Review: Dark Eyes / Writer: / Director: / Starring: Paul McGann, Ruth Bradley, Peter Egan, Toby Jones, Tim Treloar, Laura Molyneaux, Natalie Burt, Ian Cullen, Jonathan Forbes, Alex Mallinson, Beth Chalmers, John Banks, Nicholas Briggs / Publisher: Big Finish / Release Date: Out Now
On Saturday the 10th of November Big Finish released their latest boxset Dark Eyes. Within an hour the demand for the download was so great that the whole Big Finish website gave up under the strain and most fans had to wait until Sunday before they could listen to this epic adventure. What is Dark Eyes, why was it so anticipated and was it worth the excitement?
Dark Eyes is the only Eighth Doctor release from Big Finish this year. Written and directed by Nick Briggs it follows a darker, more anguished Doctor as he reacts to the dramatic events of the end of the Eighth Doctor Adventures. In particular the deaths of several people who were close to him as the blasters of the Daleks weigh heavy upon him. All this action culminated in To The Death in March 2011.
Big Finish released an Eighth Doctor / Mary Shelley trilogy later in 2011. This was popular but didn’t sate the appetite of fans wanting to know what happened to the Doctor after To The Death. When Dark Eyes was announced it immediately became the subject of much speculation; even Paul McGann’s outfit would be changing from the long-haired, velvet jacketed appearance in the movie to a short-haired, leather jacketed figure. Fan interest was slowly brought to the boil and this resulted in the download frenzy on release day.
The release itself: Dark Eyes is a four-part story featuring a new Companion, Molly o’Sullivan; Straxus, a Time Lord from previous Big Finish plays and Kotris working with the Daleks to bring about an end to the Time Lords. The first part finds an angry, angst ridden Doctor on the battle fields of World War I where he meets Molly and sets out to escape the Daleks. Most of the substance of the second part is the Doctor and Molly on the run, with diversions via World War II and '70s London. Part three finds our heroes on future Skaro and the Doctor struggling to deal with the idea of the Daleks finding peach; we also learn about Molly’s part in events since her birth. Part four is where all the threads come together, plots are revealed, sacrifices are made and resolution reached. The tale ends with a calmer Doctor alone, again, in his TARDIS.
Listening to this on Remembrance Sunday made for a very poignant experience. As ever production (including the sound and music) is excellent, everyone’s performances are splendid and both Nick Briggs’s writing and direction are spot on. As a fan I get a sense of the scale of the Doctor’s anguish following To The Death and we're keen to hear more about this re-styled Doctor. We also get a sense that we may have taken one more step towards the Time War!