The Diary of River Song – Series 4 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

Diary of River Song S4 P2

The second two episodes of River Song Series 4 are vastly different, one being an amusing take on the murder mystery genre, and the other being a straight up Doctor Who “universe is ending” epic. Thankfully, what they both share in common is that they’re both good! Not amazing, but good, and the interactions between River and Tom Baker’s Doctor are worth the price of admission alone. Let’s take a closer look!

Official Synopsis (of Someone I Once Knew):

River has tried in vain to keep the Discordia away from the Doctor. Now, as devils run riot through universal spacetime, her own past with her husband is being rewritten. There is one last hope for the universe. A love story – but one that must find an ending…

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

River Song (Alex Kingston) – River is on the run from the Discordia, and although she isn’t being accurately tracked any more all they need to do is find her at any point in the future and then go back in time to arrive there before her…Tricky business, time travel with no rules…

The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor’s timeline has been dramatically altered, he is only in his fourth incarnation and yet has memories of River Song as his wife going back to his time on Gallifrey. Their time together might be shorter still, by the end of all this…

General Dante (Nicholas Asbury) – Dante has developed an unhealthy interest in River Song that’s bordering on love, if Discordians can even feel that emotion…

Franz Kafka (Tim Bentinck) – Famous German writer who, while on his death bed, is recruited by River to help her hide from her pursuers.

The Discordia (Various) – The Discordia are a race of people who use time travel to get whatever they want. Their Emperor, though happy with his Empire, has become disillusioned due to his own actions…

Plus more!

The Good:

Diary of River Song S4 P3 Cover

They finally found a way to use the Melody Malone pics!

Episode 3, “Whodunnit?” is a fun story, and it takes a while before you know how it connects to the overall arc. River, being referred to as Melody Malone like the book Amy Pond wrote in the TV series, arriving at an old house and being surrounded by cliché murder and/or  mystery characters, including a super-over-the-top Poirot and a riff on Scooby Doo. As the mystery unfolds we find out that this is all a dream world partially created by famed writer Franz Kafka, River believing that escaping into a cyber-reality would be a good place to hide from the Discordia. Sadly, somehow, it isn’t, and in the end she escapes and enters the TARDIS she stole. Overall it’s a fun mini-story, more light-hearted and stand-alone than the others in the set, but well worth a listen.

Then we get to Episode 4, “Someone I Once Knew”, which has River entering the TARDIS only to find the Fourth Doctor standing at the console, and what’s more he describes River as his wife and gives her a “Hello Sweetie!” Thanks to the Discordia’s timeline meddling, The Doctor met River Song early in his life, and now in his fourth body they’re well and truly a couple, much to River’s bafflement. It’s a really clever way of writing it, it stops all the Doctor trying to guess who she is stuff and secret keeping, and let’s us enjoy the two larger-than-life characters interacting. The rest of the story is pretty basic, though epic in scope, as the Discordia ruin more and more of time and The Doctor meets up with a resistance group (of course!)

It all comes to an end thanks to the Discordian Emperor, who its revealed once became so attached to his work that he ignored his beloved wife, who then met someone else, leading to the Emperor destroying her planet pre-life and therefore causing her to cease to exist, all in hope that he’d forget the pain of it all. Sadly for him, he didn’t forget it, and now it was even worse because he killed her… killed her so much that no one else in the universe even knows of her race! So when Dante, who had become obsessed with River, threatens to destroy The Doctor’s homeworld and spare her the misery of his death, the Emperor stops history repeating itself and has Dante killed in the Discordian way of having already sent someone back in time to be in the right place to stop him. It was all very fun, very clever.

The Doctor and River then try and convince the Emperor that he should go back in time and stop the Discordia from discovering time travel, that way his wife will return to existence (along with the whole Universe as we know it) but he instead decides to wipe out his own species the way he did he hers, otherwise the Discordia might one day re-discover time travel and it would all happen again.

We then get a “River meets The Doctor who doesn’t know who she is in such a plain way that he won’t remember the encounter” scene, and there we go. River is the only person who remembers the Discordia, and therefore also has fond memories of being close with the Fourth Doctor without it ruining the timeline as we know it. Fun all round.

The Bad:

Diary of River Song S4 P4 Cover

Yikes, who chose  that picture of the Doctor? It sticks out so much over the clearer imagines behind it… They used a much better one of the overall cover!

Nothing stands out as bad, though neither story stood out as amazing. “Whodunnit?” was fun, and “Someone I Once Knew” had good epic scope, but I can’t say I was buzzing after either of them. Hard to pin point why, but there we are.

The Continuity:

Diary of River Song S4 Overall Cover

See what I mean? Much better picture of The Doctor!

Nothing much to add here, apart from what was already mentioned in the first half of this box. This is surprisingly Franz Kafka’s first Who appearance, which I guess explains why, out of all of the imagination-filled writers, she chose him: it was just something different.

The Melody Malone character was created in Amy and Rory’s last TV story “The Angels Take Manhattan”.

Overall Thoughts:

The second half of The Diary of River Song Series 4 is good, it has a fun story up first, and an action-filled story to end, with great interactions between Tom Baker’s Doctor and River Song (which is what most of us wanted from the box to begin with) At the end of the day though I didn’t feel like I listened to anything special. It was good, possibly even great in parts, but it still felt like it lacked that certain spark… Still recommended!

4 Star Listen

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