Doctor Who: Dark Eyes
Published by: Big Finish
Starring: Paul McGann, Ruth Bradley, Peter Egan, Toby Jones and Nicholas Briggs
Finally we get an Irish companion aboard the Tardis and in this new boxset from Big Finish, we find an eighth Doctor, angry and hurt by the climatic events of his last adventure To the Death which ended his regular run of stories. He is halted from travelling to the end of the universe where he wants to find some hope by Straxus, sent by the Time Lords who have a mission for him; a mission that may give him the hope he so desperately seeks. He must find a person whose DNA has been found. Somehow they are connected to the mysterious race that will bring destruction to everything.
However, the Doctor finds little hope when he finds himself in France in the battlefields of the First World War where he is caught in a gas attack which leaves him among the wounded in a makeshift hospital where he meets Molly O’Sullivan, a VAD, an almost nurse who has the darkest eyes that the Doctor has ever seen. The story doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war and the conditions these would-be nurses had to work in to save soldiers’ lives. But strange things are happening; there are strange sounds of tanks scraping against barbed wire in the night except tanks haven’t been invented yet. There are strange glowing clouds of gas sweeping the land which turn out to be time winds. The Time Vortex is leaking somehow and the Doctor discovers there are more pressing matters as someone is trying to kill him.
The Daleks are back and part one, The Great War, ends in a stormer of a cliffhanger which throws you head first into the next part of the story. In part two, the Fugitives, battling the Daleks again so soon after To the Death, gives us a Doctor on the edge of collapse where he wants to give up and stop fighting creatures like the Daleks. The mystery deepens when Molly enters the Tardis and has the most inventive reaction to its interior ever which adds to her character and the story. Not only that, but the Doctor discovers she is the one the Time Lords are looking for… and so are the Daleks.
Molly is played by Ruth Bradley and she is every bit as feisty as any Irish girl who is more than a match for the Doctor. She provides an insight into the Doctor that we rarely see. She compares him to a soldier that has seen the horrors of war and never speaks of it. The Doctor finds himself drawn to her in ways he never imagined. And being a historical companion she has a refreshing reaction to the Doctor, time travel and the mad world he has dragged her into. Her initial shock turns to delight as she wants to see something nice after they are nearly killed in a ship bombing in the Second World War and tackle the Daleks again in 1972 where they find the Doctor has provided money for an experiment which opens a doorway in time.
The Molly mystery is drip fed a bit at a time while cleverly drawing out the fun loving side of the Doctor that has been crushed by recent events. It is a joy to hear him laugh as they swim in a gravity field on an alien world, a world where spies are watching them, Molly cannot understand the local language and someone has turned the local dolphins into killers (no, really – ed). No matter where they go, the Daleks follow. But why? And the Doctor is left even more puzzled when Molly flies the Tardis. McGann is superb as the Doctor as always, wonderfully portraying a man weary of the battles of war and needless death that seem to plague him and those he loves.
In part three, the Tangled Web, we delve further into Molly’s history where we see when she was two she was taken, and the Doctor needs to find out by what, since she can pilot the Tardis. Layer after layer is unravelled, enticing the listener on as we get swept up in the mystery that is Molly O’Sullivan. It’s almost the reverse of the Donna Noble plotline where the companion is being manipulated by forces to get both them and the Doctor to a certain point in time where history has to play out. We discover that the villain, Kotris, a renegade Time Lord who is allied himself with the Daleks to destroy the Time Lords (or has he?), took Molly when she was two and did something to her. We have a beautiful image here of a horse drawn Tardis carriage hailing back to the Master’s first appearance in Terror of the Autons. He is played by Toby Jones best known to fans as the Dreamlord from the episode Amy’s Choice. And all that is happening is down to Kotris himself. When they arrive at Molly’s second birthday they discover the truth but their arrival doesn’t go unnoticed and somehow the Tardis turns against them as it shuts down and the Doctor suffers a breakdown of sorts. When he wakes, he and Molly are chased again by the Daleks and they are locked out of a Tardis, a Tardis that Molly couldn’t possible have opened since it had no power. And the Daleks’ surprise us when they apologise for scaring the Doctor and Molly, concerned for their safety in case they get cold while trapped in a cave and beg the Doctor to be friends with them. They have a new penchant for flowers and building a lovely place where they laugh with children. The Doctor is suspicious, but Molly points out that this may be the hope he was looking for or is he so sickened by war with the Daleks he can no longer entertain the possibility of this being a reality?
And when we hit the final episode after the game-changing climax to episode three (stunning is an understatement), everything is up in the air as the Doctor finds his very sanity is at risk. The surprises come thick and fast in the last installment, when everything is revealed, and what we thought we knew so far is turned on its head. And that’s all I’m saying for now. I’ve torn out the last page for you so you have to discover it for yourself. Except this ending is one you’ll like. To discover the Dalek plan, Kotris’ part in it, who’s fooling who and exactly who Molly is ,you’ll have to buy this one.
Overall, Dark Eyes is another excellent entry into the Paul McGann era with a companion that fits him brilliantly without being in your face. The story bounces from one expectation to another, leaving you unsure if what is really going on. And, despite recent cries that the Daleks have been overused, here they are brilliantly done; partly harking back to the calculating Daleks of both the series and old comic strips. They gain new aspects and are back to their glory days. Maybe it’s time Nicholas Briggs wrote for the television series and put the pepperpots back where they belong.