Dark Eyes 2 is the sequel to the award winning special that was released in 2012.It’s been a while since the first Dark Eyes release and I decided to not listen to that again before embarking on this release. I don’t think that it made any difference really because I knew who Liv Chenka was and also knew who Molly was an her relationship with the Doctor so any other bits of information would either be repeated in this series or not really be relevant. The last time that we heard from the eighth Doctor it was in the excellent ‘Night of the Doctor’ which did the great job of listing all of the Big Finish companions on TV (or the BBC website at least) for the first time. Nicholas Briggs wrote the entire first series of Dark Eyes but this time he has allowed others to write for him and this means that we get different types of stories.
When you look at the cast list of this release it seems like they have plucked all the good things from the special releases they did in 2012, its essentially a greatest hits for the Doctor but apart from Molly, the hits are from the McCoy era. Firstly is the return of Liv Chenka.Liv Chenka previously appeared in ‘Robophobia’ back in 2011.Nicola Walker is a big name actress and from the very beginning until the end was brilliant and its surprising that when I was listening to ‘Robophobia’, I couldn’t have imagined that she would be the character that she would turn out to be in this series.
At the start, Chenka is working for the Daleks. Working might be too strong a word but in the eyes of other people of Nixyce VII, she is and is seen as a traitor (hence the title). The thing that strikes me about Chenka’s role is that its very similar (every so slightly) to that of Susan Mendes in the ‘Dalek Empire’ series. It’s not a mirror opposite but I only came to that conclusion after she’s a tiny bit defiant to a Dalek. Despite a brief line at the very beginning its 10 minutes before the Doctor appears again. Pretty soon he has been turned into a roboman which even though its implied on the cover, I didn’t think would happen. It’s 30 minutes before the Doctor and Liv are reunited and its not a normal welcome as it was the seventh Doctor. It’s always good to see how a different Doctor interacts with a past character/companion and it works just as good as the sixth Doctor and Charley.
Despite only having of an hour and six minutes running time (the longest of the four), the first part of this story moves along at quite a quick pace. I never felt like the story was waiting for something big to happen and that was the result with the rest of the release as the whole thing moved at either a good casual pace or breakneck speed. A no time during the entire four hours and thirteen minutes did I find myself bored or disinterested. I might have been confused but it doesn’t take much to confuse these days.
It’s quite interesting that they don’t bring Molly back until the second episode. The White Room has an interesting opening two or three minutes. What starts off as interesting soon turns to puzzlement about ten minutes later when I am a little confused as to what is going on but that confusing state doesn’t last for long as there are more references to the white room. There’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with me about the character of Molly and I thought that Liv worked better with the Doctor than Molly. Though in the third part they do work quite well together.
The next familiar thing to pop up are the Viyrans who appeared between 2008-2009 largely in the Sixth Doctor and Charley stories. I have always liked the Viyrans and was delighted that they were bought back and genuinely didn’t know that they were going to be in this.
I felt like as the story progressed the tension and drama was really being cranked up to 11 and the end of the ‘episode’ is the best ending that we had until this point as Alex McQueen makes a brilliant return. He was easily one of the best things about UNIT: Dominion and it was one of the main reasons why I pre-ordered Dark Eyes 2. The final episode is where the Master and the Doctor finally get to meet and their first scene is one of the highlights of the entire story. I must admit that being a bit thick, I didn’t realise that it was McQueen at first until the very last moment of Time’s Horizons. Alex McQueen is chewing up the furniture and if I did have a critiscm of this series it would be that he didn’t feature more in it. When you’ve got a great piece of casting such as McQueen playing the Master in the way that he does, I would want more of him.
Paul McGann is simply superb from start to finish. He really has found a new lease of life since he left the main range and went off on his own. Since the Lucie Miller/To The Death epic end to series four of the Eighth Doctor adventures, McGann’s Doctor has taken on a new slant and very much like Eccleston’s Doctor. McGann hasn’t won the Best Doctor category at the Toms Tardis Awards since 2011 but I suspect that he could (and perhaps should win it this year).
The final scene between the Doctor, Liv and Molly is a nice lovely scene and felt like the best way that these three should depart. It would have ruined the whole thing if it had just been a quick goodbye but they gave some time to it and it then led into the Doctor’s final scene where he interacts briefly with a soldier before leaving almost immediately. The appearance of Frank Skinner is a total surprise (shows I didn’t pay too much attention to the cast list on the Big Finish website). At first I thought it was him and then doubted myself but its unmistakably him and its just a nice surprise to end the release.
I think that this is a stronger series than the first and that’s due to the fact that we have had different writers but also the fact that we know there will be a Dark Eyes 3 (out in November 2014) and a Dark Eyes 4 which means that we will be getting more Eighth Doctor adventures pretty soon. I have liked how varied the entire series has been and how they took a gamble structuring the series like they did but I have to say that it’s a gamble that paid off big time and easily my favourite release of 2014 so far.