In Review: Big Finish: The Diary of River Song Series 04

Thanks to Tom Baker and Alex Kingston, Four and River have infectious and insanely brilliant chemistry.

Synopsis: When River Song visits a place where time has vanished, a genie escapes its bottle… the Discordia are freed – nihilistic time pirates, in devilish form, altering the past to make sure they never lose.

This time, River may have met her match. And involving the Doctor can only make things worse…

Review: The Diary of River Song Series 04 finally pairs River Song with my Doctor. Thanks to Tom Baker and Alex Kingston, Four and River have infectious and insanely brilliant chemistry. Listeners could be fooled into thinking this wasn’t the first time the two actors had worked together — that Emma Reeves, Matt Fitton, Donald McLeary, and John Dorney had been writing for them for years.

What’s even more remarkable is Baker and Kingston establish their rapport in the course of only one story in this set. That doesn’t make the narrative a three hour wind-up for a one-hour pitch. Far from it, the Big Finish writers continue to craft a full, layered universe that’s believably inhabited by River and her acquaintances before The Doctor arrives on the scene. Neither of them overpowers the other.

The Story

As with previous box sets in this range, all four stories are linked. Structurally, “Time in a Bottle” by Emma Reeves and Matt Fitton and “Kings of Infinite Space” by Donald McLeary are the first act. “Whodunnit?” by Matt Fitton and “Someone I Once Knew” by John Dorney are the second.

The first two stories set up the characters and establish the stakes. I loved meeting River’s “companions” — an academic rival, an ant warrior, and a cybernetic being torn between two paths. Fenella Woolgar, Adele Lynch, and Josh Bolt are marvelous in their respective roles.

The second two stories are where listeners are treated to the story’s thematic depth, however. “Whodunnit?” is an unapologetic send-up of Agatha Christie murder mysteries through the very poignant and off-kilter lens of Franz Kafka (played with pathos by Tim Bentinck). I’ll never look at the cozy mystery tropes or the role of the author in quite the same way again. “Someone I Once Knew” is nothing short of a meditation on love and whether it can build or destroy realities. It also provides commentary on River’s original mandate within Doctor Who’s mythology.

Overall

This is my favorite River Song box set so far. Like Kingston, I find myself hoping for an entire box set of The Adventures of The Fourth Doctor and River Song. In the meantime, Big Finish has more than whet my appetite for The Diary of River Song Series 05.

You can purchase The Diary of River Song Series 04 here.

Written By: Emma Reeves, Matt Fitton, Donald McLeary, John Dorney

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast

Alex Kingston (River Song), Tom Baker (The Doctor), Adele Lynch (Gammarae), Fenella Woolgar (Professor Jemima Still / Formidian Queen), Josh Bolt (Spod), George Asprey (Melak), Nicholas Asbury (Dante), Ewan Bailey (Human / Alien / Robot Voices), Tim Bentinck (Franz Kafka / Samsa), Alex Tregear (Miss Vermillion / Vermillion), Christopher Naylor (Lord Simon Whist / Captain Bartholomew / Discordia Underling), Shvorne Marks (Cissy / Thelma Sketch), Nigel Anthony (Rakkezar / Drayl), Nathalie Buscombe (Garen / Galerayna). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer David Richardson

Script Editors Matt Fitton, John Dorney

Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs

9.5
Big Finish: The Diary of River Song Series 04
  • Story
    8.5
  • Performances
    10
  • Audio Production
    10

Raissa Devereux became a life-long genre fan at the age of four when she first saw The Wizard of Oz at a screening at Arizona State University. Years later, she graduated from A.S.U. as an English major, History minor, Whovian, and Trekkie. Now a Florida transplant, she loves the opportunity Sci-Fi Pulse has given her to further explore space travel, time travel, masked heroes, gothic castles, and good yarns.
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