The second half of River Song’s second series is far more inconsistent than the first, with the first story just featuring River and Sixth Doctor standing out in particular for being … very oddly written, to put it politely, not to mention now sharing a title with a “proper” TV story. Can the first story to feature River and two different Doctors save it and end the set on a high note? Let’s find out!
Synopsis (of Episode 3 “World Enough and Time”):
When it comes to bringing down corrupt and exploitative regimes, there is no-one quite like River.
Until she arrives at Golden Futures and discovers that someone else has already taken on her job. Someone with almost as much style and panache as herself.
The Doctor is about to get the shock of his lives.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I’d really like to know what pose River is doing there? “Being caught walking out of a room she shouldn’t be in” is my best guess…
Episode 4, “The Eye of the Storm”, is a really fun, if a little convoluted, story. Two versions of Earth are competing to be in the same space after the events of the previous story (see below, sadly…) and both the Sixth and Seventh Doctors have arrived to sort it out while at the same time River is trying to do the same. Together they find out two things: a couple from 1703 with the names Sarah and Isaac (Jessie Buckley and Paul Keating) are somehow key to stopping the two Earths from destroying each other, and the Speravore Queen (also voiced by Jessie Buckley) is doing her best to get the couple to break their destiny and cause the two Earths to collide and therefore feed on all the potential energy that would be lost due to an entire planet’s worth of history being wiped out (Speravores feeding on potential energy as they do). The Sixth Doctor tries to take down the Speravore Queen and save Sarah and Isaac, while the Seventh Doctor tries to lead the couple to their fated death in order to set reality right, meanwhile River is trying to find a way to both stop the Queen and save Sarah and Isaac. It’s a nice look at how two different incarnations of The Doctor are trying to tackle the same problem, and I love how River gets on well with Sixie, even if she has to keep trying to stop him, but begins to really dislike Seven and his scheming ways.
In the end both Doctors are caught in the tentacles of the Queen and River manages to convince Sarah and Isaac to sacrifice themselves for the greater good after all. I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened, it was quite a confusing finale, really. The Sixth Doctor gets a pleasant farewell memory wipe by River, but the Seventh Doctor keeps outsmarting her by avoiding all of her memory altering drugs, far too interested in who she could possibly be. It’s a really funny series of back and forth with River gets more and more annoyed at finally being outsmarted. While River does knock her future husband out, it’s not made clear if she did erase his memory or not… Well, apart from the fact that the Eighth Doctor doesn’t recognise her, obviously meaning at least at some point she does manage it…
The Sixth Doctor in a suit and black tie… very close to the costume Colin Baker wanted his Doctor to have in the show, actually…
“World Enough and Time” is very strange, written as if the writer has no experience with the Sixth Doctor at all, but given it’s written by James Goss, that clearly isn’t the case! The Doctor infiltrates a company called “Golden Futures” by buying 51% of their shares and looks into their business while River does the same by getting a job as a low level clerk. The company officially offers pods that people can sleep the rest of their lives in peace with the dreams of their choice, so long as the dreams were okayed by the clerks like River. It was a fun concept, and the revelation that the dreamers were being fed on by Speravores, a species that literally eats potential energy, was a good one. The story falls apart when it comes to the Sixth Doctor, who spends the whole episode bumbling around, fawning over River and eventually making a huge mistake that River has to wipe his memory of so he doesn’t feel so bad. When I thought about the Sixth Doctor and River meeting I saw this incarnation being the one who was more annoyed with her vague nature and teasing, but instead he was the most love struck. Now it could be that the revelation that he was being fed on by the Speravores is why he was acting so out of character, but it was never really confirmed.
Then there were odd scenes involving Golden Future actually creating duplicate planets and happily profiting from offering new duplicates to races who have lost their original, which is an interesting idea, but the finale sees River and The Doctor accidentally unleash countless parallel Earths into space and possibly causes a great catastrophe, but at the start of the next episode there is only one alternate Earth and the rest had been dealt with “off-screen”, as it were. Overall it was just a weird experience, very disjointed and a Doctor that didn’t feel like any incarnation, let alone the Sixth…
Honestly this would make just as good a cover for Part 4 as well… I think I made a similar comment in the last half of this set, but oh well. Worth repeating! … When you can’t think of anything else.
As mentioned already, the Speravores appeared previously, specifically in the Seventh Doctor audio “A Life of Crime”. The Doctor would later reuse the “buying majority shares to infiltrate a company” trick in the Eleventh Doctor comic “The Rise and Fall”.
That’s it really, apart from following on from the first half of the set, and the Twelfth Doctor story “World Enough and Time“, though that doesn’t connect to this is anyway other than having the same title.
These two episodes were light-years apart in presentation. “World Enough and Time” was an awkward mess with a weird portrayal of The Doctor, where as “The Eye of the Storm” was a really fun mess with some great portrayals of two Doctors and some enjoyable dialogue. A good end then, just a not-very-good lead in…
Episode 3 “World Enough and Time”:
Episode 4 “The Eye of the Storm”: