DW: Dark Eyes Review

DW Dark Eyes

Continuing the many audio companions of the Eighth Doctor we have Molly O’Sullivan, who appears solely in the Dark Eyes series of audios. Dark Eyes begins the Eighth Doctor’s transfer from the single-disc “Eighth Doctor Adventures” range to series of four, four-story boxset “series”, a theme that continues today, although that really begin with Dark Eyes 2, as this boxset was clearly written as a stand-alone story, a four-parter in all but name, which is why I’m reviewing the whole box rather than splitting it in half like I do for later releases. With all that being said, is it any good? Erm…

Synopsis:

“I really hoped it would be a wonderful view… to look back from the end of everything… to see how things finally turned out.”

The Doctor is looking for hope. But instead, he finds himself on a mission. The Time Lords have uncovered terrifying fragments of an insane plot to destroy the universe. And somehow, at the centre of that plot is one, random female in Earth’s history, Molly O’Sullivan.

Soon, the Doctor and Molly find themselves thrown headlong into a series of dangerous and terrifying adventures, with the dreaded Daleks never far behind them.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW Dark Eyes P1

Love the silhouetted Daleks on the first episode’s cover.

The Doctor (Paul McGann) – The Doctor has lost so many people close to him that he has lost all hope. Dejected, he travels towards the end of the universe in the hopes of seeing “how it all turns out”…

Molly O’Sullivan (Ruth Bradley) – Molly is a regular VAD Nurse during World War I, doing her best to help the brave fighting men coming back from the frontlines… Okay, maybe she’s not all that regular…

Straxus (Peter Egan) – Straxus is the coordinator of the Celestial Intervention Agency, and is on a mission to stop an unholy alliance between a Time Lord and the Daleks… a Time Lord he knows all too well…

Kotris (Toby Jones) – Kotris has allied himself with The Daleks after growing tired of the morally grey area he and his people occupy, truly believing the universe would be a better place without them…

Sally Armstrong (Natalie Burt) – Sally is a genius inventor from the 1970s who received instructions on how shunt forward in time by the Eighth Doctor, and giving her the resources to build a time space portal in The Doctor’s home… As you do.

The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – The Daleks are uncharacteristically relying on help from a rogue Time Lord named Kotris, though they obviously plan to betray him when he outlived his usefulness. This particular group is being led by the Dalek Time Controller…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW Dark Eyes P2

Ah the old “looking like you’re running” pose…

The first episode is set during World War I for a change, rather than II, and has some good imagery of the rather unpleasant (to say the least) time period. Molly herself would be a fine character if it weren’t for one thing I’ll get to later, but I do like her more headstrong nature and admirable job title.

I think the main thing I enjoy about this story is Straxus and Kotris, who are actually the same man. A future version of Straxus loses all faith in the Time Lord hierarchy due to his job as part of the Gallifrey CIA and joins forces with the Daleks, taking an old family name instead of his normal one. This paradoxically doesn’t work and an earlier Straxus (from around the time of the Eighth Doctor, in that weird way that Time Lords linear timelines match up with each other) finds out about his future self and soon recruits The Doctor to stop himself… It’s an odd one, but fun, especially as Toby Jones is one of the best sneering evil character actors around. There was also a funny (in a dark comedy way) scene of Straxus trying to kill himself by throwing himself off a cliff and stop himself from regenerating to erase his evil future self from existence, but Kotris had remembered this and placed drones around to save him. Time paradoxes are sometimes good fun!

The Bad:

DW Dark Eyes P3

A simple but effective cover for Part 3…

Sadly there is a lot here not to like. The Eighth Doctor just saw his beloved companion kill herself to stop the Daleks, and at the same time saw his great-grandson get killed, but half way through episode 1 and he’s acting like his old self, palling around with Molly and going on an adventure against the Daleks. I think there was one scene where The Doctor gets all shouty and loses it, but in general he’s his normal self. It’s a waste of a rare super-dark ending we got to the Lucie adventures. Also after all the promotion about the Eighth Doctor getting a new look, it still makes me laugh that The Doctor having long and then short hair is mentioned in dialogue constantly in Episode 1, but his change from his classic outfit was brought across by a zip sound and some light leather-crushing sounds, with no one mentioning anything. I know it’s an audio story and all, but if you’re going to do one, then do them both. Tell me when, in my head, The Doctor has changed his iconic look… (iconic in terms of the Eighth Doctor, anyway…)

The other big problem, and sadly it is a big one, is Molly O’Sullivan, specifically her accent. Ruth Bradley has a perfectly pleasant and natural Irish accent, as heard in the extras, but for some reason Mr. Briggs directed her to go full-on stereotype, really ham it up to the point of obnoxiousness. Mix in that Briggs downfall of repeating catchphrases (particularly Molly referring to the TARDIS as the “Tardy Box”) and you get a companion that really grates on the nerves, despite being an actually strong and interesting character. She was intentionally contaminated with “Retro-genitor Particles” as a child for Kotris and the Daleks’ needs, which was tragic and interesting (and creepy when Kortis was comforting the child Molly in a flashback) but it’s wasted when the actual character ends up making you regret headphones…

The Daleks aren’t particularly interesting here, as well. Sometimes interesting things can be done with the iconic species, but other times they’re just noise and killing, and this falls into the later. The Dalek Time Controller is a fun idea, but it doesn’t save the plot from not being very interesting (beyond the Straxus / Kortis plot I’ve already talked about). Four hours this set goes on for as well, with all four hours being written and directed by Nicholas Briggs… even the best writers would struggle to fill up that much time with limited script editing deadline, given Mr. Briggs often (but not always!) ends up writing average stories, this should have been shared out. I assume since later Eighth Doctor boxes have at least two, if not four writers, this is something they came to realise.

Oh and if you’re wondering about Sally Armstrong, well she doesn’t really do much here. She gets killed, which trigger’s the Doctor’s shouty monologue I mentioned earlier, but that death is undone at the end of the story, so… not much to say. I wanted to include her though as she makes a few more appearances down the line…

The Continuity:

DW Dark Eyes P4

There’s something so unnatural about Paul McGann’s pose in this cover, but I just can’t quite place it…

The Dalek Time Controller had previously appeared in Lucie Miller’s exit story, “Lucie Miller / To The Death”, and a Sixth Doctor audio story “Patient Zero”. He (it?) would make further appearances in the Dark Eyes series as well…

Overall Thoughts:

Dark Eyes, I remember, was a disappointment after the big reveal of the new look Eighth Doctor and the promise of a follow on from “Lucie Miller / To The Death”, from the same writer no less, but all momentum created by that two-part epic was completely squandered, lost in a sea of bad accents and generic Dalek mustache twirling. Not the worst, far from it, but for four hours the mistakes are really driven home…

2 Star Listen

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