Hot on the heels of the Christmas Special, The Husbands of River Song, Big Finish released a present on download via its website with The Diary of River Song: Series 1. This is another high-profile release for Big Finish as part of its extended license, and much anticipated. Not only does Alex Kingston come back to the title part (and takes centre-stage), but she is also accompanied by Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.
The first story is Jenny T. Colgan’s The Boundless Sea and gives River a chance to be an archaeologist while also facing some challenges and the somewhat inept assistance of Alexnder Vlahos as British Consul Bertie Potts. The tomb setting may be somewhat de rigeur but the story finds a way to show us how River acts as the core of the story and brings her own personality to the party. The second story is Justin Richards’ I went to a Marvellous Party, which sets out part of the bigger picture for the set of stories and brings other characters to the fore, including Alexander Siddig’s Marcus Gifford. Somewhat reminding the listener of some scenes from Husbands of River Song (i.e. the starliner), Justin finds a plot that moves River Song from A to B and shines a light on the nature of those manipulating events. There’s also a whodunit!
The second pair of stories is James Goss’ two-hander with Alex Kingston and Samuel West as River and Mr. Song in the hunt for planet-killing SporeShips. The change of pace is marked and gives Kingston a chance to show her versatility. Events come to a conclusion in script editor Matt Fitton’s The Rulers of the Universe and it’s here that we also see the Eighth Doctor enter. Many challenges here, including how to deal with the crossing of timelines – lest we forget, the Tenth Doctor (Silence in the Library) hadn’t met River before, so how can the Eighth Doctor be in the same story? More important, River has to make sure the Doctor survives events without giving away any spoilers. This is a pacey story, ticking lots of boxes.
The release consists of four single CD stories, and a fifth of behind the scenes interviews. The sound is rich and Ken Bentley’s direction captures the light and shade of this great range of stories. With this set, River Song is immediately at home on audio, and March 2016 sees River in the Eighth Doctor boxset Doom Coalition 2. Roll on March!
THE DIARY OF RIVER SONG: SERIES 1 / DIRECTOR: KEN BENTLEY / AUTHOR: JENNY T. COLGAN, JUSTIN RICHARDS, JAMES GOSS, MATT FITTON / STARRING: ALEX KINGSTON, PAUL MCGANN, ALEXANDER VLAHOS, ALEXANDER SIDDIG, SAMUEL WEST / PUBSLISHER: BIG FINISH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (DOWNLOAD), JANUARY 8TH (CD)