The Diary of River Song – Series 5 Episodes 3 and 4 Review

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The fifth series (or Box set, if you like) of The Diary of River Song finishes up with a second half much like the first: two stories that are really fun to listen to, but a bit light on any major story arcs or development. Also like in the first half, one story features an incarnation of The Master that had yet to appear on Big Finish audio, in this case Eric Roberts’ version from the TV Movie! … Yay? … Sort of? Let’s find out!

Synopsis (of “The Lifeboat and the Deathboat”):

Stranded in the Vortex, a father and daughter do their best to survive, living on salvage in a ramshackle vessel.

Elsewhere, an obsessive ship’s captain hunts down a vengeful monster, whatever the cost.

And River is caught between them, uncovering an old enemy in the most unexpected new guise.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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These four are great and all, but I’d still have preferred the Big Finish exclusive “Macqueen Master”…

River Song (Alex Kingston) – River’s timeline is rather complex, especially when it comes to how she meets The Doctor. That being said, her meeting her husband’s worst enemy isn’t much better either…

The Master (Eric Roberts) – Having escaped the Eye of Harmony only to find himself ejected into the Time Vortex with only one of The Doctor’s spare rooms to keep him safe, The Master has started to create a large mish-mash of ships in order to find one that can save him, and his best bet may be an old friend… or at least the wife of one…

Alison (Lucy Heath) – Alison is stuck in the time vortex with her Dad, Daniel… or so she thinks, the reality is actually for more complicated…

Ayeton Valencia (Himesh Patel) – Valencia lost his last job due to legal mumbo-jumbo, but when a job offer comes along at a bar, he may have no choice but to take it…

Admiral Eno (Sasha Behar) – Eno once lost an entire crew to a rather unpleasant vortex beast, and will never turn down an opportunity to take it down, even in the middle of a job…

Kaliopi Mileska (Eleanor Crooks) – A mass murderer who is wanted by a high-paying crime family, and who is currently frozen in stasis, waiting to be picked up by a crew looking for a big pay-day…

The Master (Derek Jacobi) – With the Time War still raging, The Master is looking into creating some monstrosities of gene splicing using long-dead races, it just so happens that River Song, The Doctor’s wife, is a member of a ship he finds himself on…

Amita Burman (Vineeta Rishi) – Burman is travelling from a long-dead world after a successful trip, and has fallen in love with fellow crew member Nina… Possibly…

Michelle Lambon (Jacqueline King) – Michelle is the boss of the group that has visited and collected artefacts from a race long forgotten. All that’s left is a peaceful trip home…

Plus more!

The Good:

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Who would’ve thought, after all this time, Eric Roberts would reprise his role of The Master…

Episode 3, “The Lifeboat and the Deathboat” (great title!), is a really fun story, with lots of little twists and turns. River has found herself stranded in the Time Vortex with a father and his daughter, who have been attracting ships towards themselves in the hopes of finding a way to regain the means to escape. A deadly vortex creature (that I can’t remember the name of, and it seems no-one has written it anywhere on the net at the moment…) is constantly swirling around them and attacking other time ships. Daniel, the father, is actually The Master, still in the body of the American paramedic he stole during the TV movie. He found his way out of the Eye of Harmony and into a spare room of the TARDIS, which was then jettisoned into the Vortex. This is where it gets even weirder, as his “daughter” Alison is actually the off-spring of the vortex creature that The Master has enslaved and turned into human form using a character from an old VHS teen movie as a template. The creature is attacking the other ships to find its son/daughter (or neither!), and that’s how The Master has drawn so many ships towards himself.

If that didn’t seem complicated enough, a crew of various people from all over the shop has taken a job to escort a frozen-in-stasis criminal to her makers, but they stop when the vortex creature appears as their captain has a grudge against it (ala Moby Dick), and a short battle later and half the ship ends up connected to River et al’s hodgepodge of ships. Kaliopi, the mass-murderer, escapes and ends up finding a weapons stash The Master had… I’ll stop there, but the last half of the story is great, full of double-crossing, weird time physics and, of course, River escaping after she reunites the now-non-human-again offspring with its seemingly squid-like mother. It seems this Master also escapes along with Kaliopi in the stasis pod, which is interesting… Eric Roberts has a more reserved role here than his scenery-chewing from the TV Movie, and I wouldn’t say no to another appearance from him down the line… Oddly enough!

Episode 4, “Concealed Weapon”, is classic War Master. River and a crew of archaeologists wake up from deep sleep and soon they start getting killed off, one by one. River detects a new lifeform on board with a double heartbeat and assumes its her husband arriving when people are dying again, but it’s actually The Master, still in the heart of the Time War. He’s trying to smuggle the genetic material from a dead world within the body of one of the crew, though as it turns out there was a double cross as to which one actually made the deal. Super nice and trustful Amita first made a deal, but her lover also went behind her back and made a second deal, much to The Master’s amusement.

By the end Amita starts transforming due to the stuff in her body, but The Master and River have to escape before the ship explodes due to the two of them going back and forth in a very dangerous game of one upmanship. The Master laments the loss of this new species he’d gene spliced, and how it could have helped with the war. He then hypnotises River so she doesn’t remember his involvement. Overall it’s fine, a lot more standard of a plot than the previous story, that’s for sure, and once again Mr. Jacobi doesn’t appear until half way through, but when he does he’s brilliant!

The Bad:

Once again, not a lot to say. Much like the first half, both stories were light on the extra characters with any depth front, but were still very enjoyable little stories.

The Continuity:

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It’s amazing how much mileage Big Finish have gotten from Jacobi’s short-lived-on-TV version of The Master, but I’m grateful of it!

As mentioned a few times, Eric Roberts’ version of the Master appeared only once prior to this in the TV Movie. This is his first return to the role in over two decades!

Other than that, not much. There isn’t much to pinpoint where in the War Master’s ever increasing timeline his story is placed.

Overall Thoughts:

You could pretty much copy and paste my thoughts about the first half of this set for this one. In fact, I’ll do just that! “two stories that are extremely fun, with River and the two Masters having great chemistry in both. Neither are deep or have multi-layered characters, but at roughly an hour each they’re still fun mini-slices of Doctor Who.” … Yep, still applies to these two stories. That was quick…

4 Star Listen

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