Since making her supposedly final appearance in TV Doctor Who, the character of River Song has been freed up to appear in other media. Not only has she appeared alongside the Doctor in comics and books, but she also has her own spin-off audio series. This second volume sends the time-travelling archaeologist on another four-part adventure, also featuring two incarnations of her Time Lord husband.
In The Unknown, written by Guy Adams, both River and the Seventh Doctor join the crew of a ship investigating a new planet that’s appeared in the solar system. It’s tense and full of space-set claustrophobia as a mysterious affliction grips a crewmember, but the most enjoyable aspect is River’s more conflictive relationship with McCoy’s Doctor, getting annoyed at the seeming silliness of the man she’ll one day marry.
Five Twenty-Nine by John Dorney sees the apocalypse begin – every time zone on Earth becomes uncontactable once it reaches 5:29. Despite this, it’s the kind of small-scale, character-led story Dorney does best. River arrives on an isolated island and tries to save its inhabitants, allowing the script to focus on the emotional toll this event has on an elderly couple and their beloved synthetic daughter. Though a side-step from the main arc, it’s a sad, moving tale and the highlight of the set.
Next is James Goss’ World Enough and Time. It’s reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor TV stories in which the heroes would infiltrate a sinister corporation – River uses the Donna-like strategy of getting a temp job, but the Sixth Doctor takes the more egocentric approach of buying all its stock and becoming MD. Again, the highlight is the interaction between River and this classic Doctor, with her successful infiltration humourously contrasted against his pompous and clumsy effort.
Matt Fitton’s The Eye of the Storm brings these events to a conclusion, while changing setting to London, 1703. There may be a slight contrivance to allow for a historical instalment in this mainly future-set story, but Fitton uses the setting well, tying the story arc into a famous storm and some real-life figures. It’s a satisfyingly dramatic finale, relying on the wits of River and both Doctors to save the world.
The stories are perhaps less characteristic of River than those in the first volume, which took us to an archaeological dig and to a glamourous space-set party; instead they tell an epic and time-twisting tale that may be more expected of a Doctor Who adventure. While may affect the series’ individual identity, it does allow for lots of fun to be had with River meeting two past Doctors.
One gripe here is that, including the three times she’s now met the Eighth Doctor, the number of ways she can meet pre-Tennant Doctors and not have them remember her is running thin. Nevertheless, The Eye of the Storm’s take on this requirement is a very funny scene.
The format of the box set works well, with the epic arc split up into four stories that all have their own identity and tone, though it does mean that some threads from the early instalments aren’t tied up in an entirely satisfactory manner.
THE DIARY OF RIVER SONG – SERIES 2 / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / STARRING: ALEX KINGSTON, COLIN BAKER, SYLVESTER MCCOY / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW