The Diary of River Song – Series 9 “New Recruit” Episodes 3 and 4 Review

The second half of River Song’s ninth series is like a reverse of the previous half, instead of a good story and a forgettable one involving a false reality this one starts with a forgettable one involving a false reality and ends on a good story. The good story itself features the Third Doctor arriving and has a good bit of interaction between himself and River, which is good fun. Want to know more? Read on!

Synopsis (of Episode 4 “Rivers of Light”):

In a Yorkshire mining town, strange temporal distortions and rivers of light crossing forests are enough to get the Brigadier’s attention, and UNIT is mobilised.

But the Doctor is back, and he wants to know who’s been messing around in his laboratory. River’s reasons for being on Earth are about to be revealed…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Episode 4 “Rivers of Light” was a good story (with one exception I’ll get to later) that kicks off with The Doctor returning to base only to find River squatting in his TARDIS, the apparent search for Sensorites across Europe being a now-obvious ruse. The two argue but The Doctor does admire her intelligence and even plays along a bit with the flirting, but overall is rather cheesed off. River amusingly mentions how the “young ones” are always such a pain to deal with, which made me chuckle. Rumours of unnatural occurrences lead River, Liz and eventually The Doctor to meet The Brig at a mining town where the titular “Rivers of Light” are appearing and a young couple in Gemma and Simon (Dominique Moore and James MacNaughton) start to display strange electrical powers and are drawn towards the mine. This is where River comes clean about why she was on Earth in this undefined time period in the first place: she hid a miniaturised sun on the Earth and has a miniaturised planet to go along with it, soon using the pull to help guide them to their objective.

As Simon is pulled towards the tiny Sun and River Vortex Manipulates herself to the same location The Doctor, Liz and The Brig try to save Gemma but the lift stalls due to the pull between her and the new Sun. The Doctor tells Liz and The Brig to escape and stays with the frightened girl at great risk to his own life but it all becomes rather a moot point when River leaves the planet with both Sun and its satellite in her pocket, placing it in a safe part of the galaxy soon after. There was a final scene but I’ll get to that, again, later but I will say she mentions going out with the Doctor and doing her usual trick of lacing the wine with a memory altering drug, just for the record…

The Bad:

Thanks to the Doctor only being in Episode 4 this cover really feels like a “Rivers of Light” cover than the whole box… Still looks great though!

The biggest sticking point for this boxset is that at the end of the story we find out that River was working for the Roger Delgado Master this whole time but actually betrayed him to the Time Lords. The big issue with this is that he’s voiced by Jon Culshaw and unlike his great Brigadier his Delgado Master is pretty terrible. It honestly sounds like the Brig mumbling rather than the very distinctive Roger Delgado or even just his Master (like how Tim Trelaor sounds like the Third Doctor without sounding like Jon Pertwee) It took everything away from that scene and was a big let down after such a good hit rate with 70s recasts recently!

Oh and “Rivers of Light” may now hold the record for most amount of times the episode’s title has been said in the episode itself. That was rather obnoxious in the end…

I wasn’t sure where to put Episode 3, “Never Alone”. It’s not bad but very plain and features some similar plot-points to what came in the previous story. UNIT investigates a big corporation known as Intertraxia after a bunch of Uni students go missing and one even turns up dead while one appears to be working for the company. Turns out aliens are in charge and are using small bug-like “nano-tech” to put humans into a dream-like world where their knowledge can then be harvested. This includes two students in Marco and Pippa (Jack Holden and Emma Swan) and their teacher Professor Allen (Karen Karcher), who is aware of their plan but happily goes along with it as the nano tech heals her arthritic legs. River ends up in the dream world with the two students but manages to take down the “Higher Power” with the help of Liz on the outside. As I said it’s fine but we just did the whole dreamscape / having to dive into it to rescue someone story in the previous episode! Plus Marco and especially Pippa sounded too much like people trying to sound young rather than actually being a regular University student, especially Pippa, who sounded like she was out of a cheesy 90s cartoon…

Now that I think of it Marco and Pippa and Simon and Gemma were very similar in personality and story as well… I think this series needed to be better edited to avoid repeated ideas…

The Continuity:

Not much to say again, apart from the Season 7 setting. The Senorites that River made up a story about to keep The Doctor busy made their one and only TV appearance in the First Doctor story “The Sensorites”, surprisingly enough…

Overall Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Episode 4 “Rivers of Light” but found the preceding episode rather flat. So I guess River Song’s ninth box set is split in half between good and average, though some ideas do float between the episodes making it a little repetitive even within the realms of Doctor Who. A good purchase if you really love the early Pertwee era though!

Episode 3 “Never Alone”:

Episode 4 “Rivers of Light”:

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