The Eighth Doctor: the first Time Lord to rock a man-bag.
Release Date: November 2012
220 minutes | £20 (CD and download) Publisher:Big Finish
New adventures, new haircut, new coat. After an 18-month wait, Big Finish have finally returned to the audio adventures of the Eighth Doctor, and they’ve also taken the significant step of giving the character a new look. He’s still played by Paul McGann, but the flouncy locks have been trimmed, and he’s swapped the velvet for a double-breasted gold-buttoned naval jacket. The result? A much more new Who-style costume (and no more endless recycling of publicity shots from the 1996 TV movie for the covers) – but, more importantly, it’s an excellent way of showing that this isn’t quite the same old Eighth Doctor.
Picking up in the traumatic wake of 2011 adventure To The Death, this four-disc epic finds the Doctor mourning the demise of previous companion Lucie Miller, and desperately in need of some hope in his life. What he gets is a mysterious mission from the Time Lords that somehow revolves around saving Molly O’Sullivan (Ruth Bradley), a volunteer nursing assistant in the trenches of World War One. Soon, both the Doctor and Molly are on the run through time, with the Daleks in hot pursuit and the entirety of history at stake…
Ever since the TV show’s triumphant return, the Eighth Doctor audio adventures have gone very new Who in their storytelling approach, and Dark Eyes continues this trend, giving us a lively chase narrative that’s anchored by two strong central performances. Bradley makes Molly a distinctive and interesting companion, while McGann continues to do a fantastic job, bringing new depth and world-weariness to the Eighth Doctor.
He’s given strong material to work with across the three-and-a-half-hour running time, while the action-packed story has plenty of enjoyable highlights, including an ambiguous villain played brilliantly by Toby Jones (season five’s Dream Lord). The mix of bonkers SF and emotive drama ends up very reminiscent of Russell T Davies, especially one Dalek-related sequence in the third episode, which is so fabulously outrageous you’ll barely believe it.
The downside of this is that we also get some RTD-esque weaknesses as well: the plotting occasionally feels a little too random, while the story’s central mystery ultimately depends on an excess of technobabble. Nevertheless, the pacing, energy and inventiveness keeps Dark Eyes on track. The end result is a bumper serving of Who storytelling that it’s impossible not to be swept along by.
Click on “Next” to see more photos of Paul McGann’s new costume.