Doctor Who: Doom Coalition 1 – The Eleven & The Red Lady Review

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This was an awkward one to review, as it felt to recent to re-listen to it retrospectively, yet it was obviously far too long ago to review it from memory. Still, there were worst things to relisten to than the introduction of The Eleven, and the debut story of Helen Sinclair (though mostly because it’s a really good story, rather than for the debut itself) So while it may be a fair few years before I review the rest of Doom Coalition, let’s take a look how it started, shall we?

Synopsis (of “The Eleven”):

The Eleven. A Time Lord whose previous personalities live on in his mind: arguing, plotting, jostling for supremacy… He is also Gallifrey’s most dangerous criminal. And he has escaped.

The Doctor is recalled to his homeworld to lead the hunt. As they search the Capitol’s corridors of power, the Academy halls and the cells of the highest security penitentiary, Liv realises the worst monsters may be among the Doctor’s own people.

For inside his fractured mind, the Eleven has a plan. And its deadly consequences will extend through space and time…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

DW Doom Coalition 1 Cover

Ladies and gentlemen: the debut of “looking startled Helen”!

The Doctor (Paul McGann) – After all the near death coming from the Master and the Eminence, The Doctor and Liv have taken the chance to have a more normal set of adventures… well, as normal as The Doctor’s travels are, but now an old enemy is about to put the TARDIS on a completely different track once again…

Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) – Liv is alive, and for the first time in a long time, is feeling happy and full of life… while still being stoic and sarcastic, obviously!

Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan) – Helen works at the British Museum, but due to the rather misogynistic attitudes of 1960s London, she keeps finding lesser qualified men being promoted before her…

The Eleven (Mark Bonnar) – The Eleven is suffering from a rare mental disorder that makes all ten of his previous selves just as awake in his head as he is, even if he’s the one controlling his body. Even worse is that a good majority of those other selves are just as crazy as he is…

Cardinal Padrac (Robert Bathurst) – Cardinal Padrac is an old friend of The Doctors, both of them being in the Academy together. When The Eleven escapes he’s quick to call in The Doctor to help, but should The Doctor really trust him? I mean, what happened to every other good friend from The Doctor’s past?

Kiani (Bethan Walker) – Kiani is a Time Lord student who specialising in imprisonment post-Shada. Due to this she has managed to convince some higher-ups to let her have a 1-to-1 meeting with infamous prisoner The Eleven…

Walter Pritchett (David Yelland) – Walter works at the British Museum and has a great amount of respect for Helen, just not enough to stand up to the stuffy bosses who wish to keep her down…

Plus more!

The Good:

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The Eleven, featuring The Eleven. That’s like having a show called Doctor Who and… nah, I won’t go there…

I really love The Eleven as a character, he’s so well played by Mark Bonnar and a joy to listen to (in a crazy psychopathic way!) and relistening to his debut story only confirms that he knew what he was doing from the get-go. It opens up with The Eleven having been captured by the Seventh Doctor towards the end of his life, and soon we hear Eleven being talked to gently by a student… but soon he escapes and The Doctor and Liv are called in to help catch him. That’s all episode 1 is, a game of cat and mouse across Gallifrey, featuring death, destruction and lots of objects with “of Rassilon” attached to it being stolen or misused by The Eleven… and really fun to listen to it is too! Lots of finger-pointing, plenty of Time Lords treating Liv like crap for being just an Earthling, and lots of great scenes of The Eleven being a cunning and evil villain, full of funny lines and literally arguing with himself… or his past selves, I guess.

In the end he escapes, but not being killing poor innocent student Kiani, who was well framed as the likely person who let The Eleven out in the first place. It’s a really good solid hour of audio drama, and introduces The Eleven brilliantly.

The Red Lady on the other is great in an entirely different way. It’s a more simple tale written to introduce us to new companion Helen, though retroactively it becomes more interesting to listen to, but I’ll get to that another time… Basically the British Museum gets a group of artefacts from a hermit collector, the collection is from all over different locations and eras of history, but all have one thing in common: they have a red-haired lady in the background of them, and once you catch sight of her, she starts getting closer and closer every time you look at the image again, until eventually it kills you. It’s a great concept, and it works really well. It’s not just pictures either, Liv reads a text excerpt, and every time she re-reads it the adjective describing how close the “Red Lady” is changes to greater extremes. It’s clever stuff.

The Doctor and Liv are on the trail of The Eleven but end up getting caught up in all of this, as does Helen after her friend and boss falls victim to the Lady. Eventually Liv and The Doctor begin being unable to stop searching for the mysterious woman, having to be blindfolded in order to stop themselves. It’s a great concept and really works well. The artefacts are destroyed and the day saved, but Helen is blamed for it all and so goes on the run with The Doctor and Liv…

The Bad:

Not much to say, though I will point out what I’ve always thought, and that’s Helen is a bit on the dull side of things, and it really shows to me now that many boxsets in and she’s still much the same… just a normal woman. Not excentric personality, no charge of heart or character development at all really. Compare her to any of the other companions on this long list of Audio and Comic Eighth Doctor companions and she really stands out by not standing out at all…

The Continuity:

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A simple cover for a great story.

While on Gallifrey there are a few references to past happenings on the planet and past companions of The Doctor, too many passing references to mention. There is also a mention of the Chief archivist going missing that will play into later Doom Coalition sets. The Eleven’s capture, heard at the start of the this story, is told is greater detail in the Seventh Doctor audio story “Dark Universe“.

The Red Lady taking place in 1963 obviously leads to several references as well, but nothing significant. The Doctor and Liv … live in The Doctor’s house on Baker Street that has become a Big Finish classic, first appearing in “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster”, previously reviewed in this marathon!

The identity of The Red Lady is revealed in the Doom Coalition finale, “Stop The Clock”. I’ll leave it to then to talk about it…

Overall Thoughts:

Doom Coalition got off to a great start, it has to be said. I really enjoyed the plot overall, more than Dark Eyes and so far more than Ravenous, so it’s nice to know that it wasn’t all in my head. The Eleven gets off to a great start and The Red Lady is a standout brilliant tale. Highly recommended, and you’ll find it hard to stop…

5 Star Listen

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