The Diary of River Song: Series 2 – The Unknown & Five Twenty-Nine Review

Time to fill in that gap I created long ago by covering the first DORS series then jumping straight to the then-newly-released Series 4. Unlike the previous series and the next two, Series 2 has River meet two Doctors in the same set, though she meets them both in their own story and then both of them at once! I particularly like how River and the Seventh Doctor interact, so it’s a good thing he’s up first… Let’s take a look!

Synopsis (of Episode 1 “The Unknown”):

A planetary anomaly. A scientific impossibility. A mystery to be solved.

Of course, River Song expects to be consulted. She expects her valuable knowledge and experience will help the crew of the Saturnius unlock the strange phenomenon that has appeared in Earth’s solar system.

But what River doesn’t expect is a stowaway. An infuriating little man, calling himself the Doctor.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Ah yes, individual covers… that’s how you know these reviews aren’t contemporary to the 2020s…

Episode 1, “The Unknown”, is a great way to kick off the set. The next three stories are strongly connected, but this only has a few hints and a cliffhanger to tie it to the overall story arc. Instead River is on a ship called the Saturnius and she and the crew are experiencing memory loss. At some point they came across The Doctor, who is similarly in a constant state of bemusement, and put him in a cell as a prisoner, remembering enough that he was a stowaway, but when River and The Doctor talk they both remember bits of their prior lives, the word TARDIS and River’s sonic screwdriver jogging each other’s memories. This does add a fresh-feeling wrinkle to the story, just not having River be all “I know you in my future, wink-wink” is enough to make it feel a bit different, like River is just another extra on the latest ship that The Doctor has found himself on.

Anyway, as time itself starts to go haywire and members of the crew come to sticky ends we find out it’s all due to a crash in the Time Vortex between the ship and the TARDIS as well as a mysterious planet that had appeared in space near Earth, and all the time phenomena being a side-effect. Eventually River and The Doctor manage to separate the ships by reversing time a fraction and River ends up landing the Saturnius on the planet, which turns out to be an alternate post-apocalyptic Earth with an android woman as the only survivor she could find…

A rather plain cover for a story that’s anything but…

Episode 2, “Five Twenty-Nine”, sees River use her Vortex Manipulator to go back in time 24 hours in an attempt to find out what happened on this alternate Earth. She meets Rachel (Salome Haertel), the previously mentioned android, and finds out she’s living with two “parents” who brought her because they never had children themselves. After some time with Lisa and Emmett Burrows (Ann Bell and Robert Pugh) news reports start coming in that entire continents are becomes dark zones at exactly 5:25, any attempt to contact or even visit places where their time zone had meant they already hit 5:25 only resulted in more death. It was a really unique idea and a very weird “enemy”, in that there was no evil villain or alien, it was time reaching 5:25 that was the looming threat. The Burrows were really nice people and well acted, so the threat felt real, despite the future having already been seen. Sure enough, River, Rachel and the Burrows were the last people alive on the entire planet, sitting and having a meal on a little boat, and River soon left before 5:25 hit, leaving Rachel to see her “parents” drop dead at the allotted time… It was a great story, really unique too.

The Bad:

Honestly? Not much! An extremely strong start for River Song’s second outing…

The Continuity:

Like a lot of these boxset releases, the overall cover focuses much more on the finale than anything else…

Again, not much! Just your classic River mentioning she’s married and that kind of stuff, nothing directly related to the other. Well, apart from the second half of this boxset, obviously…

Overall Thoughts:

“The Unknown” is a fun and weird twisty story with great interplay between River and the Seventh Doctor, and “Five Twenty-Five” is an extremely unique and well-told story of the end of the world due to a bizarre and hard to understand “enemy”. These two stories make this set worth it on their own! Highly recommended.

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