In October 2015, Big Finish began an epic story set in the later days of the Eighth Doctor’s life. Almost a year and a half later, Doom Coalition 4 has completed that story, which now spans sixteen episodes across four box sets.
To briefly recount the story so far, the Doctor and his companions Liv and Helen have uncovered a great conspiracy among the ranks of the Time Lords, which threatens the entire universe. Doom Coalition 3 ended with them trapped in a time pod speeding into an empty future, with no way of turning it around.
Doom Coalition 4 doesn’t resolve this cliffhanger immediately, but spends an entire episode, Ship in a Bottle, in that pod. It’s a stripped-down episode – you could say a ‘bottle’ episode – with just the three characters, allowing writer John Dorney to create an intimate character study, digging deeply into the companions’ psyches. It’s also, despite its simplicity, excellently plotted, with a fantastically satisfying payoff.
Next up is Songs of Love, a Doctor-lite episode in which River Song finds herself on Gallifrey, amongst the conspirators. It’s heavy on the exposition, having to put a lot of pieces in place for the finale, and on Gallifreyan politics – make sure you know the difference between a Cardinal and a Castellan before listening to this one. Nevertheless, it’s fun to see what happens when River visits the Doctor’s home.
The Side of the Angels takes us to 1970s New York, where the Doctor discovers another group of Time Lords with their own – rather reckless – plan to counter the universe’s destruction. This episode features Cardinal Ollistra (from the War Doctor series), the Meddling Monk and the Weeping Angels, and Matt Fitton’s script brings these disparate elements together into an entertaining adventure; it’s the most like a traditional Doctor Who episode of the bunch. Plus, Rufus Hound’s pompous yet charming portrayal of the Monk continues to be one of Big Finish’s best casting decisions.
Finally, there’s Stop the Clock. In order not to spoil the surprises, we won’t say much about this, other than that it feels like a properly epic finale, it brings together all the disparate threads of Doom Coalition in a more than satisfactory manner, and it also affectingly concludes Helen’s personal development.
All in all, Doom Coalition 4 is a great success for Big Finish, as is Doom Coalition as a whole – an epic story told across sixteen episodes, with each episode contributing to the arc while standing out on its own. It’s also given us more of Paul McGann’s excellent Doctor alongside two complex and likeable companions who’ve believably grown across the series. TV Doctor Who could learn a lot from it.
DOCTOR WHO – DOOM COALITION 4 / AUTHOR: JOHN DORNEY, MATT FITTON / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: PAUL MCGANN, NICOLA WALKER, HATTIE MORAHAN, MARK BONNAR, ROBERT BATHURST, EMMA CUNNIFFE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW