Doom Coalition 2

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After foiling an attempt by the Voord to invade of a quiet English seaside town, the Doctor, Liv and Helen visit a ravaged city in the vortex. There they meet a powerful new nemesis who they go on to battle in San Francisco and on the planet Syra.

The opening story of this second volume of Doom Coalition is Beachhead by Nicholas Briggs. This sequel to an unseen Third Doctor UNIT story sees the village of Stegmoor unexpectedly flooded. With flooding an increasingly common problem in the UK, it’s a timely threat to feature in a Doctor Who story. The cause of this flood is a Voord spaceship buried beneath the beach. Probably because of their frogman-like appearance, the Voord are creatures as closely associated with marine adventures as the Sea Devils. They used submarines in The Keys of Marinus and Domain of the Voord (the previous time Big Finish dipped their toe in Voord waters), flying barges in The Fishmen of Kandalinga and in Paul Cornell’s Four Doctors they live in an underwater city, protected by a transparent dome.

This story takes the Voord back to the commando-like role they played in their sole television story. Bringing the alien to everyday life is what Doctor Who is all about, but this story particularly succeeds because it initially sounds like what I imagine an episode of The Archers is like. The characters are having a very human, earthly drama with the flood before the Voord and the TARDIS crew even turn up.

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The second instalment, John’s Dorney’s Scenes from her Life, centres around a powerfully-telepathic Time Lady called Caleera. Through flashbacks threaded throughout the action we learn about the Time Lords mistrust of her psychic abilities, and their attempts to suppress them. The previous disc having prompted the listener to recall an adventure with the First Doctor and Susan, this story can’t help but make the listener link this to the Doctor taking his granddaughter away from Gallifrey. We learn in The Sensorites of Susan’s nascent telepathy. Although it is never explicitly said here, it is easy to imagine the Doctor wanting to spare her from a life as a pariah, her potential wasted. And we know from Heaven Sent that the Doctor lied about leaving his home planet because he was bored.

The TARDIS has landed on a giant, mysterious structure which is being slowing being torn apart in the time vortex. The Doctor’s investigation into the destruction of the Voord home-world has brought them to another TARDIS, it’s outer shell stripped away, leaving a vast gothic city inhabited by strange and eccentric residents. It’s reminiscent of Gormenghast, or the pocket universe in The Doctor’s Wife. This is the highlight of a strong set of stories, with an amazingly striking image at its centre. There is also a great creeping sense of dread as the characters’ surroundings slowly decay around them. It’s a good story for Hattie Morahan’s Helen, who plays a key role in proceedings.

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Along with John Dorney and Matt Fitton, Doom Coalition 1 writer Marc Platt also returns. In The Gift the search for the now more powerful Caleera leads the time travellers to San Francisco in 1906. It’s a significant city for the Eighth Doctor, as it was where he regenerated in the TV movie. This is his first return on the audio medium, but the BBC Eighth Doctor books Vampire Science (“This city hates me.”) and Unnatural History also see him return there. In the Virgin New Adventure All Consuming Fire the Seventh Doctor is instrumental in the famous earthquake; but here Caleera’s eponymous ‘Gift’ is behind the destruction.

The Gift is a psychic ability passed from person to person, which seems to promise the bearer great power. When the Doctor receives it, it’s an opportunity to see how this incarnation reacts to such temptation. We see other Doctors face this kind of test in stories like The Armageddon FactorSchool Reunion and Death in Heaven. He knows in these situations that he could achieve a lot of good, but he’s also seen many times how power corrupts. Not least members of his own race.

The stakes are ratcheted up even higher in Matt Fitton’s The Sonomancer. The Doctor and his friends have gone from escaping a crumbling TARDIS, to an earthquake-hit city and finally to an entire planet on the brink of destruction here. Syra is a highly unstable planet, with various parties trying to exploit it’s mineral wealth. As promised on the cover, this also features Alex Kingston as River Song. She summons the Doctor for help, but ends up with an earlier version than she can interact with.

Kingston’s character is well-served here, and gets the opportunity to display a little more nuance than her often smug and knowing television appearances. Meanwhile, the Eleven and Caleera (the eponymous Sonomancer), are also so present on Syra. The Eleven is a fantastic Big Finish creation, brilliantly played again by Mark Bonnar. He is not quite as menacing as in the first Doom Coalition set here, and looks like he could end up subservient to his accomplice here, the Nick Clegg of the coalition. Hopefully we’ll see more from him next time.

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Order Doom Coalition 2:

Doctor Who Doom Coalition Series 2

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