The Diary of River Song – Series 1 Episodes 1 and 2 Review

DW DORS S1 P1

This was on sale a while ago, and I finally have the spare money to pick up the odd spin-off series… that being said, it took a while for me to get around to listening to it, but here we are! The first two episodes of Diary of River Song start off seemingly very stand-alone, and although they turn out to be more connected than it first seems, they are fun mini-stories… Not amazing, but fun. Let’s take a closer look!

Official Synopsis (The Boundless Sea):

River Song has had more than enough excitement for a while. Deciding the universe — and her husband — can look after themselves, she has immersed herself in early 20th century academia, absorbed in writing archaeological theses.

But when a mysterious tomb is found in a dry, distant land, excitement comes looking for River.

Can Professor Song stop any more members of the expedition from dying? What deadly secrets lie buried within the crypt? And will British Consul Bertie Potts prove to be a help, or a hindrance?

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

DW DORS S1 Boundless Sea

A scary hand reaches out to Bertie, who doesn’t give a crap, seemingly…

River Song (Alex Kingston) – River is the wife of The Doctor, and has had countless adventures with her husband, as well as by herself as an archaeologist. In this case however, River has taken a bit of break, though much like The Doctor, these quiet breaks often turn out not to stay quiet for long…

Bertie Potts (Alexander Vlahos) – Bertie is a member of the Rulers of the Universe, an aristocratic organisation that have taken it upon themselves to tinker with the lives of many worlds. Bertie has taken notice of River, and thinks she can help them, but first a little test involving a clone of his…

Daphne Garsington (Charlotte Christie) – Daphne is an assistant clerk on the site of a British dig of a 3000-year-old Surene Tomb. She may not be able to contribute a lot given it’s the 20s and everything, but her size might prove more useful than her knowledge…

Isabella Clerkwell (Imogen Stubbs) – Isabella is another member of the Rulers of the Universe, and is equally uptight and snobbish as the rest of them…

Spritz (Letty Butler) – Spritz is a member of one of the “primitive races” that the Rulers lord over. She was taken on board their massive ship as a source of humour for one of the members…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW DORS S1 Marvellous Party

Marvellous party indeed! … Though I could do without the faceless robot waitresses.

The Boundless Sea is a good example of what can be done with River as the centre of her own series. If it didn’t lead onto the next story it could be seen as the perfect example of a pilot. An innocent woman goes into an ancient ruin, River and somewhat cowardly admirer Bertie go in after her, find her possessed by an equally ancient evil, River eventually escapes (with Bertie becoming brave enough to save them both), then cue big dramatic chase sequence and a dam-busting flood scene. The evil is defeated, River moves on. It’s all very Indiana Jones, which makes sense given she’s an archaeologist and all.

Bertie Potts was a bit of a cheesy side, but the revelation in the second story that he was really part of a snobby group of planet-meddlers made it more interesting. The Bertie on Earth was just a clone of the real deal, and although he only a little less cheesy, he’s still a bit more serious than his other self.

River was nicely toned down in this one as well. Not too many “Spoilers!” and “Sweetie”, and less on-the-nose innuendoes as well. It’s classic Big Finish redemption again, though not quite as dramatic as their rescuing of the Sixth Doctor…

I liked the cliffhanger to episode 2, where a man claiming to be River’s husband arrives. We all know it isn’t The Doctor, but the mystery is still interesting enough to get you to want to play the next part.

The Bad:

DW DORS S1 Cover

It’s the overall cover! … With the Doctor front and centre, despite only appearing in Episode 4… Ah well.

Both episodes feature those old-fashioned posh British snob characters I always find so boring. Sure, it fits the old fashioned adventure serial feel for part one, and it suits a group so rich and arrogant they call themselves the “Rulers of the Universe”, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’re my least favourite type of villains and/or era. I just find it all incredible dull to watch, let alone listen to!

Part 2 “I Went to a Marvellous Party”, was the old murder mystery at a posh party, but in space! It was alright, again ignoring the fact I just don’t like the setting, but despite the twist of the Rulers, well, ruling over various planets and playing God, it just wasn’t very interesting. Poor Spritz being treated like crap for being “simple” and then hiding inside a waitress robot when her master was killed (assuming everyone will think it’s her) was a bit of a twist, I guess, but still very much “upperclassman with the slave he treats like crap” stuff, just with a more sci-fi twist.

If you love this kind of era / story setting then a lot of these “bads” will be lessened or even irrelevant to you and you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of this half of the set than I did. I guess that’s what we call different tastes!

The Continuity:

Ignoring our central character and her mannerisms and references (because if I have to list River Song’s debut story and repeat appearances every time I cover her own series, it would get old quick…) there isn’t actually any, outside of things that will be addressed in the other half of this set, obviously!

Overall Thoughts:

A quiet start to River’s own adventures that, while it failed to grab me due to the setting / choice of villains, was a good example of how to show the potential in the series. I fully admit that this is half of a box, and that the next two stories could be a lot better, but overall these two have a great central performance, but lack much excitement…

3 Star Listen

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