By any measure, The Diary of River Song Volume 3 is rather good indeed. It adds some new writers into the new-series mix, it gives River a proper nemesis in the form of Madame Kovarian, it continues her encounters with past incarnations of the Doctor, in this case Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor, has good stories, great casting and some superb performances with wonderful post-production. It also stands alone, has an arc and each story entertains with a decent dose of time travel trickery thrown in.
You want to know more? Read on…
The Diary of River Song Volume 3
First up is Nev Fountain’s The Lady in the Lake, and while there’s no sign of Excalibur or much in the way of Arthurian mystery, there’s plenty of humour and some deeply emotional moments. People travel to the aptly named Terminus Prime to die, a dark them Nev deals with well through his customary use of humour. In the midst of darkness, River begins to see just what Kovarian has been up to since Demon’s Run, and also has to deal with the machinations of a cult and in particular one called Lake. She makes friends along the way, and rescues the rather confused and sweet Lily (Sophia Carr-Gomm) before dealing with events made all the more complex by the subtle use of time travel.
It’s a great story, and after only a few scenes makes you wish Nev Fountain had more opportunity to write for Big Finish than he has recently. It ends on a suitably interesting point with the arrival of the Doctor and his previously unknown companion Brook…
Jac Rayner takes the pen next (another writer too long absent from our ears, though also does a lot of script editing) with A Requiem for the Doctor. In a pure historical setting (the Vienna of Mozart), there’s a killer on the loose, but the Doctor’s companions Brook (Joanna Horton) and new arrival River Song are engaged in a little but of rivalry. Brook River not just for her glamour, but for her easy familiarity with time travel and the TARDIS. It’s a distraction that threatens to undo events as the threat to 18th century Austria gets identified.
It’s a very well played and written story balancing mystery with personality clash, and gives us insight into who Brook is without exploring how she got into the TARDIS.
Next up is John Dorney’s A Dinner With Andrew. It’s part farce, part timey-wimey extravaganza and pure entertainment as Madame Kovarian enters the stage, and Frances Barber is both chilling and fascinating in her return to the role. Welcome to The Bumptious Gastropod, a restaurant existing outside the normal rules of time, and plenty of confusion as to just which version of everyone is when (if that doesn’t help, I apologise – just listen to the story). Apart from the main players. there’s also Jonathan Coote’s Maître’D nudging River from scene to scene as the story navigates the sumptuous feast that is John’s story.
And of course there’s the mystery of the Andrew of the title, and just how he fits in. Oh, and the little matter of murdering the Doctor!
And it’s to Matt Fitton for The Furies and a resolution to this saga. It’s a story of assassins and obsessive need to kill the Doctor. It’s Kovarian in full flight, and her team, the wonderfully named H-One, H-Two (Francesca Zoutewelle) and O (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and even a new version of Brook, played by Nina Toussaint-White, who played Mels in the TV story Let’s Kill Hitler. It’s great to hear her here (ED – rephrase this) and she turns in a powerful performance as Brook, playing off against River herself as they seek to help find a resolution to the latest complication facing the universe. It’s a ending the Doctor wouldn’t relish, but works well and brings the set to a fitting conclusion.
Yes the Doctor needs to forget meeting River, but it’s handled well and there are no complaints here.
So, four cracking stories, great casting, Ken Bentley’s direction and wonderful performances. I’ve seen comments this is the best River Song set yet, certainly as a single set it’s very, very strong. I don’t like picking favourites, but this is very, very, very recommended.