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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Dark Eyes


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £40.00 (CD), £35.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 977 6
Available 30 November 2012

I really hoped it would be a wonderful view... to look back from the end of everything... to see how things finally turned out.” The Doctor is looking for hope - but instead he finds himself on a mission. The Time Lords have uncovered terrifying fragments of an insane plot to destroy the universe. And somehow, at the centre of that plot, is one random female in Earth’s history - First World War Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant Molly O’Sullivan. Soon, the Doctor and Molly find themselves thrown headlong into a series of dangerous and terrifying adventures, with the dreaded Daleks never far behind them...

Big Finish is boldly relaunching the exploits of the Eighth Doctor... again! The first time was back in 2001 with Storm Warning, the first of Paul McGann’s double-disc releases, featuring India Fisher as Charley Pollard. Just under six years later, the Eighth Doctor adventures were repackaged into a single-disc strand, mimicking the new television show’s 45-minute format, with Sheridan Smith stepping aboard the TARDIS as Lucie Miller in Blood of the Daleks. Now McGann is back, once again with a different duration, in a series of box sets - starting with Dark Eyes, an epic escapade spread over four CDs. In a way, though, things have come full circle, as this release also marks the return of David Arnold’s version of the Doctor Who theme.

In the aftermath of the final Lucie Miller story, To the Death, we find the Doctor in a very dark place indeed. He has had it with existence in general and the Daleks in particular. He seems to have a death wish as he gleefully steers the TARDIS towards the very end of the universe. McGann appears to relish getting his teeth into this new character development. What the Doctor needs, more than anything, is hope...

VAD nursing assistant Molly O’Sullivan spends her days facing the horrors of the Great War. Little does she realise that a man from another world has arrived, looking for her. But what are the strange sounds that emanate from the battlefield in the night, where is the glowing gas coming from, and is everyone who they claim to be...?

Hope seems very far away as the Doctor arrives in the muddy wasteland of a World War I battlefield, and immediately falls victim to a gas attack during the first disc, The Great War. The setting and the mist lend something of a grim War Games vibe to the story. However, the old enemy waiting in the wings is not the War Chief...

Damage to the Doctor’s clothing appears to prompt a change of outfit, from the velvet frock coat of the TV movie to the decidedly Eccleston-inspired ensemble (which made its debut at the 2010 Armageddon Pop Culture Expo convention in New Zealand) depicted in the cover illustrations.

Just as they did in Blood of the Daleks, the Time Lords (specifically Straxus, who has regenerated into the authoritative Peter Egan) assign the Doctor to safeguard a young woman who is destined to become his new travelling companion - Molly O’Sullivan, played by Ruth Bradley (Emily in Primeval). The actress makes an immediate impression as Molly, a plain-speaking Irish girl, who recognises the Doctor’s battle-weariness for what it is. The woman’s historical background leads to some charming moments, such as her references to the Doctor’s vessel as his “tardy box”, but writer / director Nicholas Briggs also sets up an intriguing mystery, as Molly appears to know her way around a TARDIS already...

This box set involves quite a bit of doubling up by the supporting artists, most of which I only realised when I heard the behind-the-scenes interviews on the bonus fifth disc. However, special mention must be made of Beth Chalmers, who plays four different roles in total, three of them on this disc, and is unrecognisable in each of them. Her main role is the formidable Matron, who is a million miles away from Chalmers’s more familiar persona as the Seventh Doctor’s Lost Stories companion Raine.

My only criticism of this action-packed first part is that the Daleks have been brought back so soon - chronologically straight after To the Death. Briggs does at least hold them back until the cliffhanger ending...



With the first objective of his mission completed, almost nothing is going to plan for the Doctor. He cannot contact or return to Gallifrey. Just when Molly O’Sullivan thinks she’s escaped one conflict, she finds herself in the thick of another one. What is it that connects the Doctor, the Daleks and the mysterious Ides Scientific Institute...?

Though the four discs that comprise Dark Eyes are roughly divided according to the locations visited by the TARDIS crew, this is very much one big serial rather than a collection of stories. That said, the second CD, Fugitives, is somewhat bitty in terms of its setting. It opens with the Doctor and Molly still in World War I, then takes them to World War II in the 1940s, the Ides Scientific Institute in the 1970s and a water world called Halalka.

However, the thrust of the narrative is more to do with how the travellers interact with each other than where they go - it’s a spiritual journey rather than a geographical one - and it is good to have the Eighth Doctor involved in such a lengthy storyline after so many single-disc adventures.



Something happened when Molly O’Sullivan was just two years old, and the Doctor thinks it is high time they found out exactly what it was. Meanwhile, the Daleks are fully activating their Temporal Chamber. While the Doctor and Molly get closer and closer to the terrible truth, the nature of reality itself seems to be in question...

The mysterious Kotris (Toby Jones, who played the Dream Lord in Amy’s Choice) really comes to the fore in the third disc, Tangled Web - and the casting of Jones isn’t this story’s only nod to the new television series.

Dark Eyes is constantly flirting with the new show, particularly with our knowledge that some day the Eighth Doctor will regenerate into the Ninth, and that at around that point the Time War will take place. In The Great War and Fugitives, I wondered whether the Doctor’s abuse of his TARDIS might cause damage resulting in a new interior design, as seen on TV. His sonic screwdriver can now do more than just open doors and explode bombs, just like the new series version. Tangled Web teases us further, with the prospect of a very different Skaro in the aftermath of a “Great War” against the Time Lords.

This time it’s the Doctor’s choice...



With Straxus and his TARDIS out of the picture, the Doctor and Molly have finally tracked the mysterious X to the planet Srangor. It is here that the truth of the threat to the universe will finally be revealed. What is the Dalek Time Controller’s ultimate plan? What exactly is the space-time projector? Who will survive this epic battle...?

After three very exciting episodes, the final one, X and the Daleks, comes undone in a confusion of technobabble and time paradoxes. This has been the closest Big Finish has ever come to linking up with the narrative of the new series, but at the last moment it turns away, probably because the company is obliged to by its licence agreement with the BBC. One wonders what could have been achieved (and what Briggs is probably dying to achieve, despite what he says in the interviews) if only Big Finish were allowed to truly touch the new show.

Nevertheless, Dark Eyes has given the Eighth Doctor a new lease of life, and good golly I hope this isn’t the last we have heard from Miss Molly either. Here’s to the next box - let’s hope it’s not a tardy one...


Richard McGinlay

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