Dark Eyes 4 has an almost comic amount of pressure riding on it. It’s the last four of sixteen hours of connected, arc-flowing Who. It has to deliver thrills, tonal changes, some great stuff for Alexander Macqueen’s demento-Master, a resolution that satisfies for Liv Chenka, the Daleks, the Eminence and of course Dark Eyes herself, Molly O’Sullivan.
So does it succeed?
Let’s see – the Eminence gets an origin story, which is pretty pleasing for those who’ve been tracking its progress since The Seeds of War. Liv gets if not a resolution, then a story which pleases – and also gets a solid handful of chances to impress with her companion credentials. While she started her life in the Doctor Who audios, and certainly developed in Dark Eyes 2 as quite a depressing character to be around, by the end of Dark Eyes 4, she’s made a good fist of navigating the moral mazes of time travel and Doing The Right Thing in a whole host of situations, while also delivering some cracking sarky lines.
The Daleks potentially go a bit OTT as Dark Eyes 4 winds up to its conclusion, but episode 3, Master of the Daleks, is a full-on Daleky treat, while at the same time being Macqueen’s tour de force in this box set.
As for Molly Dark Eyes… well, that really would be a spoiler too far. But if you think the resolution she eventually gets feels moderately familiar from the on screen world of Who, we probably wouldn’t contradict you.
One thing that does disappoint in Dark Eyes 4 is the use of the Sontarans. They’re supposed to be a big enough draw in this release to be worth sticking on the cover, and it’s entirely likely that many people will have bought Dark Eyes 4 expecting to hear them stick their potato-headed oar in to a mass conflagration between the Daleks and the Eminence.
All we can say is nnnnnnnotsomuch. A single main scene with a couple of Sontarans, and one additional thread with a single clone warrior in. Granted, there’s a thread of the story which depends on the Sontarans being involved, but it’s pushing the issue to put them on the cover for that.
Given the range of things Dark Eyes 4 has to achieve, on paper the first two episodes read as barking mad wastes of time. In the listening though, they’re neither of these things – A Life in the Day is sweet, soft, sad and sentimental, as well as pushing the story forward. It’s also something of a love song to Liv, which is a good way to begin this final Dark Eyes box set, because by this point in the story, there hasn’t really been much of a chance to appreciate the true, appealing qualities of Liv Chenka the person, as opposed to Med-Tech Chenka, revolutionary Chenka, potential-companion Chenka. It’s this episode that really provides the window into the wider-eyed Liv who becomes a driving force in Dark Eyes 4.
The Monster of Monmartre has resonances of Colin Baker story Revelations of the Daleks, in its ghoulish body-horror, and its cast of semi-grotesques. As with A Life in the Day, there’s the potential for the story to feel a little detached from the overall Dark Eyes arc, but any such potential is blown out of the water at the end, leading into what, for fans of Macqueen’s Master, will undoubtedly be the highlight – echoing Dark Eyes 3, episode three delivering what is arguably the strongest conclusion and the most outright fun, leaving episode four feeling perhaps just a little like mopping up the puddles of timelines left over.
With Dark Eyes 4, those are some big puddles, but they make rather more sense than they did in the final episode of Dark Eyes 3. Bringing another Classic Who element into play, the Eye of Orion becomes a pivotal location for this episode, which also resolves a storyline of a character you may well have thought was long since dead, or living in a shriveled timeline. Molly O’Sullivan and the Dalek Time Controller are really the prime movers of this episode, and Molly in particular is superbly affecting and very much herself.
The final episode feels a little frantic as it tries to join all the dots, knit all the threads and deliver on the promise of the last fifteen hours, but all in all, it would be misleading to say that Dark Eyes 4 does not achieve all or most of its goals.
One to buy then?
Who are you kidding? If you’ve come any part of the way on the Dark Eyes journey, you know you’re going to buy this one. What’s perhaps more, it delivers four very different tones across four very different episodes that more or less sit together to deliver a coherent end to a very long story. More satisfying than the final instalments of many sci-fi or fantasy marathons, Dark Eyes 4 will probably be one you’ll listen to again for the pleasure of individual episodes, long after you’ve found out how the overall arc comes to an end.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk