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.
THE CRUCIBLE OF SOULS by John Dorney:
“The date has been set.
“The trap has been sprung.
“A life has been taken and a maniac is on the loose.
“With the TARDIS crew separated and in terrible trouble, will today be the day the bad guys win?
Liv and Helen are in the Doctor’s TARDIS with the recently-regenerated Octavian (now “The Nine”) who they incorrectly think is the recently-regenerated Doctor himself. Liv assumes his odd behavior is due to post-regeneration trauma, which is, I suppose, partly correct, however he is also quite insane and fighting his other selves for control. He pilots the TARDIS to Gallifrey and begins to raid the archives. Liv is opposed to this, and he leaves her behind to be captured by the archives’ guards, and he tells Helen that she has been killed.
The Doctor and River (who he knows as “Sister Cantica” and sees as Rita Hayworth) argue about how best to pilot the Clocksmith’s Type-70 TARDIS, now flying in tandem with his own. Suddenly, the Doctor makes a shocking, impossible discovery: the future no longer exists! He sees hundreds of “trails” fleeing the now non-existent future and tracks one of them until it comes to a stop. They go aboard expecting to find whatever race destroyed the future, but evidence suggests that these are ships of temporal refugees. The lingering scent of staser fire further suggests that the crew was overcome by soldiers from Gallifrey.
The Nine has stolen a device known as the Crucible of Souls, a “re-gen” gun, and several other artifacts. The re-gen gun, when fired at a Time Lord, strips him of all remaining regenerations. We’ll find out about the Crucible of Souls presently.
Liv is taken to Padrac, and they both try to deduce what the “Doctor” is up to. Both are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Padrac broadcasts a notification of what the doctor has done. When the real Doctor and River hear that news, the Doctor assumes it’s one of his future selves and realizes he cannot interfere, because that would be recklessly dangerous.
It doesn’t take Helen too long to determine that the Time Lord she’s traveling with is not the Doctor at all. She doesn’t know what happened to the real Doctor, but she incorrectly assumes this one is now The Twelve. He corrects her, and when he finds out he has regenerated in the midst of his future self’s plot he’s positively giddy, in contrast with the Doctor’s reaction when he thought the same thing.
Meanwhile, Liv pokes at a whole in something Padrac said, and deduces that Padrac is actually in league with the Eleven. When Padrac was elected to office, he used the Matrix to see what the future held. In all possible futures but one, Gallifrey was destroyed under one set of circumstances or another. The only way he saw for his race to survive was to destroy the future, then use the Crucible of Souls to channel the life force of all potential future lives into regeneration energy, thus ensuring the Time Lords’ survival.
Now the Nine has mucked things up. He wants to use the Crucible of Souls before it is ready, which will effectively destroy all life from the future and the past, and channel that life force energy into himself, thus making himself the only creature in existence.
River loans the Doctor a “psychic cloak,” which effectively projects whatever disguise the wearer wishes to be seen as. He goes to see Padrac as the Clocksmith. At this point it’s quite confusing who knows who, worse even than a Shakespearean comedy. Eventually, the truth is out in the open, and Padrac sends the Doctor and company into the void that now exists I the future with no means of escape.
“Doom Coalition 3? Can we really be 12 episodes into our big 16-episode saga already? It only seems like a few days ago when me and Ken Bentley were walking up the Regents Canal, throwing ideas around about Helen Sinclair and The Eleven and the Coalition… and here we are, nearly at the end. As I write this, I’m just awaiting the script of episode 16. But I’ve read the storyline, and I know how it all ends. (And the finale is perfect… what a satisfying conclusion Doom Coalition 4 will be.)
“For this set we’re lucky to have our phenomenal cast back together: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Alex Kingston, Robert Brathurst… I’m working with some of my Favorite actors on one of my favorite things, and they’ve become some of my favorite people too. I keep thinking that one day I’ll find a quiet moment to talk to them about their work on so many great TV shows and films, but when we sit around during coffee breaks and lunches we effortlessly drift into talking about life ad dogs and politics and everyday things. Which is lovely—because it means we’ve all become a group of friends, having happy times together.
“I’m fiercely proud of this set, and I love our ongoing story, but it was the script for Absent Friends, which is a brief respite from the Doom Coalition arc that took me by surprise. I finished my first read-through of the script, and sat and wept. It had such a profound effect on me. I’ve just heard the edit, and might have had another little cry. Doctor Who is a series about saving the universe, but sometimes it can also be a series about loving ad losing. And in his two episodes, Matt gets to take the arc to another level, counting down to the end. With the clock ticking, I realize how much I’m going to miss it.”
Well, that’s it for the Doom Coalition, at least for now. Part four will not be released until March, so we all have a while to wait. What I have to say now is not a “spoiler” because I’m just guessing what’s coming, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the conclusion of Doom Coalition is going to lead directly into The Time War. Try as he might to avoid spoilers, Matt Fitton, in his commentary of “The Doomsday Chronometer” said, “Now that we’re here it’s possible to look at the whole of Doom Coalition as a prequel of sorts.” Coupled with the fact that we’ve known for over a year that the next Eighth Doctor project will be the time war (due November 2017), the conclusion seems obvious.
All along I have suspected that the “Doomsday Coalition” is an updated version of “The Dalek’s Master Plan.” Granted, that Daleks have not even been mentioned, but I think the big twist might be that the Daleks have been manipulating events from behind the scenes all along. I thought that right up until “The Crucible of Souls.” The willingness of Padrac to destroy the future for the preservation of his race is a very “Daleky” thing to do. If the Daleks aren’t somehow behind the coalition, I’m sure they will become involved when they find out about the time Lords’ ambitions.
I have just updated the first post to this discussion with details of part four which have only recently become available. Note that Cardinal Ollistra (a regular from the “War Doctor” series) will be introduced into the story in part 4.3.
Interesting. Wish I had the time and the resources to listen to these things.
On the documentary disc which accompanies this set, Paul McGann speaks of fan reaction to the audios, particularly in America. He asserts that the audios are just as much “Doctor Who” as the TV show or anything else. Alex Kingston pointed out that Big Finish has ongoing series featuring new stories for all of the Doctors, which allows new fans interested in past Doctors to hear new stories. The previous Doctors’ stories are not stuck in the past; they are moving forward, too.
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?”
I feel sorry for those who have been following Doom Coalition from the beginning, as it was released. I didn’t start until ¾ of the way in, so I got to listen to the first 12 stories back-to-back. Over the weekend I tried jumping back in after a two and a half month long gap and it wasn’t easy. Actually, all one really needs to know to enjoy “Ship in a Bottle” is the little blurb above. Still, I wish I would have read my comments on “The Crucible of Souls” before jumping back in.
So the Doctor, Liv and Helen are basically caught in an inescapable trap. They tick off the reasons they cannot escape… 1, 2, 3. Then they come up with ways to overcome those obstacles… A, B, C. Surprisingly, it’s not the Doctor who is ultimately responsible for the resolution, it is Liv. Liv is a good companion, but I didn’t like her as much as I do, say, Lucie Miller, until recently. As I mentioned when the character appeared in “The Traitor” (Dark Eyes 2.1), she was originally introduced in the Seventh Doctor audio “Robophobia” (itself a sequel to the Fourth Doctor television serial “The Robots of Death”).
The Doctor, Liv and Helen are trapped in the Vortex. The Doctor has all but given up; it is Liv who rallies him to try a desperate solution. (Think Spock and the Galileo Seven.) The Doctor essentially strands himself in the Vortex in order to free Helen and Liv, but he is counting on them to somehow find a way to free him.
“And so here we are, at the conclusion. It’s astonishing to think that no matter how long it’s taken for Doom Coalition to be released into the world at large, behind the scenes we’ve been working on it for far longer. The first brief I received was well over two years ago, and the storyline had been in development for some time before that.
“However all things must come to an end. And what a journey it’s been—for us as well as the characters. We’ve had laughs, we’ve had tears, we’ve had disagreements and revelations. But I think that all led to the creation of something truly special. People have said a lot of lovely things to me about the series. I was particularly moved by the response of “Absent Friends” (Doom Coalition 3.1), where people shared stories of their own bereavements with me, a true honor, and I wated to say thank you to anyone touched by the play.
“We’re a team at Big Finish. A family. Nothing is created in isolation, and it’s that support and trust that allows us all to do the very best we can. So I wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s contributed to one of these box sets. If you work together, you can do anything.
“Which leads us to that cliffhanger…”
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.”
This one picks up from the end of “Crucible of Souls,” but it follows River’s story. River uses her reputation as a mercenary (and the fact that she’s killed the Doctor once before) to convince Padrac to accept her as an accomplice. This is River’s first visit to Gallifrey. Meanwhile, Liv and Helen, back in the real universe at last, eventually end up on Gallifrey as well. There’s a lot of political intrigue in this one, interesting to listen to, but boring for me to try to describe. Also, if you’re curious about technical issues such as how, exactly, the “Eye of Harmony” interacts with the “Matrix” (for example), this may be the story for you.
The Doctor himself does not appear until the very end, and then he’s in only one scene. River must enter the Matrix in order to save the Doctor. While in the Matrix, all of his memories of her surface, but he will forget them again when he leaves. River is still trapped in the Matrix when the episode is over, but we’re now one step closer to the final conclusion.
PRODUCERR’S NOTES by David Richardson:
“Doom Coalition started life during a walk by a canal. That’s when germs of ideas were thrown out; the Eleven, Padrac, Padrac’s plan, she Sonomancer… Ken ad I frantically wrote all these thoughts down, finessed them into a four-box set arc, and circulated it among our writers. Watching it all come together from our bare bones of a plan has been thrilling.
“Of course, what I didn’t actually think about during that walk along the canal was scheduling. That by the time we would come to record Doom Coalition 4, we would be brining all of our recurring characters back at the same time. So in addition to having to secure Paul, Nicola and Hattie, we’d need Alex, Mark, Robert, Emma, Beth and Rufus all in the same week. That’s nine busy people—could we get them all back? The answer was yes, but it meant recording much later than we’d originally planned—so huge thanks must go to sound designers Benji Clifford and Richard Fox & Lauren Yason for working with a truncated post production schedule (there goes Christmas!) and to Ken for his immaculate studio scheduling.
“I’m told these words will go with episode two, which of course takes River Song to Gallifrey. We’d ended Doom Coalition 3.4 on a big cliffhanger, and we all felt that there must not be an easy resolution. And so the first half of Doom Coalition 4 is taken up with restoring some status quo. To turning defeat into a kernel of hope that the future can be saved.
“And there may be sacrifices along the way.”
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.”
The Doctor. Cardinal Ollistra. The Meddling Monk. The Eleven. Liv and Helen. A New York City setting. The Weeping Angels. This story has practically everything. Let’s see if I can sum it up without giving too much away.
Answering a summons from Cardinal Ollistra, the Doctor arrives on Earth in the New York of the 1970s. He is surprised to find a dozen new skyscapers and several new bridges that shouldn’t be there. Ollistra has established an enclave of surviving Time Lords on Earth. “Reverend Mortimer” is in charge of raising funds to finance all the new construction. All of the new skyscrapers and bridges have been constructed with Artron alloys. The idea is to wait for the Eleven to launch his attack, then fire up these structures to provide a shelter (for the Time Lords) to ride out the wave of destruction. Then they will establish “New Gallifrey” on Earth and launch their counter-attack against the Eleven when he least expects it.
The problem is, this plan is going to needs a tremendous amount of temporal energy to activate the Artron alloys. To that end, the Time Lords have forged an alliance with the Weeping Angels. The Angels have agreed to forego their appetites and to power the Time Lords’ defenses in return for protection from the Eleven when he launches his attack. At that time, the Angels will be allowed to feast on the human race. If this sounds like a bad plan to you, then you and the Doctor are on the same page. What do you think happens when the Eleven makes a counter offer to the Angels which allows them to feed on the humans’ temporal energy now?
This is a different Monk than the one the Eighth Doctor has encountered before while travelling with Lucie and Tamsin, but it’s not clear whether this is an earlier or later regeneration. The Monk apologizes to the Doctor if any of his past or future incarnations have caused him any distress, but the way the Monk looks at it, with every regeneration he starts over with a clean slate and all past transgressions are magically wiped away. The Doctor considers that attitude typical of the Monk.
Time Lords are a virtual feast for Weeping Angels. They send the Monk 600 years in the past, then set about consuming all of the new buildings and bridges constructed of Artron alloys. Doing so somehow sets everything right, and the Angels set off for a final assault against Gallifrey itself, and the Doctor, Callistra, et al set off to defend it.
“Here we are at last. The final boxset. After the huge timey-wimey two-parter in the middle of Doom Coalition 3, I get to tell two very different stories. Although, given where we are in the grand scheme of things, we’re meeting Time Lords of every persuasion in both…
“First, we’re off to Gallifrey. With the Doctor ‘indisposed’, it’s up to River Song to uncover the intrigues of her ancestral forebears. I had great fun imagining River’s reaction—something like discovering you’re related to the Borgias!—while knowing she’s not above some machinations of her own, before bidding farewell. Then it’s 1970s New York City for ‘The Side of the Angels’. As often happens, the idea was sparked by green room conversations about Robert Moses: the man who effectively created the New York skyline we all know. What if someone even more ambitious had come along, I wondered…
“Another Time Lord joins the Doom Coalition mix and David & Ken wanted a big monster involved: so once it was decided who our interloper would be, the idea of placing Weeping Angels alongside the Monk became irresistible. We know the stone assassins have a predilection for NYC, and it’s a place ripe for exploitation by the Monk (see a forthcoming Short Trip for more on this!).
“In the fine tradition of the comic actors who precede him in the role (though not necessarily in chronological regenerations—who knows? He remains tight-lipped on the subject. He’s an inveterate time meddler after all…) Rufus Hound capture the pomposity and mischievousness of the character, and adds a layer of showmanship and bravado which makes this incarnation all the more endearing.
“As ever, it’s an honor to work with the crew ad cast that make these stories so special. But where does the Eighth Doctor go from here? Time will tell.”
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.”
That was some ride. So much happened right at the end it’s difficult for me to summarize, at least not right at this time. It took them two episodes of set four to resolve the cliffhanger at the end of set three, and by the time they got back to the main plot, I kind of lost the story. That’s no fault of the story itself; it’s just that a months-long gap between chapters is not ideal. One of these days I’ll listen to it start to finish. The highlight of this episode, acting-wise, was when the Eighth Doctor used the psychic cloak to project the image of the Eleven. Then we got to see how Paul McGann would handle an MPD role.
Doom Coalition had a satisfactory ending, although it did not, I admit, end the way I predicted. As it stands, the Doctor and Liv are together and Padrac is imprisoned. Helen is missing and presumed dead, but if she is alive, she’s with the Eleven. I’m very much looking forward to the start of The Time War in November. I’ll be listening to “The Company of Friends” (four Eighth Doctor stories) and “Robophobia” (Seventh Doctor and Liv) soon, but although theu shipped on March 16, I have not received them yet.
DIRECTOR’S NOTES by Ken Bently:
“Well, here we are. We made it.
“This being the final box set of Doom Coalition I hope you’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to thank everyone who helped make it possible.
“To David for thinking a 16 episode story might be a good idea. To Nick and Jason for letting us give it a go. To Matt and John who were there at the beginning and helped to establish just what it was and how it might reach its destination. To Paul, Nicola and Hattie for embracing the whole crazy idea and making it so much fun to record. To Mark for bringing the Eleven to life with so much energy and enthusiasm. To all the writers and actors who have added another layer of lore to the Whoniverse (I know I’m not alone in anticipating the return of many of them!). To Benji for creating some of te most immersive and varied sound design I’ve heard from Big Finish (and I’ve heard a lot!). To the maestro, Jamie, for his captivating scores which are the heart and soul of Doom Coalition. And to everyone at Big Finish for all their help putting this series together and getting it into listeners’ earholes.
“And thanks to you for joining us on this journey. You should know that every decision we made along the way we made with you in mind. Doctor Who is many things. People have their favorite Doctors and their favorite stories. From the Very start I wanted Doom Coalition to appeal to as many people as possible. To take the Doctor on different adventures so that, whatever your preference, there was something in this series you would find compelling and rewarding. I hope you’ve found the journey worth your while.”