Doctor Who recommendation: Why Doom Coalition is a great series for the Eighth Doctor and River Song

Doctor Who

The first episode of Doom Coalition introduces the Eleven – one of the most original Time Lord villains created in a long time.
Image courtesy Big Finish Productions

Featuring strong villains, great characters, and a huge amount of buildup with an amazing payoff, the audio series Doctor Who: Doom Coalition is well worth checking out.

It’s been a busy week for Doctor Who on audio. Along with the releases of Shadow of the Daleks 1 and the Eighth Doctor’s first Time Lord Victorious audio, we also had the major news that Big Finish will be making a brand new series of War Doctor audios, starring Jonathon Carley as the incarnation originally played by John Hurt.

On top of all that, Big Finish have also had a huge sale on their Eighth Doctor series Doom Coalition. While the sale is nearly over, we couldn’t quite let the week end without writing about why Doom Coalition is a series that fans should check out, for several reasons.

Fresh start

Firstly, there’s how well it works in terms of accessibility, especially when it comes to the Eighth Doctor. While he’s had very little screen-time – sadly, just one movie and a minisode – Paul McGann’s Doctor has had a rich and extensive life on audio thanks to Big Finish. By this point, there are well over a hundred releases featuring his Doctor, and as such, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

Doom Coalition represents a fantastic jumping-on point. It’s a series heavily focused on brand new villains and arcs, with the occasional friend or foe from the TV series showing up. On top of that, it also introduces a new companion – Helen Sinclair, as played brilliantly by Hattie Morahan. Overall, it’s a strong series to jump on board with.

Doctor Who

The Eleven has been a major villain for Big Finish for several years, most recently appearing in Seventh Doctor story Dark Universe – a direct prequel to Doom Coalition.
Image Courtesy Big Finish Productions

The Eleven (and other villains)

Almost central to the series is the excellent Time Lord villain the Eleven. Played by Mark Bonnar, the Eleven is a Time Lord psychopath who retains the personalities of all of his previous incarnations. As a result, this makes him a rather unpredictable and dangerous foe. It also allows for Bonnar to show off just how good he really is as an actor, effortlessly switching between each of the distinct personalities. In some ways, the Eleven is a big reason why Doom Coalition works so well.

But he’s not the only reason. You’re probably wondering about that title. You might be wondering if, with many minds working together, it’s the Eleven himself that could be the titular “coalition”. Or even that the series might lead to a coalition of the Doctor’s oldest enemies.

But Doom Coalition is much more exciting than that. There’s a strong focus on original villains. All of them distinctive in their own ways, but at the same time, all of them focused on one single goal. But what is it?

Buildup and payoff

That’s another thing that stands out about Doom Coalition: the huge amount of buildup. While the series features many distinct stories and a wide variety of storytelling, it’s clear from the first episode that all the episodes are connected. While the Doctor is initially just worried about the Eleven, it becomes clear that there’s an even greater threat that he has to face. But before he can deal with it, he needs to find out what that threat is.

Essentially, the first two box sets of Doom Coalition are very much focused on building up the anticipation, giving us two strong volumes of decent stories, including The ElevenThe Red Lady, and Scenes from her Life. But the third volume takes things up a gear: not only does the box set really throw itself into the arc properly, but its mix of stories is both exciting and dramatic.

It all pays off in the fourth and final volume, in numerous ways. The true villain of the story is revealed, we find out what their goals are, and what the Doctor has to do to stop them. Thanks to many plotlines coming together, it all ends in an extremely satisfying payoff, one that feels both epic and personal.

Doctor Who

This isn’t the first time that River has encountered the Eighth Doctor – he also has an appearance in series 1 of The Diary of River Song.
Image Courtesy Big Finish Productions

Eight and River

Last but not least, I have to mention the rather bold pairing of this box set: Eight and River. For some fans, this could be something that puts them off the series. After all, how could River meet Eight if Ten doesn’t recognize her later in Silence in the Library? Normally, amnesia would be an easy answer (especially with the Eighth Doctor). But considering that this is a series that requires the Doctor to remember everything, how can River possibly help him?

This is actually what makes the relationship in Doom Coalition work. Essentially, River is forced to be extremely careful when helping her husband, either by working at a distance, or even by using a disguise. (If you’re wondering what could possibly hide River Song and that hair, well, that’s one of the fun things you get to find out in this series.)

On top of that, while we don’t hear the Doctor and River interacting too much (we only really hear them paired up for one full episode, plus a couple of brief moments in others), it’s still a lot of fun hearing Paul McGann and Alex Kingston together. Even better is hearing River trying to restrain herself, even more so than usual. How well she succeeds in doing that is another fun part of the series.

Overall, Doom Coalition is a very strong and unique series for Doctor Who. It’s ambitious and features a great deal of buildup. But it’s also extremely rewarding. If you want a Doctor Who series that’s both ambitious and epic, while still being something that you can jump on board with, make sure to give it a listen.

Are you curious to try Doom Coalition? If you’ve listened to the series already, what are your thoughts on it? Would you suggest something else for fans new to the Eighth Doctor to jump on board with? Let us know in the comments below.