River Song has finished (for now?) working her way through the back catalogue of Doctors, and gets a chance to widen her horizons. In The Diary of River Song Series 7 that means Alex Kingston plays River in a variety of guises; holiday-maker, nun, potential murderer and detective. There’s no big arc, just four great stories.
Colony of Strangers
Writer James Goss gives River a chance to have a holiday, and where else to send her but a bleak Nordic colony called Bondar? It’s not long before the obligatory corpses are found on the beach and River the only suspect. The idea of River in a scandi noir drama is a strange juxtaposition at first with the rest of the cast playing their parts as dry as they can. River’s scenes with the only policeman on Bondar as they work the case are very amusing. The only flaw in this tale is a slight surplus of hints as to what is really going on. One thing for sure, River will need a holiday at the end!
Abbey of Heretics
LM Myles takes River to the twelfth century and it’s time for Sister Melody to take centre stage. A remote Abbey holds a book River is interested in as well as an outbreak of a strange sickness. A mix of authentic characters comes together well in this strong tale counterpointing religion, science and the alien. The nuns in the Abbey aren’t just modern people in old clothes but have a real sense of people with markedly different values and beliefs. A strong story with great cast.
Barrister to the Stars
River is on trial for murder so uses her right to be tried under the English legal system. Enter Roger Hodgkiss, grabbed from time to defend River and help her find the real killer. Writer James Kettle (in his first Big Finish release) does a fantastic job of designing an alien space station full of exotic dignitaries but a lot of credit must also go the cast. If nothing else a petition should immediately be started to get David Rintoul lined up to play Hodgkiss again as soon as possible. It’s a romp mixed with a mystery and larger than life characters. The added thread of a contemporary court room in a sci-fi setting really adds to the joy.
Carnival of Angels
The first three stories all incorporate a fusing of disparate elements, and if anyone needs that it’s Melody Malone as she investigates a mysterious carnival and weeping angels. Roy Gill takes us to New York in the 1930s, disappearances at the fair and several people who aren’t as they seem at first glance. This includes River’s student / assistant / secretary Luke (Timothy Blore). In this story River has a companion as well as concern over the latest chronon interference. It’s a well paced story with the angels being as creepy as ever, even if never heard! Howard Carter’s sound design does wonders as River tries to avoid being a victim of the quantum locked lonely assassins.
We very much enjoy River when she’s not tied closely to Doctor Who and these stories show her without the Doctor’s constraints. There’s no sign (yet) of further releases, but we will be watching out for announcements. On the evidence of this release, River has the potential to be with us for many more adventures to come!
The Diary of River Song Series 7 is available to buy now from the Big Finish website. The four stories are also accompanied by a disc of behind the scenes material.