Dark Eyes

The Eighth Doctor returns in a truly epic Dalek story which is reminiscent of the scale of the epic Hartnell serials; a worthy next chapter to the preceding Lucie Miller and To The Death. Sent on a mission by the Time Lords to rescue the mysterious Molly O`Sullivan from World War One, the Doctor can’t escape the Daleks no matter where he goes in time and space.

It’s interesting to compare this release to its nearest television contemporary, The Snowmen. In each story the Doctor has recently lost people close to him; on television he’s permanently separated from the Ponds, while McGann’s incarnation has witnessed the deaths of Lucie and Alex. These are the stories where we see how the Doctor deals with these events.

The two approaches are almost total opposites to each other. While The Eleventh Doctor retreats to one small corner of space and time to indulge a little interior design and reading, the Eighth does the opposite. He races off to see the final end of the Universe, the better to gain perspective on the entirety of creation.

Both incarnations, strangely, have started to blame ‘the universe’, here for having ‘seen fit’ to give rise to the Daleks. “You blame the universe?” asks an incredulous Straxus. The later Doctor thinks he can strike a bargain with it to save Clara, and when the Auton Rory pops up in The Pandorica Opens, he assumes its a gift from the universe. It doesn’t sit well with me that the Doctor, traditional a scientist, thinks along these lines. It’s all a bit too much like Noel Edmonds` Cosmic Ordering for me.

noel_edmonds

The first part of Dark Eyes pitches our hero into the First World War, an environment where he is immediately surrounded by others in the same situation as himself: they’ve all lost people. He quickly falls in with some wounded British soldiers and some VADs: Isabel and Molly.

Initially Isabel seems more likely companion material, quickly falling under the Doctor’s spell, while Molly is sceptical, believing he is a feckless charmer with a shady past. This makes Molly the more interesting of the two, closer to Donna Noble, in not letting the Doctor away with much or falling for his eccentric mystique.

Ruth Bradley is a great find, effortlessly charming and sympathetic as the new companion. The two principle guest stars, Peter Egan and Toby Jones, are wonderful as Straxus and X respectively. Egan assumes the traditional suave arrogance of a Time Lord with ease, while Jones brings both star power and acting prowess to the villain of the piece. The Dalek Time Controller from Patient Zero and To The Death also makes another appearance, and in him Nicholas Briggs has created a memorable and chilling new take on the well-worn Dalek threat.

From France the Doctor and Molly tear across time and space, with enough incident and adventure to make this truly feel like a mini-season., and I’d love to see more boxsets like this in the future. The mystery around Molly and X keeps the listener guessing right to the end, and there’s plenty of depth to reward multiple listens.

For me this series strikes the perfect balance between the Charley Pollard era stories, which were often quite introspective, and the usually lighter, quicker-paced Lucie Miller era. The quality of this script has me wondering, not for the first time, why Mr Briggs is only asked to provide voices to the TV series.

Not heard Dark Eyes yet? Buy now from Amazon:

Dr Who, Dark Eyes (Dr Who Big Finish)

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