Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Scribbles and Tibère say “hello sweetie” and get ready to face the metaphorical representation of Death, as they cover the latest batch of adventures from everyone’s second-favourite time-travelling archeologist! Spoilers … (after the ‘read more’ tag, of course).
SCRIBBLES: The consensus between us is, I think, that this has opened 2018 on a high note. It’s easily the most exciting River Song set yet, and it is very much her story, centred on her character and mythology. Though the presence of Peter Davison is felt throughout, the focus never wavers on the character this story is about. And it’s all the stronger for it. If you are a River Song fan in any way interested in her audio content, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. Because this is, without a doubt, the best bang for your buck of River Song audio content. So if you’re on a budget, pick this one up, and fast, before the pre-order price slips away forever, because you won’t do better. Though there’s niggles–Big Finish could still stand to indulge some of the more unscrupulous sides of River or showcase her bisexuality–the overall production has a lot to say about some of the most important aspects of her character, while exploring her personal mythology further than anything since the days of series 6 onscreen. It’s a treat.
TIBERE: It’s one of the best sets Big Finish has put out in a long while, I think it’s fair to say. Up there with the like of The New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield I or Doom Coalition IV – it’s just a triumph. There are many factors that contribute to this, some really spoilery, but I think the main two are, first, as Scribbles put it, just how tailored to River the story is, how deeply it is drenched in her character and her imagery, and then, how coherent the narrative is. There’s a level of attention to details and themes here that’s truly spectacular, and the symbols and images echo from one story to another in subtle, surprising ways. Also, maybe more than any other New Series release from the company, this is incredibly close to the actual text of the show, building off events we saw on screen and exploring their ramifications and consequences – there’s this real sense that you’re listening to something not only good, but important, that makes you learn new and crucial things about that character and that might even have an impact on how you’ll approach the original, televised narrative in the future. Sure, it gets a bit too heteronormative and non-polyamorous, but there are some good steps in the right direction and the personal focus of the stories more than make up for it. As far as Big Finish’s approach to “filling the gaps” goes, this might be one of their greatest triumphs. Yeah, it’s just a bloody wonderful story and you should check it out – plus, it’s continuity-free, so, as said Scribbles, definitely pick this one if you want an introduction to River’s extended universe content.