The Diary of River Song: Series 3 – The Lady in the Lake & A Requiem For The Doctor Review

River Song’s third series kicks off with a great story looking at some plot threads left hanging from the sixth TV series and generally taking a good look at regeneration as a whole, while the second plays more like a traditional Fifth Doctor story that happens to have River Song in it. So two very different stories, but what are they like in more detail? Well, good thing you asked!

Synopsis (of Episode 1 “The Lady in the Lake”):

On Terminus Prime, clients choose their own means of demise. Something exciting, meaningful, or heroic to end it all.

But when River discovers that there are repeat customers, she knows something more is going on.

She begins to uncover a cult with worrying abilities. Its members can apparently cheat death, and that’s not all they have in common with River…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

One of those covers that gives you the impression of an entirely different story but still makes sense once you hear it!

“The Lady in the Lake” is pretty crazy, but in a really fun way. River has found out that there were other experimental assassins like her created by Madame Kovarian and goes on the hunt for them in hopes of finding a brother or sister. She tracks them down to a crazy cult who can apparently die and resurrect themselves and are lead by a man named Lake (David Seddon / Leighton Pugh) or “The Great Lake” to his followers, and those followers are using the unique system of Terminus Prime to do it. You see the planet is like euthanasia gone mad as you don’t need to be terminally ill you can just sign up and die in a variety of fantastical ways, from saving everyone as a hero to being attacked by a dragon. River meets Kevin (Ian Conningham) who is playing the role of Grim Reaper for those who want to die playing chess to him in the classic manor, and soon the two are following the trail of a cult member named Rindle, but soon find a young girl named Lily (Sophia Carr-Gomm) instead. River uses time travel to cheat the system and even talk to herself, as she tends to do, but then the director of Terminus Prime, Mr. Quisling, turns out to be another incarnation of Lake who had mastered regeneration so much that he intentionally regenerated into the head of Terminus Prime’s body and took his place. Very interesting (and given the whole Romana regeneration sequence, makes sense…)

Eventually River, Kevin and Lily try to make an escape but come up against Lake, who soon kills Lily and remarks interest in how she had reached the end of her regeneration cycle. Well, that she was out of lives, he’s actually unaware of his own heritage and has seen his fellow cult members die off after only a couple of lives or a dozen lives and he’s just desperately trying to find out how many he has left. Just when he’s about to kill River Kevin scythes him in the back and to his and River’s shock Lake regenerates into Lily. Turns out Lily was Lake’s last life and he ironically ended it himself. With a confused memory River puts Lily where she and Kevin first found her to keep the web of time correct and there you go. Plenty of really fun twists and use of time travel. River is feeling so bummed about losing all her siblings, and one sibling she really liked ending up being another that she hated, that she called for The Doctor, any Doctor, to cheer herself up. The Fifth Doctor arrives and to River and our surprise he’s travelling with a woman named Brooke (Joanna Horton)…

The weird thing about this cover is that everyone looks… indifferent. Not sad, angry or happy, just… plain-faced.

This leads to Episode 2, “A Requiem for the Doctor”, where The Doctor, Brooke and River arrive in 1791 and start looking into the death of Mozart and the fact his famously unfinished final piece is due to be played in full. They uncover a poisoning ring where a lady named Giulia (Issy Van Randwyck) has been supplying women with an untraceable deadly elixir named “Aqua Galatia” that was activated by negative thoughts aimed at the person who drank it. After spending some time with a couple who had used it (and Brooke getting increasingly jealous of River being more helpful than her) they arrive at the concert and find out that the Aqua Galatia had somehow been woven into the music itself and everyone listening to it began screaming in pain. Giulia stood up on stage and admitted it was all her, directing all the negative emotions on her and saving everyone, though not out of a sense of guilt or atonement but because her grandson (or great, great grandson? She lived a long time, anyway…) was in the crowd. Everyone heads back to the TARDIS but The Doctor soon collapses as Brooke had poisoned him with Aqua Galatia and was willing him dead, but River saves him by over-powering that hate with her love for him. Who Brooke is will be revealed in the next half…

The Bad:

Nothing that bad. I nearly put “Requiem for the Doctor” here because it was so… plain, especially compared to the first episode, but it would be wrong to call it “Bad”. It was perfectly fine, just not that outstanding.

The Continuity:

The reusing of Kevin’s scythe in the background is about the only thing from these two stories here. Well, apart from River and The Doctor, but you know… they appear in both halves…

Obviously “The Lady in the Lake” makes several direct references to the Eleventh Doctor TV episode “A Good Man Goes To War” and is pretty much a sequel to that story, as the boxset is a sequel to the whole Series 6 story arc.

There are a few more references in “Requiem”, (including yet another reference to the Fifth Doctor being sonic screwdriver-less thanks to the events of “The Visitation”) but nothing major.

Overall Thoughts:

River Song’s third series gets off to a brilliant start before settling into something far more mundane, but still enjoyable, and sets up the second half of the box well. Funnily enough the next two stories follow a very similar pattern…

Episode 1 “The Lady in the Lake”:

Episode 2 “A Requiem for The Doctor”:

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