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By:David Layton, Los Angeles, United States
Date:Sunday 4 December 2016
Rating:   7

Big Finish has seemingly thrown most of its effort of 2013 onward into these box sets of 3-4 single-episode adventures connected by story arcs. For these, they really have managed to pull in some acting heavy weights. In addition to Alex Kingston and Paul McGann, listeners to this set will also hear Imogen Stubbs, Alexander Siddig, and John Banks, to name a few. In these sets, Big Finish apparently wants to get as close to the revived TV Doctor Who as possible, with each set feeling like a "season." Such a concept is mostly as strong as the story arc concept. In this case, the concept is a little thin. The four stories are these: 1) The Boundless Sea, which has River Song in The Curse of the Mummy, essentially. It's good enough if one likes those sorts of stories. We get introduced to recurring character and semi-villain Bertie Potts; 2) I Went to a Marvellous Party, an Agatha Christie style closed environment murder mystery on a space station that truly gets the story arc going; 3) Signs, a two-hander that is the River Song version of Capaldi's Heaven Sent; and 4) The Rulers of the Universe, which closes the story arc and leaves River triumphant, sort of. The story arc itself involves a community of the uber-wealthy who reside at a space station turned perpetual cocktail party and from there plot the fates of worlds so as to enhance the bank accounts of the self-styled "rulers." One of these, Bertie Potts, is recruiting River Song as an agent in the delicate negotiations they are having with an ancient super-race that has launched millions of "spore ships," drones that destroy all life on a planet and reseed the planet with a new life template. In story 3, one of these ancients, appearing human, kidnaps River, drugs her, makes her believe she is dying and that he (the alien) is another version of the Doctor. He does this to use her genius to find a way to stop the spore ships. River escapes and in story 4 exacts revenge on the "Rulers," who have decided to recruit Doctor 8 to replace the failed agent River. This creates a dilemma for River, since she must help the Doctor without letting him know who she is so as to preserve his time line. It's all well acted, with good sound design, and plenty of nods and winks to the fans of New Who. No story is really spectacular, but they are all competent enough and entertaining in their own ways.

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