get bored.
As ever all production and acting are top-notch and this is a good set. As to which is the best so far, ask me next February when Dark Eyes 4 comes out!