After “The Eighth Doctor Adventures” and “The Time War Saga—The Collected War Doctor” I took some time off from posting about Big Finish audios to catch up on some old Eighth Doctor stories from the time he was travelling with Charlotte “Charlie” Pollard, the self-styled “Edwardian Adventuress. But now I’m back with the recent (Dec 2015) first installments of “The Diary of River Song” featuring Alex Kingston reprising her television role.

A couple of things are going to be different this time. First of all, Tracy will not be joining me, at least not at first. Second, rather than waiting until I’ve finished listening to an entire episode, I’m going to post as I’m listening (when the details are presumably fresher in my head), and we’ll see how that goes. As always, I’ll maintain an ongoing index in this initial post.

1.1 The Boundless Sea – p1
1.2 I Went to a Marvelous Party - p1
1.3 Signs - p1
1.4 The Rulers of the Universe - p1

2.1 The Unknown - p1
2.2 Five Twenty-Nine - p2
2.3 World Enough and Time - p2
2.4 The Eye of the Storm - p2

3.1 The Lady in the Lake - p2
3.2 A Requiem for the Doctor - p2
3.3 My Dinner with Andrew - p2
3.4 The Furies - p3

4.1 Time in a Bottle - p3
4.2 Kings of Infinite Space - p3
4.3 Whodunnit? - p3
4.4 Someone I Once Knew - p3

5.1 The Bekdel Test - p3
5.2 Animal Instinct - p3
5.3 The Lifeboat and the Deathboat - p4
5.4 Concealed Weapon - p4

6.1 An Unearthly Woman - p4
6.2 The Web of Time - p4
6.3 Peepshow - p4
6.4 The Talents of Greel - p4

7.1 Colony of Strangers - p4
7.2 Abbey of Heretics - p4
7.3 Barrister of the Stars - p4
7.4 Carnival of Angels - p4

THE TENTH DOCTOR AND RIVER SONG
Expiry Dating - p5
Precious Annihilation - p
Ghosts - p

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Yeah, I would think the Angels would be hard to convey in audio only.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

7.4 – CARNIVAL OF ANGELS:

“New York. 1930s. Melody Malone is new in town and her detective agency is called on to solve an impossible murder. River’s investigations lead her to a curious carnival ride, offering trips to either Heaven or Hell. But with Angels in waiting, Heaven may not be the best choice.”

COMMENTARY: This being a “Melody Malone” story, I didn’t expect to like it, but it turned out to be my favorite of the lot. Melody is hired by a man to find a murderer: his own. Earlier that day, his doppelganger appeared before him, handed him a token (depicting hell on one side, heaven on the other), and died. Intrigued, Melody takes the case. On TV, the Weeping Angels subsequent appearances never matched their first (IMO), but I’ve liked their appearances on audio. This one introduces several twists to Weeping Angel lore, such as attacking them by creating a time paradox by preventing them from attacking a victim one already had, quantum-locking one staring at itself in a house of mirrors (the story takes place in an amusement park), trapping one underwater seen constantly by fish, and so on.

It also introduces the concept of Angels taking a “snack,” in other words, not sending a victim back decades, but only days. The story is over-the-top detective pulp fiction, narrated by the murder victim, who is played by an Englishman trying desperately to sound like Humphrey Bogart. (All of the American accents are pretty unconvincing, but it’s such a silly story it doesn’t really matter.) I’m not sure how this would sound to someone unfamiliar with the Angels’ TV appearances; Their power is explained, but some of the effect is achieved by a musical “sting.”

I’ve also started listening to the “CD extras” disc, in which the actors and production crew discuss the episodes. “Colony of Strangers” is described as a cross between Invasion of the Body-Snatchers and Scandinavian Noir. I am wholly unfamiliar with that genre so I did not pick up on what the tone was trying to achieve. Apparently that style is quite well-known in the UK, as everyone interviewed referred to it as “Scandy Noir.”

"The Doctor knows that River Song is a part of his future. A maddening, intriguing, but inevitable part. Their lives are becoming inextricably intertwined, but in these early days – for the Doctor at least – they must navigate their relationship without too many spoilers. Whatever her past, and the Doctor’s future, holds, River will make sure that he has fun untangling the mystery..."

"The Tenth Doctor and River Song" is not part of the "Diary" series per se, but here's where I'll be discussing it. As we all know, River Song died in her first TV appearance (two-parter, whatever). We also know that she and the Tenth Doctor went on to share many adventures earlier in her timeline, adventures which have largely gone unrevealed... until now. The three stories in this set are "Expiry Dating," "Precious Annihilation" and "Ghosts." 

EXPIRY DATING: From the Doctor's POV, this is his first encounter with River Song since "Silence in the Library/Forrest of the Dead". Along his timeline, it occurs after "Journey's End". River Song leaves a message ,written on psychic paper, in a milk bottle floating in space where she knows the Doctor will find it. She invites him to an event that is a fixed point in time, apparently with the intention of changing it. He tries to stop her instead at the point she left the message, only to discover she has anticipated him and has left another clue for him to follow. 

They go about leap-frogging through time with the Doctor generally following behind cleaning up her messes. It got to the point where I thought that was going to be the only point of the story (and if it were, I would have been fine with that), when something happens to throw the plot 90 degrees in a different direction. One of the message she left for the Tenth Doctor was inadvertently found by the Fifth Doctor. He arrives at their rendezvous instead... and is smitten by her, which leads to a very odd love triangle. 

Eventually, the (Tenth) Doctor learns that her messages were intended for any of his incarnations (which leads, in turn, to a very funny surprise cameo appearance by the Sixth Doctor. By the time everything shakes out, the Tenth Doctor pretty much sums up the story for me: "Oh! Oh, River, that's very clever. And my head hurts a little." 

I hope the other two stories in this set are as strong.

PRECIOUS ANNIHILATION: The story begins in London in 1912. both river and the doctor turn up to investigate exploding jewels. The trail leads them to the high seas, centuries past. An AI from the future is to blame. It's a fairly basic story, but the real take away is that the doctor wants to "save" the AI by transferring its digitized self into the TARDIS's memory banks, but river refuses to let that happen. she thinks that would be a terrible fate, and comes up with another way. Of course, she doesn't know of her own fate at this point, but the Doctor certainly does. 

GHOSTS: The Doctor answers a summons to find river already waiting for him, but she denies having sent the summons... at least not yet. They are on a planet known for its ghostly manifestations. There is also a group of stranded tourists. Among the "ghosts" are alternate version of the Doctor and River. does that mean they are destined to die soon?

The Doctor and River determine that a ship once crashed on this planet. The ship was programmed to periodically record copies of the crews personality engrams so that, should one of them become fatally injured, a hologram can be created to carry out the crewman's function. It is these degrading holograms that tourists have, over the years, mistaken as "ghosts." But there's also a HUGE twist at the end.

Some audio adventures are difficult to follow, whereas others suck you right in. This is definitely one of the latter. 

This sounds a bit like the Capaldi story with the "ghosts" under the lake.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

GHOSTS: The Doctor answers a summons to find river already waiting for him, but she denies having sent the summons... at least not yet. They are on a planet known for its ghostly manifestations. There is also a group of stranded tourists. Among the "ghosts" are alternate version of the Doctor and River. does that mean they are destined to die soon?

The Doctor and River determine that a ship once crashed on this planet. The ship was programmed to periodically record copies of the crews personality engrams so that, should one of them become fatally injured, a hologram can be created to carry out the crewman's function. It is these degrading holograms that tourists have, over the years, mistaken as "ghosts." But there's also a HUGE twist at the end.

Some audio adventures are difficult to follow, whereas others suck you right in. This is definitely one of the latter. 

"This sounds a bit like the Capaldi story with the 'ghosts' under the lake."

I have yet to make my way through the Capaldi stories a second time, but that's not ringing any bells. 

It was a two-parter, "Under the Lake"/"Before the Flood".  The Doctor and Clara land in an underwater base in the not-too-distant future where the crew have discovered a crashed ship, and start seeing ghosts.  The Doctor goes back in time to before the crash site as flooded, and the cliffhanger is that Clara sees his "ghost".

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"This sounds a bit like the Capaldi story with the 'ghosts' under the lake."

I have yet to make my way through the Capaldi stories a second time, but that's not ringing any bells. 

Just finished re-watching "Under the Lake" and "Before the Flood." It all came back to me as I was watching it. Yes, it certainly has certain surface similarities to the audio story "Ghosts," especially, the Doctor himself appearing as a ghost. 

Whenever there's a story with a twist ending, I not only only don't want to know what the twist is, I don't even want to know that there is a twist. Otherwise, I spend my time trying to anticipate the ending rather than enjoying the story. But I've already broken one of those precepts so I might as well break the other. If there's anyone who doesn't want to know the twist, stop reading NOW.

There are several hints as to what's really going on along the way, not that I recognized any of them until after the fact. The first two tourists the doctor and River met were a couple named Alfie and Betty. They weren't introduced in this order, but two of the others were "Gammy" and Del. that's not much of a hint out of the context of the story itself, but the Doctor eventually starts to think about what reality would look like from a hologram's point of view once it's program starts to degrade, and he realizes that it would look much like what they have perceived as holograms all along. The final twist is that the "Doctor" and "River" whose story we have been following are, in fact, holograms themselves. 

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