Another new starting point for the Eighth Doctor, and not a Dalek in sight! This is the time of the Doom Coalition Volume 1, a series of four boxsets, each of four discs, giving a total of 16 stories. There’s a new companion, Helen Sinclair, a continuing companion, Liv Chenka, and a new villain— the Eleven.
Add a drop of Gallifrey, some Renaissance Italy and a horror story, and what have you?
Short review — it’s good, very good. Long review? Keep reading…
Matt Fitton kicks things off with The Eleven a story set on Gallifrey and focussing on the introduction of the titular villain the Eleven. The idea is simple: a Time Lord who holds the personalities of previous regenerations in his mind. After a brief cameo from Sylvester McCoy, the action focusses on the brilliant performance of Mark Bonnar playing many (and possibly all eleven) personalities of a mad, evil and brilliant Time Lord out to plunge Gallifrey into chaos and plunder the most ancient weapons stored away in secret.
The pace is remorseless and gives Liv plenty to do as she explores and is later captured by the Eleven. The Eighth Doctor is doing his best to cope as the CIA make every wrong more they can, and while there is a President sized gap in places, the story has more than enough to entertain.
John Dorney has the enviable task of writing a new companion, Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) in the story The Red Lady. It’s the 1960s, and a museum has had a mysterious collection donated to it. Cue a professor who becomes obsessed with a mysterious Red Lady haunting a myriad of works of art from down the centuries, and a ghost story that taps into a rich vein of simple terror.
The Doctor and Liv are looking for an anomaly and find a stone slab; this slab will eventually lead them to the next story but not until they are dragged into the horror of the Red Lady and end up dragging Helen with them into the TARDIS and on into history.
Next stop it’s The Galileo Trap, a Marc Platt story set back in Renaissance Florence and Galileo is held under house arrest. Apart from this historic interest and the Doctor meeting an old friend there are two villains – Cleaver and Fortuna. These two, somewhat incompetent characters make a great ill-matched pair; Cleaver is almost feral by nature where Fortuna is far more two-dimensional with torn loyalties.
Add to this Helen Sinclair’s first trip in time, first exposure to advanced tech, first obvious aliens and first spaceship and this is a bit of a romp (in a good way). John Woodvine is excellent as Galileo adding real feeling to the part. Of course it’s all a trap…
And the action ends with the Eleven in Edward Collier’s story The Satanic Mill. This not only brings together some threads from the earlier stories, but also gives us more superb performances from Mark Bonnar along with a steampunk space-station of evil intent. The Mill of the title has a dark secret and is inhabited by a workforce almost drone-like in its devotion to duty. As the Doctor faces destruction, the timelines face being torn asunder, it is up to Liv and Helen to get stuck in and save the day.
As the story ends, we get the first hint of a bigger picture, and the first clue the Doom Coalition may be more than just the Eleven on his own.
[pullquote]A lot to like here[/pullquote]
A lot to like here, with a new companion, a great new villain and some mysteries. The stories are all strong, and vary in style making the overall result pleasing. The Liv / Helen relationship is great on many levels, good chemistry, Liv acts as a psuedo-Doctor guiding Helen but also gets to share Helen’s pleasure and excitement as the wonders of time travel unfold.
Ken Bentley again nails the directing, a good cast and even the extras seem a bit more interesting than normal! Thoughts?