The 8th of March review

The Big Finish 2019 International Women’s Day release was The Eighth of March, with four stories, women writers, director and a full range of well-liked women from across the Doctor Who universe. The motif of the 8th of March is in each tale as an anchor; beyond that no big arc or other distraction. As ever it’s a set of four tales, each worthy of discussion.

The Eighth of March in consideration

The set begins with the Lisa McMullin story Emancipation. This brings a first time outing for the combination of River Song and Leela. For most of the story it’s a solid tale of courtly intrigue, with some time travel, a princess to be sacrificed and a few dungeon escapades. Where it shifts into a higher gear is towards the end; having apparently saved the day, River and Leela get to see how history unfolds, and on first sight it’s not very good. As the title might suggest there’s more than a little exploration of the role of princesses in local history and a most tense relationship with the Queen

There’s also plenty of chance for Leela to probe River’s identity and though River plays her cards close to her chest, we do get some glimpses into her early life and grim upbringing. As the theme music confirms this is very much a River Song tale with Leela as guest. I wonder how long before we get a whole set of River stories in this style?

Second is an Ace and Benny almost Seventh Doctor free story, The Big Blue Book by Lizzie Hopley. It’s not a new combination, and for much of the story it’s just Ace in a strange university library looking for both Benny and the TARDIS. The Doctor is AWOL and the result is a little too much exposition for my tastes (and as someone who’s suffered from similar in their own writing I appreciate how Lizzie was cornered by the setup).

Third is the first Big Finish appearance for the Paternoster Gang as we get Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax in the Gemma Langford Inside Every Warrior. Given the women-oriented nature of the set, Strax is dialled back slightly but still a strong presence, though events focus on the love between Vastra and Jenny as well as a tremendous performance by Nigel Fairs as Cornelius Pinch. The whole feels very Jago & Litefoot as it should, and bodes very well for future releases.

The set wraps with UNIT, and it’s Kate Stewart, two Osgoods and a trail of disappearances. The story is Sarah Grochala’s Narcissus in a tale of beautiful people and self belief blended with self-doubt. While much of the story plays with the two versions of Osgood, slightly sidelining Kate, I most liked the return of Jacqui McGee (Tracey Wiles) and the fleshing out of both her character and something of her relationship with UNIT. I hope this means we might get more of Jacqui, perhaps as a way of introducing someone else with their own life to the bigger world of UNIT.

It’s a good set of stories, and a splendid way to mark the day.

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