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A New Chapter For The Eighth Doctor Begins
The Doctor needs to find some hope! Will he find it?
‘Dark Eyes’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ box set of four linked audio dramas. It stars Paul McGann as the Doctor; Ruth Bradley as Molly O’Sullivan; Peter Egan as Straxus; Toby Jones as Kotris and Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks. The four episodes in this box set are all written and directed by Nicholas Briggs.
I purchased this box set in August 2013 to celebrate the Eighth Doctor era for the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. This is an epic box set from Big Finish. I’m so glad I purchased this to commemorate Paul McGann’s era during that special year. ‘Dark Eyes’ won an award for best online drama in 2014.
Since his first appearance in ‘The TV Movie’, the Eighth Doctor has appeared in plenty of Big Finish audios. Now we have the beginning of a new chapter of the Eighth Doctor, as he goes on a new journey in his life. This could be the start of how the Eighth Doctor went on to fight in the Time War.
This is a 5-disc CD set with the four episodes of ‘Dark Eyes’ on the first four discs. The episodes are ‘The Great War’; ‘Fugitives’; ‘Tangled Web’ and ‘X and the Daleks’. The fifth disc is a behind-the-scenes disc that focuses on the making of ‘Dark Eyes’ and features interviews with the cast and crew.
The story of ‘Dark Eyes’ takes place after ‘Lucie Miller’/’To the Death’ where the Doctor was robbed of three people in his life by the Daleks, including his companion Lucie Miller. If you’ve not heard the previous Eighth Doctor Adventures before this, you might find this box set a struggle to understand.
1. ‘THE GREAT WAR’
This episode starts with the Doctor broken, as he pilots his TARDIS towards the edge of the universe.
But the TARDIS soon gets stopped on the way by the Time Lords and another TARDIS materialises in the console room. Out steps Peter Egan as Straxus, a Time Lord whom the Doctor has met before.
I was pleased to hear Peter Egan as Straxus in this box set. Peter played Paul in the BBC sitcom ‘Ever Decreasing Circles’. Here he delivers an interesting and suave performance as this shifty Time Lord.
The Doctor has had enough of being manipulated by the Time Lords and wants to find some hope. Straxus sees the Doctor in turmoil and offers him a chance to find some hope by going on a mission.
Paul McGann excels as the Doctor in this new chapter of his era in ‘Doctor Who’. Paul’s Doctor is no longer the happy and joyous man that he once was, since that was taken away cruelly by the Daleks.
It was interesting to hear how Paul plays his Doctor in this box set, as he adds a darker and brooding layer to him. There seems so little chance of the Doctor being happy again since he lost Lucie Miller.
But the Doctor is not ready to give up on his search for hope and when Straxus gives him a chance to go looking for it, he takes it readily. It will mean going on a mission into dangerous territory on Earth.
The Doctor also acquires a new look in this new chapter of his. He ditches his old Byron clothes and wears a leather jacket looking more like Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. He also gets a new haircut.
For this mission given to him, the Doctor takes the TARDIS into horrors of the First World War in No-Man’s Land. He has to search for someone who turns out to be important in the universe’s future.
I like the First World War setting featured in this episode. It’s not a pleasant setting and it’s one I’d not to go to. But it provides an anchor in a familiar Earth setting when the Doctor begins his mission.
The Doctor meets someone called Molly O’Sullivan. Molly is an Irish Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing assistant who helps out in the Great War. She has a lot to put up when she helps in this war.
I found Ruth Bradley as Molly a very interesting character. She has this tough and uncompromising exterior when she is tending to the injured. But she is also someone who does have a gentle heart.
Molly at first seems suspicious of the Doctor, as he just happens to be there when out on No-Man’s land. She doesn’t know anything about the grief and the pain that the Doctor’s just had losing Lucie.
I liked the maternal relationship Molly forms with one of his VAD colleagues, Isabel Stanford, and the special friendship she has with Kitty Donaldson. She’s perplexed when a strange glowing gas comes.
Toby Jones guest stars as the mysterious Kotris. Toby was the Dream Lord in the Matt Smith TV episode ‘Amy’s Choice’. Kotris seems to be working for someone and is also observing the Doctor.
It turns out that Molly is the person that the Doctor has been looking forward when he uses his sonic screwdriver on her. The Doctor begs Molly to help him when he’s to be killed by a blood transfusion.
Molly eventually helps the Doctor and they both escape out into the open when the glowing gas comes to attack. The Daleks then appear and they’re out to exterminate the Doctor and take Molly…
‘The Great War’ rating – 10/10
The Doctor and Molly escape the Daleks in an explosive opening sequence in this episode.
A lot happens when the Doctor and Molly make their escape and there’s quite a lot of tension between on the way. Very soon, they find the TARDIS back in No-Man’s Land and they escape into it.
The fugitives are clearly the Doctor and Molly, as they’re on the run from the Daleks who are chasing them. The Doctor is so angry that the Daleks are behind this and that the Time Lords never told him.
Molly soon becomes the Doctor’s new companion as she goes into the TARDIS with him after escaping the Daleks. It turns out that Molly has been in the TARDIS before but she can’t remember.
The Doctor is surprised and disturbed as Molly can’t explain how she knows she’s been in the TARDIS before (or ‘Tardy box’ as she calls it). He doesn’t like it when she’s fiddling with the TARDIS controls.
It was exciting to hear the Daleks in this box set, as they chase the Doctor and Molly. One wonders why they want Molly as their plans for conquest become mysterious and disturbing for the Doctor.
The Doctor notices some about Molly’s eyes. They’re dark, so he ends up calling her ‘Dark Eyes’. Molly doesn’t like being called that and she threatens to punch the Doctor if he calls her that again.
The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Molly from the First World War to the Second World War on Earth. This shocks Molly, especially since she thinks the war she’s been fighting has gone on for a long time.
They soon end up in 1970 in a house on Baker’s Street. This is the same house the Doctor lived in as the Fifth Doctor in ‘The Haunting of Thomas Brewster’. It turns out that the Daleks are waiting there.
The Doctor and Molly also meet Natalie Burt as Dr. Sally Armstrong in 1970. Sally seems to know a lot about them, as the Doctor sent a message to her about creating a machine. It’s timey-wimey again!
Sally sadly gets ‘killed’ when the Daleks hunt the Doctor and Molly down. The Doctor is upset about the Daleks killing people and gives himself up when they come for them. But he gets knocked out…
…by Molly, who gets him into the TARDIS to escape the Daleks! The Doctor recovers and he sets the TARDIS off to escape from the Daleks. The Doctor is amazed that Molly saved him from the Daleks.
I really liked those sequences where Molly is being cheeky towards the Doctor, as they both go off exploring the universe and have fun. It puts the Doctor in his happiest mood when he’s with Molly.
Peter Egan appears as Straxus in this episode in a number of strange sequences on an alien planet. Straxus throws himself off a cliff so that he can get killed. But he’s alive. What’s all this about then?
The Doctor and Molly, whilst having a fun on the planet Halalka, get involved in another crisis. It turns out the dolphins there have metal. They soon escape in the TARDIS before the Daleks turn up.
The Dalek Time Controller returns to ‘Doctor Who’ in ‘Dark Eyes’. I liked the deranged sound that Nick Briggs makes when he voices the Dalek Time Controller. Who knows what he’s up to later on?!
Very soon, Toby Jones as Kotris comes to Halalka and is joined by the Daleks. It turns out that he’s been working for them. It looks like the Doctor will be falling into another trap again by the Daleks…
‘Fugitives’ rating – 10/10
3. ‘TANGLED WEB’
In this episode, we find out more about the truth of Molly O’Sullivan and why she’s so important.
There’s a prologue scene where Kotris ‘rescues’ Molly as a two-year old girl and returns her to her worried-stricken parents in Ireland, 1893. But it seems Kotris has had little Molly inside ‘his’ TARDIS.
The Doctor and Molly also visit Ireland in 1893, as they try to discover the truth about why she remembers being in the TARDIS before. They see little Molly being taken by Kotris into his TARDIS.
This surprises the Doctor, as Kotris doesn’t seem to be a Time Lord (or at least the Doctor doesn’t sense him as one). Who is this Kotris? Why is he mysterious and why is he working with the Daleks?
There are some very interesting scenes that Kotris has when he interacts with the Dalek Time Controller. They’ve been monitoring the Doctor and Molly and want to use Molly as their weapon.
There are some interesting scenes between the Doctor and Molly as they get to know and trust each other. Molly seems to wish for the Doctor to take her back to the First World War which shocks him.
Molly reveals how much she loved her friend Kitty like a sister and the Doctor is equally missing her time with Lucie. The Doctor seems to be strangely getting headaches inside him during this episode.
I liked it when the Doctor describes what hope is to Molly. He describes it as a being something that hurts and you cling onto it no matter what. This is what hope is like for me sometimes when I feel it.
The Doctor and Molly soon arrive on an alien planet which turns out to be Skaro. They find the Daleks there and they all seem to be friendly. This seems to be too good to be true for the Doctor.
This reminded me of a similar Dalek story called ‘The Ripple Effect’ in the ’12 Doctors, 12 Stories’ series. Here, it’s a similar situation as, disturbingly, the Daleks seem to be laughing and playing with the children.
The Doctor and Molly meet someone called Thelus. He welcomes them to Skaro and tells them how the Daleks ended up being good and tries to prove it. But the Doctor isn’t convinced…and he’s right.
It turns out that the Doctor has been dreaming all of this since he’s had electric nodes plugged inside his head. He’s held in a container by robots. He angrily demands that they tell him what is going on.
Pretty soon, the Doctor and Molly are rescued by Time Lords, led by Straxus himself. The robots turn out to be Mezcoranis and the Doctor and Molly escape with Straxus in his TARDIS away from ‘Skaro’.
Soon the Daleks arrive where the Mezocranis are, as they’ve come looking for the Doctor and Molly. They end up killing the Mezocranis who are so astonished that they exist from the Doctor’s dreams.
As they escape, the Doctor angrily rebukes Straxus for not telling him that it was the Daleks. The Doctor knows he is being manipulated by Straxus to carry out the Time Lords and the CIA’s missions.
Straxus reveals to the Doctor and Molly about who Kotris is. Kotris is claimed to be a once former Time Lord and is only known on Gallifrey as ‘X’. Kotris is also haunting and appearing in Molly’s head.
The Doctor has to go on a mission to discover more about Kotris/X. Soon Straxus’ TARDIS gets time-rammed in the vortex. The Doctor is forced to leave in his TARDIS, but he won’t go without Molly…
‘Tangled Web’ rating – 10/10
4. ‘X AND THE DALEKS’
The Doctor manages to take Molly with him in the TARDIS whilst Straxus’ TARDIS gets ‘destroyed’.
Molly really doesn’t like being called ‘Dark Eyes’ whenever she’s with the Doctor or somebody else. She can really give a good punch on the nose to anyone who calls her that, as it gets on her nerves.
But the fact that the Doctor calls Molly that name is pivotal in the story. The Doctor is astonished that Molly’s eyes are so dark, as he wants to find out why and what Kotris and the Daleks did to her.
The TARDIS soon arrives on the planet Srangor, the place where Straxus came to and attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself off a cliff. The Doctor hears this from a herder and is surprised.
The Doctor and Molly soon meet the people of Srangor, who are enslaved by the Daleks. They meet Nadeyan who becomes a willing ally to the Doctor and Molly, as he’s been tormented by the Daleks.
There is a moment in the story where the Doctor and Molly are climbing up a rock-face, and Molly falls to her seemingly demise. The Doctor is gut-wrenched and horrified as he’s lost someone ‘again’.
The Doctor is rescued by Nadeyan, who realises that he’s lost Molly. Nadeyan says Molly falling to her death is better than being killed by Daleks. But the Doctor rebukes him, saying that it isn’t better.
The search for hope has gone out of hand for the Doctor. Molly’s ‘death’ reminds the Doctor of losing Lucie and he contemplates how to keep on going. He is persuaded by Nadeyan to not give up.
It turns out though that Molly didn’t die after all and that she’s still alive. But Molly is soon captured by the Daleks and X/Kotris. They soon interrogate her and get the information they need from her.
The Doctor eventually finds Molly when she’s being used by Kotris and the Daleks as a weapon. X/Kotris reveals he wants to use Molly to destroy the Time Lords as the Daleks are helping him do it.
It transpires that Molly has been filled with deadly temporal particles in her eyes, making them so dark. This was implanted in her when Molly was taken by Kotris as a two-year old girl for their plans.
The Doctor is puzzled as to why X/Kotris wants to destroy the Time Lords and Kotris says that they’re the worse killers compared to the Daleks. The Doctor denies this as no-one is worse than the Daleks.
Straxus meanwhile in is in the background inside the Doctor’s TARDIS and he reveals his plans to Nadeyan. His plans include killing Molly. Nadeyan gets upset and goes out to prevent this happening.
It’s revealed that X/Kotris is actually Straxus as a future incarnation. But Kotris is a Straxus who has had all his Time Lord DNA removed and is filled with the Daleks’ so that he can destroy the Time Lords.
I liked it when Straxus becomes self-pitying. He blames his faults on everyone else and not himself. The Doctor defies Straxus, telling him he’s a coward and has himself to blame but just can’t accept it.
At the end, the Doctor and Molly return to the TARDIS and escape. It turns out that Molly doesn’t have her ‘dark eyes’ anymore. Whilst the Doctor’s out of the scene, Molly pilots the TARDIS herself.
The TARDIS returns back to her own time during the First World War. She leaves a note to say goodbye to the Doctor as she goes to look after Kitty. Will the Doctor ever see Molly again I wonder.
‘X and the Daleks’ rating – 10/10
The fifth disc of this box set contains an in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary looking into the making of ‘Dark Eyes’. It contains behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew of this box set.
The documentary starts with writer/director Nick Briggs, giving a brief history of the Eighth Doctor at Big Finish and discussing the creation of ‘Dark Eyes’. It was interesting hearing from Nick how he wanted a time of reflection in order to prepare for what was to come next with the Eighth Doctor.
There are also interviews with Paul McGann and Ruth Bradley. I like Paul’s comments about approaching this new era and he discusses the new look of the Eighth Doctor in his clothes. Ruth sounds lovely when she’s being interviewed and she seemed to enjoy playing Molly in this box set.
There are also interviews with the supporting cast including John Banks; Alex Mallinson; Beth Chalmers and Jonathan Forbes. It was also nice to hear Peter Egan being interviewed about his work for ‘Doctor Who’ for Big Finish and hearing Toby Jones talking about his role as Kotris in this box set.
I liked some of the behind-the-scenes outtakes when Nick Briggs is voicing the Daleks. His Dalek voices terrify the actors in the recording booths and it was funny when he was singing as a Dalek at one point. Ruth Bradley and Paul McGann make some good rueful remarks about the Dalek voices.
The documentary ends with Nick Briggs talking about the future of the Eighth Doctor and the unanswered questions that need resolving in ‘Dark Eyes’ e.g. Sally Armstrong. Also Paul McGann talks about his involvement in ‘Doctor Who’ due to the forthcoming 50th anniversary year in 2013.
Once again, I really like how this box set is put together with the individual CD covers for the four episodes. I also liked the pictures inside the individual CD covers that show snapshots of this story.
‘Dark Eyes’ is a great new beginning for Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. The theme of hope shines throughout in this story and it sets the Eighth Doctor back on a new track in his life. Who knows what will happen to the Doctor next and where he will go. I’m looking forward to finding out.
‘Dark Eyes’ box set rating – 10/10
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