Doctor WhoMusic/Audio

Doctor Who: The Diary Of River Song Series 01 by Jenny T Colgan, Matt Fitton, James Goss and Justin Richards (CD review).

No one could resist the idea of having this title , ‘The Diary of River Song’, in their collection. If you watched ‘Doctor Who’ when River Song was intriguingly introduced in ‘Silence In The Library’ and in all the shows since you may well have already enjoyed listening to this audio series.

River Song was originally written by Stephen Moffat who happily let Big Finish explore her history further. Her diary which helped reconstruct the universe at the end of The Big Bang is an important and intriguing plot device. River records her interactions with the Doctor’s different incarnations and, as River is running against the tide of time, she has to check with herself to avoid ‘spoilers’.

At the beginning of this series, she is mainly free of this connection and living the quiet life. Well, that’s the theory at least. In practise, the magnetism of both will draw them together. That and their tendency to meddle/get involved with the problems of the universe.

The Boundless Sea by Jenny T Colgan

‘space is big’

River Song or Professor Song (Alex Kingston) is quietly working on her research in an English university when she is sent urgently to an archaeological dig. A young assistant has gone missing deep in a tomb of an old civilisation. River is keen to help and packs a trusty Colt 45 just in case. En route, she meets Bertie Potts (Alexander Vlahos), a foppish government official who offers assistance in the time honoured way.

More fun than ‘Carry On Cleo’, this turns into another version of ‘where’s my mummy?’ It’s not that simple, of course, and the end proves to be simply the beginning.

I Went To A Marvellous Party by Justin Richards

‘I will have another glass.’

With an invitation she can’t refuse, River goes to a party in the stars. There’s murder, mayhem and cocktails. She loves a mystery and this one just gets murkier by the minute. The underlying arc is being drawn together and things are getting knotty.

Signs by James Goss

‘deadly jeopardy and peril’

River is on a mission. By her side is Mr. Song (Samuel West), who has her best interests at heart. She’s getting so close to discovering the truth about the Sporeships. They seem to arrive randomly and destroy life on planets. Somehow, she never seems to quite get there. But Mr. Song is there to pick up the pieces and soothe her to sleep at night. She’s dying but the mission must be completed, even if she has just one more day.

This two-hander really tests both the writers and the actors. The mystery at the start is peeled back and comes neatly full circle. Sam West’s diction and acting style is a perfect foil to Alex Kingston’s River Song. There is a neat intimacy to their interaction and the peeling back of the layers of deception is beautifully done.

Rulers Of The Universe by Matt Fitton

‘you’re one of those Time Lord fellows, are you? How terribly exciting.’

This is the big one. Forces collide and River and the Doctor have the same problem. But he’s too early in their timeline. She can’t disrupt their history and save the universe, can she? This is the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) and he’s still avoiding his responsibilities. He still thinks he’s the hero that the universe needs. She has to avoid those spoilers and try to save them both. It’s not going to be easy. Somehow, we know that she will be up to the challenge.

As their interaction is done at a distance, audio is the perfect medium for the non-visual communication between the Eighth and River. There can be no contact because of continuity and spoilers and this is worked up to the hilt in this story.

As this is a retrospective review, I must admit I’ve no idea what I was thinking in 2015 when I didn’t listen to this. I can point out here that this has already proved to be popular with Big Finish subscribers as Series 8 has just been released. Alex Kingston is a charismatic narrator and actor. She really has launched herself wholeheartedly into helping develop River Song outside of the TV series with the not insubstantial help of some powerful Big Finish writers who like to really get inside the character. There is massive scope for River Song and it also helps that she occasionally and intriguingly gets into the orbit of the Doctor. Writing the pre-history of their relationship is also well done and fans are rewarded with more back-story and epic adventures.

These audios only represent a few days work for the actors and a huge amount of input from the writers, producer and director to give us a cohesive set of adventures. The music and sound also contribute to the rounded experience in your headphones. I love the way the opening adventure sets up the next three and because of the clues it means that you can enjoy listening again at leisure to enjoy how it is all constructed. The script editors, James Goss and Matt Fitton, are tasked with making sure all the stories tie up together. The behind the scenes interviews and discussions are really helpful for background.

River Song is a Doctor without a TARDIS but that Vortex manipulator is handy, unless you don’t pack it. She’s having the adventures that a Doctor deserves, not just a wife and daughter but a person who packs a whole lot into her life. She refuses to be defined by others and, whether you have a sonic trowel or not, she is a role model and incidentally a fun person to hang out with at parties.

Sue Davies

April 2021

(pub: Big Finish, 2015. 5 CDs 299 minutes. Price: £34.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-942-1. Download: Price: £29.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-943-8)

cast: Alex Kingston, Paul McGann, John Banks, Letty Butler, Charlotte Christie, Oliver Dimsdale, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Aaron Neil, Alexander Siddig, Alisdair Simpson, Imogen Stubbs, Alexander Vlahos, John Voce and Samuel West

check out website: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-diary-of-river-song-series-01-1313

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