Featuring a wide mix of crime stories and some truly original storytelling, the seventh series of Doctor Who spin-off The Diary of River Song might be one of her very best.
Seven. That’s how many series we’ve had of The Diary of River Song. Even taking into account that the rate increased from one box set a year to two in 2018, that’s still a pretty impressive number. In some cases, that’s more than many of Big Finish’s popular Doctor Who spin-offs, including Dalek Empire and Counter-Measures.
With such a high number of box sets, there’s the risk that the range could have run out of steam by this point. There was certainly such a risk with the previous box set. While Series 6 was enjoyable, it relied very heavily on Doctor Who mythology – even more so than previous box sets, which included either earlier incarnations of the Doctor or the Master. With such a high level of mythology, there’s the risk of overshadowing what makes River such a brilliant character in her own right.
So it’s wonderfully refreshing that Series 7 went in an incredibly different direction. While the last episode featured a popular Doctor Who monster, the rest of the series featured entirely new places, characters and villains. After something as mythology-heavy as Series 6, it’s wonderful to see River getting adventures completely of her own in the follow-up.
The vast genre of crime
Just like the previous two box sets, Series 7 is more of an anthology than a series of adventures linked by an arc or major villain. However, that’s not to say that there’s nothing linking them at all – in all four episodes, River finds herself involved in murder mysteries. Sometimes, she’s something of an amateur sleuth; sometimes, she’s a PI, and sometimes, she may even be the accused. But each of them owe something to the crime genre.
Of course, the crime genre is pretty big. There’s courtroom drama, whodunit and of course your classic noir story, of which there are two very different examples of in this box set. This means that we get a wide variety of stories with extremely different styles, even with just four episodes.
Strong mix of stories
All of which are extremely enjoyable. Opening story Colony of Strangers by James Goss is a fantastic mix of Nordic Noir and horror. Lizbeth Myles’s Abbey of Heretics mixes a crime story with not just science-fiction, but also historical and even political drama, too, giving us a tale that’s rich and multi-layered.
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Barrister to the Stars features a writer completely new to Big Finish – James Kettle. After this debut episode – which is both fun and funny in equal measure – I hope we get a lot more stories from him in future. Lastly, Carnival of Angels is an excellent prequel to Eleventh Doctor story The Angels Take Manhattan, while still offering something new and original in its own right.
This is an extremely strong box set of adventures in many ways. It’s very hard for me to pick a favorite, which doesn’t often happen. More than that: it shows off just how fantastic River can be on her own, without major Doctor Who mythology to back her up. (Well, for most of the stories, anyway.) Featuring original tales full of great ideas and wonderful tributes to the crime genre, the seventh series of The Diary of River Song is definitely one of the strongest in the range. Here’s hoping that it’s far from the last.
Have you listened to any box sets in River’s very own spin-off? Do you have any particular favorite stories so far? Do you think the series has the potential to last for a great deal longer? Let us know in the comments below.