Doctor Who Audio Review: Dark Eyes 1
Doctor Who Dark Eyes
Written by: Nicholas Briggs
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Featured Doctor: Eight Doctor (Paul McGann)
Featured Companion: Molly O’Sullivan (Ruth Bradley)
After the traumatic events of the last season of the Eight Doctor Adventures, The Doctor is going through some stuff. He feels hopeless, he feels directionless and he’s just plain depressed. Then, through the machinations of the Time Lords, some kind of hope arrives for him. He gets led to the battlefields of World War I where he meets Irish Nurse, Molly O’Sullivan, and soon events start moving into place. Why are the Time Lords interested in Molly? What big threat is coming? And what does any of this have to do with her Dark Eyes?
Nothing that I wanted to talk about came out this week, so instead I’m talking about more Doctor Who Audios. This time I wanna talk about the last Eight Doctor Audios I’ve heard, and it’s apropos that it was the start of a new era for him. Plus, luckily, today Big Finish is going to start a new 8th Doctor sale that’s most likely going to feature this box set, so this week will be a good time to pick it up.
Initially starting in the Big Finish monthly range, because Eight was kind of “Big Finish’s Doctor”, they eventually gave him his own separate series of releases called “The Eight Doctor Adventures” and after they wrapped that up, they decided to move him to a box-set format. So, from 2012 to today, the Eight Doctor has existed exclusively in 4 story box-sets which also come in series of 4 (So there’s Dark Eyes 1 to 4, each of them with 4 different stories).
As the start of this new format, Dark Eyes 1 immediately stood out by having a single plot running across the four stories. If you’re not entirely familiar with the format of Doctor Who, it’s usually an episodic sort of show where each episode has its own self contained little plot, so having the running elements throughout feels like quite a departure (even the Seasons that tried for a continuous plot would structure it around individual adventures). Fortunately, the writing on this one was handled well enough that it could keep the momentum going across four hours.
I won’t go into every single one, but the first story, The Great War, is my favorite of the bunch almost entirely due to the soundscape. I don’t quite know what it was, but this story was perfectly able to capture the epic conflict of World War I, entirely in audio. Every explosion, every muddy step, every gun. It was all extremely evocative. Plus, it was just fun to follow along with The Doctor in this difficult setting. Seeing him work his way through it, trying to figure out how to solve problems in the harsh conditions of the muddy trenches.
Doctor Who Dark Eyes
Really, fun is pretty much the bread and butter of this box-set. There is a plot, with a bunch of twists, turns, and technobabble, but throughout all of it I was having fun. There was a lot of running around, changes in location, evil villains and I grinned broadly throughout.
The Great War also introduces the companion for the box-set, Molly O’Sullivan, an Irish War Nurse with the aforementioned “dark eyes”. I know some people find some of her mannerisms to be a bit annoying (like how she calls the TARDIS a “Tardibox”), but I thought she was very charming and had a great “Right then, let’s get to the job” attitude about most things. She is further proof that it is actually possible to make a Companion that ISN’T from modern-day Great Britain.
In terms of problems with the box-set, while the story is fun, it can also get a bit messy from time to time. The last story especially, X and the Daleks, was very technobabble heavy and it involved retrogenita particles and things happening and it was bit all over the place, not helped by the kind of sudden introduction of a new character that I had to be invested in quite quickly.
There was also the issue of its connection to the previous stories. This box-set dovetails out of the ending of the fourth season of the EDAs which, as I mentioned before, ends in a tragic way that really impacts The Doctor… and that’s kind of a problem. The introduction of this new format was to bring in people who might be willing to spend some money on the beginning of a new era for the 8th Doctor, so you want to make it as accessible as possible but you also have to address what happened previously so the story can have some stakes. So, what you end up with is a story with motivations based on previous events, but those events don’t affect the new story itself.
As an example, there was a point where The Doctor kept passing out while hearing voices from that aforementioned tragic event and I thought this was him suffering from PTSD… but no, it was part of the villain’s plan. It ended up being a bit frustrating because I really wanted the story to take those previous threads and run with them, and instead it just… didn’t. It was kind of disappointing, to say the least.
Also, this is more of a nitpick, but if you look at the cover art for the box-set as well as for each individual disc, you will see that they show Paul McGann in a new outfit, with darker clothes and a shorter haircut. As far as I can remember, he never changes to this outfit in the story. In fact, they even make mention to the fact that his hair is long and his clothes are velour, which I assumed meant he was going to change look someways through the box-set but… nope. I presume this is going to happen during Dark Eyes 2, but this means that the art for this box-set is basically lying to you. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Overall though, if you haven’t heard the 8th Doctor before, this isn’t the worst place to start. It does use previous continuity for its building blocks, but it’s mostly comprehensible as it is and, above all, it’s fun to listen to. And, really, isn’t that what we want?
Doctor Who Dark Eyes