Big Finish: Doctor Who THE TENTH DOCTOR AND RIVER SONG Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Matthew Kresal joins the Tenth Doctor and River Song. No spoilers!
For two episodes in 2008, two eras of Modern Who came together, even if fans didn't know it at the time. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead featured the iconic first meeting between the Doctor and River Song (Alex Kingston), specifically David Tennant's incarnation of the Time Lord. A moment that was clearly meant to have more pay-off later for the pair, and would have if incoming showrunner Steven Moffat could have convinced Tennant to do Series Five. Now, some twelve years later, the Tenth Doctor and River are back together again thanks to Big Finish, and what a treat it's turned out to be.

Available as both a box-set and as three separate releases, the miniseries kicks off with James Goss' Expiry Dating. Picking up on she knows him, only he doesn't know her relationship established in Moffat's 2008 two-parter, Goss writes a story of the pair's early days together. Only, they keep missing one another in-person, communicating instead through a variety of high-tech and psychic means. But what is River after, the Tenth Doctor is left to wonder, and why? With some knowing nods to the larger universe of Doctor Who, complete with a couple of utterly delightful cameos that this reviewer won't spoil, not to mention great banter between Tennant and Kingston, it's an immensely charming and satisfying opener. Indeed, it's a perfect example of the kind of storytelling Big Finish could do that would be difficult, if nigh impossible, on-screen given its largely two-hander status and variety of locations.

Gears shift a bit for Lizzie Hopley's middle tale, Precious Annihilation. Of the three episodes, this is the one that feels closest to the Tenth Doctor's television roots, being a pseudo-historical based around the Cheapside Hoard and the mysterious origins of the treasure. Of course, being Doctor Who, things aren't quite what they seem, something Hopley has fun with as the Doctor and River get to the heart of the mystery. Along the way, there's plenty of humor about perceptions of history versus reality and some poignant echoing of the pair's sole televised adventure. Though perhaps the most run of the mill of the trilogy, it's a fun listen in no small part to the cast (including The Sarah Jane Adventures alumni Anjli Mohindra).

The miniseries closes with Ghosts by Jonathan Morris. Going into this final episode, it would likewise appear to be another run of the mill entry based on the title and the description on the Big Finish website. If you think that, as this reviewer most certainly did, you're going to be in for one heck of a surprise. The script from Morris is, in the best tradition of River's creator, an intelligent horror tale, one that plays character drama alongside plot twist after plot twist which turns the listener's expectations on their head. To say more would be to ruin the surprises in store, but suffice to say that Morris gives Moffat a run for his money with this concluding episode.

This miniseries as a whole is a fine example of Big Finish's work. As mentioned above, the set gets a boost from its two leads, with Tennant and Kingston effortlessly sliding back into their roles (no surprise, perhaps, given they've been reprising them for the company elsewhere). The chemistry between them, both in playful banter and with more serious moments when the drama stakes get raised, is likewise compelling and all the more striking considering they only appeared together the one time on-screen. Surrounding the duo are strong supporting casts, such as Mohindra and company regulars like Tim Betnick. The icing on the cake is the sound design and music from Howard Carter, with his work on the bookending episodes, in particular, being highlights. Indeed, the results are all the more remarkable given that, as producer David Richardson reveals in the extras of the box-set version, came together only because of the pandemic and lockdown recording allowing it to happen.

As with releases such as Shadow of the Sun and the Time Lord Victorious audios, Big Finish have created another triumph in lockdown with this Tenth Doctor and River Song miniseries. One which brings together two icons of Modern Who with the creative powers of the company at their finest. For fans of the Tenth Doctor and River, or even those intrigued enough to consider Big Finish for the very first time, it's well worth both your time and money.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor and River Song is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until February 28th 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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