After four boxsets giving us sixteen hours of innovative adventure for the Eighth Doctor with adversaries new and old, Doom Coalition has come to an end. Even knowing the direction of travel of the likely ending (the universe and the Doctor both must survive to be challenged in many more adventures to come), this set still comes with its own measure of tension and finds plenty to entertain listeners without compromising the standard of earlier stories.
If you have yet to hear this set, rest assured the quality has been maintained and you will not be disappointed.
Ship in a Bottle: John Dorney ended Doom Coalition 3 by casting the Doctor, Liv and Helen adrift in a head on collision with a future that no longer existed. Hoist by his own petard he has now to write an escape for our heroes where none was possible.
This is a necessarily inward looking piece, being a three-hander, focused very much on the possibility that even the Doctor will one day find a situation from which he cannot escape. His mood darkens and it is up to his colleagues Liv and Helen to restore his sense of self, his mojo (if you will) and work with his to ensure they might have one last chance to challenge the plans of Padrac and his cohorts the Eleven and the Sonomancer.
Songs of Love: Matt Fitton, meanwhile, has the job of telling River Song’s story from the moment the rest of the TARDIS team are shuttled into oblivion. Matt blends in some modern Who elements to build a plausible case for River to change sides and team up with Padrac.
Of course it is all more complex, and Matt’s story weaves in various elements and makes River important without having the prominence she would have had in her own boxset. It’s a masterful piece of writing, but overshadowed by…
The Side of the Angels: Matt Fitton’s second story in the set is something to behold. Sometimes you roll the dice and they all come up showing 6. The writing is assured, the casting, performances, direction, post-production and even the cover all come together to produce something far greater than the sum of its parts.
There’s Weeping Angels, the Meddling Monk, an earlier incarnation of Cardinal Ollistra (from the War Doctor stories), Ronnie Ancona as an American, New York and playing with time. With this many elements you might imagine this story has overreached itself, but the opposite is the case, and Matt uses elements such as Angels Take Manhattan with a level of skill not always shown on the TV. The use of the Meddling Monk is inspired, as is Rufus Hound’s performance.
At the heart we learn a lot about the attitudes of Time Lords towards their own survival and the connections to the War Doctor through Ollistra are another cunning touch.
Stop the Clock: John Dorney ends the adventure in a tale set back on Gallifrey. Padrac is ready to trigger the end of the universe and the only way for the Doctor, Liv and Helen to save the day is to face up to their enemies in every way they can, regardless of the consequences.
It’s a high stakes story and hints from earlier boxsets come into play, as do many of the ideas the writers have developed. Even with events coming to an end, John finds time to flesh out the character of the Eleven and adds some powerful details to proceedings.
There are too many great performances to draw detailed attention to, let’s just say well done to Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Alex Kingston, Olivia Poulet, Mark Bonnar, Robert Bathurst, Rufus Hound, Beth Chalmers, Ronnie Ancona, Carolyn Pickles and everyone else. And Ken Bentley, of course, for his direction, producer David Richardson for steering this ship so well.
As you should be able to spot I really liked this set and it builds credibly towards an Eighth Doctor despairing of his own people and, perhaps, collecting the evidence that will make him one day decide the universe might be better off without them in it. The ending is tidy enough without being too tidy and the next set of stories can’t come too soon.