The Tenth Doctor and River Song is David Tennant’s latest outing with Big Finish. While the redoubtable Ms. Song has enjoyed numerous audio adventures in her own right, it was through the eyes of the Tenth Doctor that we first met her on a fateful trip to The Library.
On-screen, they met again in The Time of Angels, in the Matt Smith era, but this release fills in a gap before that; in a trio of adventures, David Tennant’s Doctor begins to get a handle on the temporally promiscuous Professor and her antics.
Expiry Dating by James Goss kicks off the boxset and it is a dizzying affair. Told primarily through letters between the pair, it sees River trying to recruit the Doctor for a mission; she wants to break into somewhere called the Apocalypse Vault. The merry dance she leads this Doctor on also accidently involves brushes with two former incarnations too. The Fifth Doctor answers a mis-delivered missive, while the Sixth appears in an amusing cameo.
Flitting through different times and places, there is much in common here with R&J, this same writer’s take on interactions between River and Captain Jack. Like that story, this is also high on flirtation and less focussed on plot. That said, the story does tie everything together very neatly. It is all very amusing, though we thought Peter Davison’s Doctor was rather belittled by his love-struck role. Rounding out the cast, Glen McCready supplies a plethora of minor characters, from Camel priests to French waiters.
Taking its premise from a real-life mystery, Lizzie Hope’s Precious Annihilation deals with the discovery of the Cheapside Hoard; a cache of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery unearthed by workmen in 1912.
With lots of lovely period detail, the story sees the Doctor and River investigate the provenance of the jewels – especially as it seems they have a tendency to explode! As the pair follow the trail of the apparently cursed jewels, there’s plenty of swashbuckling action. Naturally, this gives River licence to indulge in a bit of dress up too.
In the guest cast, Anjli Mohindra appears in multiple roles – one of the many BF recordings she has made during lockdown!
Death Becomes Her
The set concludes with Ghosts, which finds the Doctor answering a summons from River to a famously haunted planet. With some insubstantial spectres and a deadly mist to contend with, this is an evocative and clever mystery.
We do not want to say much more, as the fun of this story would be easily spoiled. Suffice to say that this Jonathan Morris script kept us guessing throughout, playing with horror story conventions. For us, Ghosts is the highlight of the boxset and its resolution hinges on how far this pair have come together.
With David Tennant and Alex Kingston both on sparkling form throughout, these stories have chemistry to spare. To that end, it makes sense for James Goss’ unconventional story – which focusses heavily on the pair’s wit and charisma – to go first. In the latter two stories the dynamic settles a little, though they too are both fun. Weighed down with the knowledge of her fate, the Doctor knows incredibly little about River at this point, although the writers cannot resist dropping the odd tease and ominous portent.
While it was inevitable that this pair would meet on audio, we must admit that the announcement of this boxset was a surprise. Apparently conceived and written apace, thanks to David Tennant’s sudden pandemic availability, they are a treat. Despite the rapid production, there is no sense of a drop in quality; the two leads are at the top of their game, surrounded with high production values throughout.
With two boxsets for Donna, one with Rose and now one with River, plus a catch up with a number of classic companions, we are still keeping fingers crossed for a reunion with Martha Jones – especially after her excellent BF debut in February’s Torchwood: Dissected.