Doom Coalition is, as of this writing, the most recent of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures yet revealed. It immediately follows Dark Eyes and, like Dark Eyes, is a sweeping 16-episode saga told in four parts. I’m always so eager to listen to these that I end up rushing through them and complaining that I don’t do a thorough job on these summaries. This time I’m going to slow down and make a concentrated effort to be more complete, including transcriptions of more of the liner notes than I have been including lately, writer credits, actor credits, etc. . We’re now nearly ¾ through the “Year Without a Doctor” as I call it (17 months, actually, the upcoming Christmas episode notwithstanding), and I want to stretch these out until Doctor Who returns to television for a proper season. Here’s a look at what’s ahead.
1.1 The Eleven by Matt Fitton
When one of Gallifrey’s most notorious criminals attempts to escape from prison, Cardinal Padrac turns for help to the Time Lord who put him there in the first place.
1.2 The Red Lady by John Dorney
A London museum holds the key to many secrets from the past. But some secrets are so deadly they should remain locked away. Forever.
1.3 The Galileo Trap by Marc Platt
With a mysterious plague sweeping through Florence, a rampaging alien behemoth comes between the Doctor and the answers he seeks.
1.4 The Satanic Mill by Edward Collier
Long buried animosities come boiling to the surface of an ancient and powerful satellite, in a final confrontation that could have unimaginable consequences.
2.1 Beachhead by Nicholas Briggs
The residents of Stegmoor Bay have more to deal with than the elements when a flash flood uncovers the remains f a Voord scout ship.
2.2 Scenes from Her Life by John Dorney
Following a clue into the time vortex, the Doctor investigates a desolate city only to discover a horrifying plot to create a monster.
2.3 The Gift by Marc Platt
San Francisco, 1906, and a desperate race to prevent the destruction of more than just the city.
2.4 The Sonomancer by Matt Fitton
River Song tries to stop a mining company from exploiting the Syran people only to discover the miners have uncovered much more than they bargained for.
3.1 Absent Friends by John Dorney
The Doctor and his companions find themselves I the middle of a mystery. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. And sometimes the future does as well.
3.2 The Eighth Piece by Matt Fitton
England, 1938: Lord Thomas Cromwell finds his duties interrupted by otherworldly forces—clockwork soldiers, an unusual nun, and a mysterious scholar calling himself “The Doctor.”
3.3 The Doomsday Chronometer by Matt Fitton
Trapped and alone, Liv stares death in the face as she meets the enemy who’s been dogging the TARDIS travellers’ footsteps throughout Earth’s history.
3.4 The Crucible of Souls by John Dorney
With the TARDIS crew separated and in terrible trouble, will today be the day the bad guys win? Spoilers…
4.1 Ship in a Bottle by John Dorney
The Doctor, Liv and Helen are hurtling into a future that has been utterly destroyed, trapped inside a shuttle with no possible means of escape. But with the lives of everyone in the universe in the balance, they've got to find one. And soon. When the stakes are this high, you can't just give up. Or can you?
4.2 Songs of Love by Matt Fitton
Left to fend for herself against a bunch of power-hungry plotters hell-bent on destroying the universe, what choice does a girl have but to throw in her lot with the winning side? Using her past to her advantage, River Song returns to the ancestral seat of the Time Lords to make her last stand.
4.3 The Side of the Angels by Matt Fitton
Cardinal Ollistra has plans for New York, plans which involve the Deputy Mayor and her sponsor, one ‘Reverend Mortimer’ – better known to the Doctor as the Meddling Monk. The Eleven arrives to stamp out the resistance, but that isn't the only danger the Doctor finds lurking in the shadows – for New York is a city of Weeping Angels.
4.4 Stop the Clock by John Dorney
The time has arrived. Events are in motion. The end of the universe is at hand and the Doctor and his friends have one hour to save eternity. Starting now.
Interesting. How's McGann's acting in these?
It's everything you would hope and expect. All of the performances are quite good. The actors themselves love doing the audios because they don't have to memorize their lines and they don't have to sit through hair and make-up.
THE GIFT by Marc Platt:
“The TARDIS deposits its crew on Earth in San Francisco, 1906. There they find an actor-manager desperate to stage his definitive production of King Lear. But a real storm is headed their way when he becomes the possessor of a mysterious psychic ‘Gift’ which is hungry for power and intent on wreaking havoc and destruction. But exposure to so much psychic activity has the Doctor becoming increasingly erratic. Can he battle his demons and save the world?”
The TARDIS is having a hard time of it in pursuit of Caleera’s ship through the vortex. Ultimately, the TARDIS is shunted out, landing in San Francisco in 1906, one day before the earthquake, but is Caleera there as well? The TARDIS is nearly comp[lately drained of energy, and the Doctor is disoriented, suffering from auditory and visual hallucinations. He determines the best thing to clear his head is some fresh air… or perhaps a haircut. He gives Liv and Helen the slip and sets out to get one (which becomes a humorous B plot running throughout).
Charles Virgil McLean is the director of a local troupe of actors staging King Lear. It is his misfortune to do so at a time when Caruso is in town, and the populace is more interested in hearing the famous singer at the opera than a local play at the theater. McLean has been unable to pay his actors, and most of them are refusing to perform until they are paid. Ethel Halliday is one of the actors, not very talented but fiercely loyal to her boss. Aldo Deluca is the local businessman/gangster who is financially backing the play.
The Doctor cannot find a barber shop, so he slips into a laundry instead. He persuades the owner to give him a haircut, but he leaves when the job is only half completed when he begins to hallucinate again.
McLean goes to meet with Deluca to ask for more money. While he is waiting in the saloon, he meets a gambler who is seemingly able to produce dollar coins from thin air. The “Dollar Man” says that he has a Gift, and is willing to pass it on to McLean. When McLean gets into to see Deluca, Deluca decides to cut his losses and orders one of his men to dispose of McLean. Just then Ethel interrupts and the two actors manage to break away.
Meanwhile, Liv and Helen have been unable to locate the Doctor because they’ve been searching barber shops while he’s been in the laundry. It is at this point that they bump into McLean and Ethel, on the lam from Deluca. Soon they are all joined by the Dollar Man, who transfers his “Gift” to McLean. Deluca catches up with them, and wants the Gift for himself.
Elsewhere, the Doctor meets the eccentric Sam Sonora, who seems to know of the impending earthquake. (Sam also completes the Doctor's haircut.) The Doctor learns that Sonora was the previous owner of the Gift, but he passed it on to local gambler Pepé Gonzalez, a.k.a. the Dollar Man. The Gift is actually an extremely powerful psychic weapon, which eventually drives its owner mad. Sam was able to pass it off to Pepé, and Pepé in turn was able to pass it to McLean. By giving it to a local, Caleera hopes to test it by amplifying the earthquake to split the planet in two.
McLean is driven quite mad by the Gift, spouting, lines from King Lear at random, all during the earthquake which finally has hit. The Doctor and Sam join the others at this time (Liv anf Helen commenting on his new haircut), and soon Caleera herself arrives. The Doctor attempts to take the Gift from McLean and Caleera helps him (in a desire to cause even greater destruction, beyond the planet Earth itself). After receiving the Gift, the Doctor’s first notion is to fix the San Andreas Fault. Realizing he is being seduced by the power, he goes ahead with his original plan, transferring the Gift to the TARDIS’s power source, recharging it. In the confusion Caleera escapes, but due to the psychic link they shared during the transfer, the Doctor know knows where she’s holed up and he intends to track her down.
Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor notices the scent of a particular perfume he noticed earlier but though was Caleera’s. There is a blank note on the console, but suddenly a hand-written message appears.
CLIFFHANGER: The note reads, “Hello, Sweetie.”
“I’ve spent quite a lot of time in San Francisco lately—that’s San Francisco in 1906… in my head. But I was not alone.
“Since The Gift is one fragment of the Doom Coalition mosaic, Ken Bentley was very specific about what he wanted in the story: the Music of the Spheres, a down on his luck American actor/manager, a theatre with possible Shakespearean references and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
“There’s a lot of paraphernalia that goes with fitting a Who story into an historical event. In this case, it’s not something the Doctor can avert, nor for reasons of respect, should the quake have been caused by alien interference. It’s a fixed event, but it can still have seismic consequences for anyone who accidentally gets involved. Also, San Francisco has a specific resonance with the Eighth Doctor in that he was regenerated in the city, albeit 93 years later. There are bound to be uncomfortable forebodings and he’s already nearly driven crazy by the unresolving music resonating in his head.
“The very first piece of research material I found was a remarkable piece of film possibly shot mere days before the quake demolished huge swathes of the city. A camera was fixed to the front of a cable car that travels the length of Market Street. In the course of nearly 12 minutes, horse-drawn vehicles, vintage roadsters and a wonderful array of characters criss-cross, sometimes hair-raisingly, in front of us. I found myself picking out characters to put in the story. Most moving of all is that within a short time, much of this scene would be destroyed and many of the people would be dead. One of the first things Paul McGann said in the studio was “Have you seen that incredible film?” It’s on YouTube several times over, but choose the version without the added soundtrack.”
Here's a link to the film mentioned by Marc Platt above. It's not the one without the added soundtrack, but you can turn off the sound if you wish, I suppose. Man, that is one busy street! I recommend you set aside 12 minutes and watch the whole thing.
THE SONOMANCER by Matt Fitton:
“On the other side of the galaxy a mining company is exploiting the already unstable planet of Syra for every precious mineral it contains. River Song is attempting to save the native people. She needs the Doctor’s help, but she also knows he mustn’t yet discover her true identity. The final confrontation sees the Doctor once again face his enemy The Eleven in an attempt to prevent the destruction of Syra and the genocide of its inhabitants.”
The story opens with River Song sending a message to the Doctor. The card appears in the TARDIS and transmits her coordinates. When the task is complete, the message appears. Of course, the message was intended for a later incarnation of the Doctor. I don’t know what was up with the perfume hint last episode. Red herring?
The main purpose of this episode is to introduce River Song into the story. There are basically four factions: the Doctor and Liv; the Eleven and Caleera; River and Helen; an off-world mining company. Now that “The Gift” has been properly field tested, Caleera has transferred it to herself and now goes by the name of the “Sonomancer.” Syra is a volcanic planet, and the mining technique used by the bear-like aliens is poised to cause a natural catastrophe, which the Eleven and the Sonomancer intend to exploit.
Because Helen was working with the miners while Liv and the Doctor set out after Caleera, Helen meets River first. Comparing notes, River realizes that her message reached the wrong Doctor, and Helen learns about River’s relationship to the Doctor. As the plotlines converge, River does eventually meet Liv (introducing herself as “Melody Malone”), but the Doctor and River never meet face to face. Helen remains River’s confidant, and doesn’t tell Liv about her. Because River and the Doctor are pursuing similar ends, the chances are good that they will meet again soon.
The Doctor is unable to save Syra, and the Eleven and the Sonomancer escape. Oddly, the Doctor knows that future history shows that the planet Syra survives. How can this be?
“Here she is again. River Song arrives in person to help her husband in his latest battle to save the universe. Alex Kingston has thrown herself into the world of Big Finish with as much gusto as River herself, and it’s always a joy to write a little more of this fascinating character.
“So now, alongside Paul McGann’s Doctor, we have three fantastic female leads. For the first time, I get to write for Helen Sinclair. It’s an ideal opportunity to demonstrate to River the kind of person this Doctor hangs around with. And when she sees Liv and Helen in action, far from being resentful, Professor Song is more than a little impressed…
“With our fantastic quest cast, this is an ensemble that would have most West End producers or TV executives drooling. But it means as a writer I feel a responsibility to give them interesting things to do, and trust to their talents. So I hope everybody thinks they’ve been well served!
“It’s also very freeing to trust in the brilliance of the sound design team. I can throw anything at Big Finish’s sonic artists, and they will find ways to make the soundscape—however alien, however unreal—come to life. I know Benji Clifford has had fun with this world of volcanoes and mining machines: so in a story where sound itself becomes a weapon—and where we learn exactly what the Sonomancer is—I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with!
“So the pace is frantic, the stakes are getting higher. And as this second Doom Coalition series closes, we see a new Time Lord villain born…”
Interesting. I wondered how they would deal with River meeting Eight.
The Eighth Doctor and River Song "previously" shared an adventure in "The Diary of River Song" volume one. I say "previously" because, from the Doctor's POV, that story takes/will take place during the Time War, which takes place after "Doom Coalition." Although they did not meet face-to-face in that story, either, I know that River is to be featured in Doom Coalition volume three.
"The Diary of River Song" volume two (due January 2017) will feature Sylvester McCoy and Collin Baker.
ABSENT FRIENDS by John Dorney:
“Earth. The late 20th century. Across the world, the mobile phone is gaining popularity as more and more people decide to join the digital age. But for the residents of a sleepy English town sitting in the shade of a new transmission mast, that ubiquity has a troubling cost.
“When the TARDIS veers off-course, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in the middle of a mystery. Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you. And sometimes the future does as well.”
After recent events, the Doctor sets course for Gallifrey to check in with Padrac. Surprisingly (it has been quite some time since the Doctor was unable to control his TARDIS), they materialize in a London suburb in the year 1998. The locals are upset about a local “mast” (cell phone tower) built in their town, but the cell phone company has given them all free cell phones to placate them. As soon as the residents receive their free phones, however, they start getting calls from people claiming to be their dead relatives (reminiscent of the television episode “Army of Ghosts,” except the people consider these calls to be pranks).
Meanwhile, Helen, fascinated to be 35 years into her own future, sets out to find her brother, George. She passes herself off as her own daughter, but George is nonetheless upset to see her, not just because of the “resemblance” to his sister, but also because of the damage Helen did to the family name when she disappeared, never to have returned, just after so many pieces of art went missing from the museum. Helen learns that her mother and father are both dead, her other brother is dead, and the scandal surrounding her disappearance ruined George’s engagement. She also learns the has a nephew, the son of the other brother, but he is not close to the family, either.
The “reunion” does not go at all well. Despite the fact that Helen has passed herself of as her own daughter, she’s still herself and all of her negative feelings about her own father bubble to the surface and drive a wedge between them. What’s more (as she learns later), by visiting her brother and learning that she disappeared in 1963 never to return, she has created a fixed point in time. Because she has learned her future, she cannot now ever go back and make things right.
While this is going on, the Doctor and Liv investigate the cell phone company. Circumstantial evidence leads the Doctor to believe that Angus Selwyn, the owner of the company, is responsible for the phone calls from the dead. Selwyn doesn’t like their allegations, but gives them both cell phones. Liv doesn’t think accepting them is a good idea, but the Doctor wants to take one apart to examine it.
Back at the TARDIS, one of the phones rings. The Doctor urges Liv to answer it because if he does, he says he knows who it will be. Liv answers. Her dead father is on the line. The Doctor asks Liv to determine if it’s an impersonator, or if her father’s personality is being created from her memories. By asking him something only her father would know (something the listener also knows from the previous episode), Liv determines her father’s personality is somehow being constructed from her memories.
Their investigation leads them to discover what is really causing the phone calls: a time distortion device designed to look like a clock. It turns out the phone calls are merely a side effect caused by this device being in such close proximity to the cell tower. The phone company is innocent of any wrongdoing, and the phone calls actually are calls from deceased relatives. Once Liv learns this, she believes she can prevent her father from dying at a young age by revealing to him the condition which killed him and how to get treatment. When the phone rings again, the Doctor warns her not to pick up, but she does anyway. To her credit, she says her final goodbyes to her father but doesn’t disrupt the timeline in the process.
The phone rings again and, again, the Doctor refuses to answer. Liv urges Helen to pick up, perhaps to say goodbye to her mother or reconcile with her father. She picks up only to discover it’s her brother George, now dead, too. Helen and Liv depart and the phone rings a thirds time. The Doctor again refuses to answer because he knows who it will be. The phone stops ringing as the Doctor picks it up.
“Write some author notes for Absent Friends they say. Easier said than done. The thing is, you see… I don’t want to talk about Absent Friends. There’s a lot going on in this story, and I can’t really think of much to say that wouldn’t give the game away.
“I can perhaps say that it was really tricky to write. I can’t think of a story where I’ve had to restructure the storyline or go back and rewrite scenes more often than this one. There’s one key scene for Helen that I didn’t feel I got right on the first go, but needed to save the rewrite ‘til after I’d finished a draft as otherwise I’d have been stuck on that scene for ever Conversely, the key scene for Liv was practically complete in my head from the first time I conceived the idea of the story.
“But beyond that… nope. Not sure there’s much else I can say. So that’s your lot.
“I could instead talk about The Crucible of Souls, the final story in this set as I’m sort f supposed to be covering them both. Only that’s really tricky to do also, because again there’s so much there I can’t talk about. It’s quite a key play in the Doom Coalition arc, so there were a lot of elements to include. But a lot of these elements are surprises, so I can’t talk about them.
“I suppose I can mention the cast. We’ve often talked about how blessed we are with our regulars, but Doom Coalition 3 might just have the best cast for anything ever, an astonishing line up of theatrical, TV and film legends. So you’re going to have a blast just listening to them. But as to who they’re playing, well… I can’t talk about that.
An interesting idea. I'm not sure I want to talk to any of my dead relatives.
THE EIGHTH PIECE by Matt Fitton:
“15th Century Prague: in the castle dungeons, a prisoner raves about the end of the world. Outside, Liv Chenka seeks out the workshop of a strange Clockmaker to see what he is creating.
“England, 1538: Lord Thomas Cromwell finds his duties interrupted by otherworldly forces – clockwork soldiers, an unusual nun, and a mysterious scholar calling himself ‘the Doctor’. Perhaps the truth can be extracted in the torture chamber of London’s Bloody Tower?
“Rome, 2016: Helen Sinclair has an appointment with an enigmatic Professor, whose greatest work is almost complete. Only the Eighth Piece is missing…”
SUMMARY/COMMENTARY: The Doctor has split their forces, assigning Liv, Helen and himself each to pursue a different piece of the puzzle. The Doctor has determined that the clock-like time mechanism from the previous episode is only a single piece of a larger component. He has also determined it is unsafe to keep in the TARDIS. After hiding it in the Left Baggage Office of the London Train Station, he sets about finding the other pieces while sending Liv and Helen to investigate other time related anomalies. Unlike fixed points in time, these anomalies are times at which the web of time is unravelling.
Also thrown into the mix is River Song (the “mysterious nun” from the teaser above). Whereas the Doctor has followed the trail from 1998 (last episode), River has come directly from the planet Syra (two episodes back). She is using some sort of a device to disguise her features. It doesn’t work, however, one anyone who has already seen her. She doesn’t encounter Helen this episode, but Helen would know her as River Song. She does spend quite a bit of this story with Liv, however, who knows her as Meloday Malone. When she does eventually meet the Doctor face to face for the first time, he will not see her in her true form.
The clockwork from last episode is part of a “Doomsday Chronometer” which is ticking down to the end of everything. The three time periods represent when it was first assembled, when it was destroyed, and when it was rebuilt. The Doctor gets himself captured by clockwork soldiers who have the ability to fold into themselves again and again until they are gone. What he doesn’t know is that the claim check from the Left Baggage Office was taken from Liv and the clockwork claimed and reassembled in 2016.
“Meanwhile,” a Time Lord calling himself “The Artist” whom the Doctor doesn’t know has “rescued” him from prison, only to set him up to be killed while trying to escape.
Ten episodes in and the titular “Doom Coalition” has yet to be revealed… or even (properly) introduced.
“Funny how ideas travel through time. Back when the first Doom Coalition was in studio, the green room was abuzz with praise for BBC 2’s brilliant Wolf Hall. Seeing Paul McGann’s enthusiasm for the period, I wondered what might happen if the Eighth Doctor ever ran into Thomas Cromwell… the ideas stayed dormant, until, another boxset and nine months later, I got the brief for Doom Coalition 3. My episodes had to interlock, layered with secret societies and puzzles. I started a history-spanning plot, and the Cromwell idea came bobbing back. His dissolution of the monasteries might have uncovered all kinds of relics—but what, exactly, might work here? I’ve always loved the intricate astrolabes in Oxford’s History, of Science Museum, and since Prague’s Astronomical Clock predates Cromwell by a century or so, it seemed a good starting point. Throw in legends not unlike the Templars, and a trans-temporal enigma formed. Who better to help solve it than a certain archaeologist? Ah, the wonderful River Song. One of the joys of placing her with earlier Doctors is doing something different every time. Circumstances separated River and a later Eighth Doctor in The Diary of River Song Volume 1 (Volume 2’s encounter is a different kettle of Doctors altogether!). They had a near miss in Doom Coalition 2. Though River did get up close and personal with the Doctor’s friends—and it’s through Helen that River re-enters his life here. How long can her causal conundrum last, postponing their inevitable (?) face-to-face? As River herself might say, the thrill’s in the anticipation.
“Suffice to say, by the time Thomas Cromwell has played his part and you reach The Doomsday Chronometer, enemies old and new are revealed. And the universe will be one step closer to learning the truth about the Doom Coalition…”
THE DOOMSDAY CHRONOMETER by Matt Fitton:
“While River Song takes Helen on an archaeological expedition like no other, the Doctor finds himself enlisted by an alien Queen to save her people.
“Trapped and alone, Liv stares death in the face as she meets the enemy who’s been dogging the TARDIS travelers’ footsteps throughout Earth’s history.
“The Doomsday Chronometer has been protected for five centuries: secret cults and societies jealously guarding its mystery. But what is their real purpose? The Doctor is about to discover the truth…”
The thing about the Doomsday Chronometer is that it’s made of metal from Syra, a planet ripped from the Web of Time. The Timelord who refers to himself as the Artist also goes by the name of the Clocksmith. He planned to perfect the chronometer on Earth all along, but before he even began, he saw the Doctor’s involvement through the centuries.
The Doctor was rescued from his predicament by Risolva, the queen of the Clocksmith’s clockwork soldiers, who are not constructs, but rather mechanical men from Risolva’s planet who have been placed under the Clocksmith’s control. He is active in all three of the time periods from last episode, and about to kill Liv as her part of the story resumes.
“Meanwhile,” River has used the Doctor’s TARDIS to jump to 2016 where she enlists Helen to help her defeat the Revelationist sect under the Clocksmith’s control. They set about going from time period to time period, plundering artefacts sprinkled with clues to the sect’s real purpose. Many of these audios have very specific literary antecedents, in this case the novels of Dan Brown, particularly
The DaVinci code. There’s even a reference to “angels and demons” at one point.
As the story progresses, all the different players are brought together, then split again. There is another Time Lord in the mix, a good one named Octavian. The Doctor, River Song (who he sees as Rita Hayworth) and Octavian team up to thwart The Clocksmith. The Doctor himself, with the help of Queen Risolva, sets up the Revelationist Sect to keep the Doomsday chronometer from being reassembled until 2016. The Doctor becomes separated from Liv and Helen. He decides to let them think he is dead in order to keep them safe.
However, Octavian, also separated from the Doctor and Risolva, is mortally wounded. Liv and Helen find him just as he begins to regenerate and mistake him for the Doctor. Although Liv has never witnessed the Doctor regenerate, having first met the Seventh she is familiar with the concept ad guesses that that’s what must be happening. Octavian, we learn, is the Eleven’s good, eighth self.
CLIFFHANGER: He regenerates into his ninth self and Liv and Helen think he is the Doctor.
“By the time you get to the end of this box set the cat will be out of the bag, and I have to admit it’s an enormous relief.
“From the very beginning David Richardson and I knew what Doom Coalition was about, and I don’t mind admitting it’s been hard to keep a lid on it. When we briefed the writers for each episode we were careful as to how much information we gave them. As much as possible we wanted them to be free to invent and to introduce new elements to the story without feeling bogged down by continuity.
“It’s been a two year process of carefully weaving story elements together, planting clues along the way, and forcing ourselves never to rush to get the point. Even writing these notes it’s hard to avoid spoilers! But here we are. Finally at the point of it all. And hopefully you didn’t see it coming.
“Now that we’re here it’s possible to look at the whole of Doom Coalition as a prequel of sorts. So much of what it’s doing is looking into the future. In the world of Doctor Who we tell stories across all of time, and so (in some respects) we know what’s to come. That’s impossible to ignore. However, although we now know what Doom Coalition is about we still need to know what the Doctor’s going to do about it.
“I love a cliffhanger as much as the next person, but I do appreciate six months is a long to wait to find out what happens next. Much as I wish I could tell you, I’m sorry to say you’re going to have to wait for Doom Coalition 4.”