So here we are again back with the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and ready to rock and roll. ‘Dark Eyes 4’ takes us back to him and Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) in the TARDIS travelling together.
4.1 A Life in the Day by John Dorney sees them in the Ritz in the 1920s and Liv feels like she’s his floozy as the staff imply with this eyes and attitude. A trail leads to Kitty Donaldson (Beth Chalmers) and her brother Martin (Barnaby Kay) who came back from the war much, as many did, not like his old self. But this is no simple case of post-traumatic stress and Martin has been having some really strange dreams. The Doctor needs some peace and quiet to investigate so he finds himself sending Liv out with Martin to explore London. Trouble is following but Liv has a day away from them as she explores 1920s London with Martin who is nursing a secret in his heart.
This story really utilises Nicola Walker’s delivery and appeal as seen in TV’s ‘Last Tango In Halifax’. She has a way of making you feel like she would be a great friend, even though she might sleep with your boyfriend. She delivers her droll lines with skill that makes us think acting is easy.
Although this is a part of an on-going plot, it is a charming and witty story and, once you have finished it, I recommend a re-listen to appreciate all the nuance that John Dorney has utilised and series of clues that are seeded into the narrative. Again, the interactions between the actors make everything seem natural. The sound design is also very subtle with some very restrained music and natural background noise that Also, the Doctor goes to the movies and gets distracted, so funny.
This is a plot that has elements used elsewhere but it is very clever and, for once, someone else gets to say to the Doctor, ‘I’ll explain later’.
4.2 The Monster Of Montmartre by Matt Fitton
Adeline du Temp (Rachel Sterling) is a very keen patron of the arts and artists but she tires of them quickly. There’s a monster on the loose in Paris and how appropriate that the Doctor and Liv should arrive to investigate as they continue to search for dark-eyed Molly.
‘Paris is always a good idea’ and the Fourth Doctor had a wonderful time running through Paris in a Douglas Adams story, ‘City Of Death’ many years ago. This time, the Eighth Doctor is keen to experience the joys of Paris again and he recommends the pastries.
The Doctor fails to see what is under his nose but he does recognise the tawdry exploitative atmosphere of the Red Pagoda. Something wicked this way comes and it’s wearing armour.
4.3 Master Of The Daleks by John Dorney
Earth is under the thrall of the Daleks and the Master (Alex McQueen) is their ally with his own little back-up plans. The timeline is out of control as the Master changes it at his whim. The Doctor is lost and Liv is imprisoned again. Add a few little Sontarans (Dan Starkey) to the mix and the Master is in Dalek heaven. He’s the midwife of a new generation.
This includes some wonderful exposition by the Doctor as he struggles with his identity and his conversation with the Dalek and the Sontaran in Moscow is hilarious. A little humour leavens this nicely as Alex McQueen’s Master excels himself with Liv also at her sarcastic best.
These are ominous times though and its all leading up to the final episode as Liv finds out the truth at the heart of the darkness.
4.4 Eye of Darkness by Matt Fitton
In the last episode, all the plot lines are tied up in an epic and momentous tale. It is edge of the seat and bottom-clenching time and total spoiler as the ‘Dark Eyes’ series comes to its close.
This boxed set proves there is plenty of writing talent at Big Finish and this series has been ably pulled together by John Dorney and Matt Fitton with supervision from series creator Nicholas Briggs. There is a complicated plot navigated carefully and a wonderful underlying humour with some very good lines given to the main players. ‘Such fun’ this whips up a delicious froth which manages also to be quite dark much as the new TV Doctor is trying to create. It seems effortless but there is a great team here creating this and all for 20 of your Earth pounds. Alongside the writers, there is director Ken Bentley producing a sharp and tidy product with a skilful sound mix putting the listener right into the action. This series also includes behind the scenes interviews which are always good to listen to. Overall, this is a fine example of drama that no doubt will be up for an award shortly. I said it first.
(pub: Big Finish. 5 CDs 300 minute 4 stories. Price: CD: £20.00 (UK), Download: £20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-306-1)
cast: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Alex Macqueen, Barnaby Kay, Rachael Stirling, Sorcha Cusack), Dan Starkey, Susannah Harker, David Sibley, Beth Chalmers, Charlie Norfolk, Derek Hutchinson, Alex Wyndham, Blake Ritson, Camilla Power, John Dorney and Nicholas Briggs
check out website: www.bigfinish.com