The Doctor is reborn…well that’s what it seems like. There is a new look to the Eighth Doctor which has remained the same since Paul McGann debuted for Big Finish in January 2001. It was clear that this special release wasn’t going to be a happy laugh a minute affair. Out of the special releases that I was aware of, this was the one that I had some high expectations of. This was partly due to the extraordinary way that the last Eighth Doctor adventure ended and it’s been an awful long time since then and now we get the next chapter. Now over four episodes we get what is an effective conclusion to this part of the eighth Doctor era.
The story takes place after the events of To The Death. Where Lucie Miller and Tamsin Drew were killed by the Daleks as well has his great grandson and the Doctor is a broken man at the very beginning where he is trying to take the TARDIS to the brink before he is stopped. Having a downbeat and suicidal Doctor is not something that we are really use to. But the Doctor is stopped by Straxus who was previously played by Nikolas Grace in Sisters of the Flame and Vengeance of Morbius. Straxus gives the Doctor hope by sending him to the Western Front in World War One. Now I would think its fair to say that there are better places to find hope than in a war zone. Here he meets Molly O’Sullivan and they spend the story trying to fight Daleks.
The Daleks plan is quite a good one and I love it when there is a massive sense of scale and especially when its different to trying to invade a planet. The point of trying to wipe out timelords seems to lend itself towards the Time-war era of the Doctor which is good because the closer we get to that then the closer I feel like there isn’t such a big hole between the eighth and ninth Doctors. Molly is effectively a weapon that is being used to try and wipe out the Timelords designed by Kotris. Strange things happen throughout. Basically the Doctor blacks out and when he wakes up he is in a different situation that anyone else wouldn’t have been able to get out of and Molly is always with him. Thankfully this is explained in a satisfactory way and not rushed at the end. I think that the big plot point that Kotris is actually Straxus’s future regeneration might bother some people and they might have seen it coming. But I thought that it done better than in Trial of a Timelord.
Paul McGann is very good in this and its clear that he has got some new energy in this story. How much of its down to the fact he gets a new costume is unclear but I must say on that point I think that it’s a rather good outfit. I will miss the TV movie version but its always good to have a change every once and a half decades or so. He is still getting over the recent deaths and yet there are more in this story that he has to come to terms with but McGann’s Doctor does it in a way that is better than the way any other Doctor would do it. That’s the genius of McGann’s Doctor.
Ruth Bradley plays Molly O’Sullivan who is a VAD. Did you know what a VAD was? I didn’t. Apparently it stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment. She is introduced to us in an unusual way as she is writing a letter but we get a clear idea of who she is and what she does. The letter thing is maintained throughout the four episodes. The big mystery with Molly is just how can she recognise the TARDIS and be able to fly it like she’s been doing it forever whilst maintaining that she doesn’t know whats going on. The character’s journey was very interesting and it makes the listener connect with her. I liked how when she had the chance to either stay with the Doctor or leave, she decided on the latter which was the right thing for the character to do. She was feisty and funny in equal measure and it wasn’t going to be easy to replace Sheridan Smith but Ruth Bradley has done a good job.
The biggest name in this story is that of Toby Jones who appeared in the 2010 episode Amy’s Choice. Here he plays Kotris (a.k.a X) who is a Timelord and pops up every so often for a blink and you’ll miss it scene. Whoever decided to ask Toby Jones to play a part in this deserves a massive round of applause because it was a fantastic piece of casting. Everytime that I could hear his voice then I would be totally enjoying the scene. Jones is one of those actors who is brilliant in whatever he is in even if the tv programme or film is poo.
At the end of the day, Dark Eyes is an enjoyable adventure that had a lot to live up to after To The Death and whilst I don’t think it quite pulls it off, there is plenty to like about this adventure. Hopefully it won’t be so long between adventures for the eighth Doctor because this moody and slightly downbeat Doctor is quite fun in a weird kind of way.