THE DIARY OF RIVER SONG Se­ries One

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SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Reviews -

re­leased OUT NOW! 230 min­utes

Pub­lisher Big Fin­ish

She’s one of Doc­tor Who’s most dis­tinc­tive ( and di­vi­sive) re­cent char­ac­ters; now Big Fin­ish is con­tin­u­ing Pro­fes­sor River Song’s ad­ven­tures with their lat­est spin- off. While the last Christ­mas spe­cial seem­ingly wrapped up River’s saga, her non- lin­ear life means there’s plenty of po­ten­tial for ad­di­tional tales, and this new quar­tet of one- hour episodes is en­ter­tain­ing, if some­thing of a mixed bag.

It’s not al­ways en­tirely clear where The Diary Of River Song fits into the char­ac­ter’s fiendishly com­plex chronol­ogy ( we could be post-“The Hus­bands Of River Song”, or post-“The Wed­ding Of River Song”). The over­all plot sees River en­coun­ter­ing the Rulers of the Uni­verse, a gang of rich elites fond of in­ter­fer­ing with plan­e­tary civil­i­sa­tions. The sto­ries stretch from ’ 20s Egypt to the far fu­ture, and ul­ti­mately lead to an en­counter be­tween River and the Eighth Doc­tor ( Paul McGann)…

As with other Big Fin­ish box sets, each episode func­tions as a self- con­tained ad­ven­ture as well as part of an over­all arc, and the end re­sult is a colour­ful time-twist­ing drama that feels like a sat­is­fy­ing con­tin­u­a­tion for the char­ac­ter. It’s very much a game of two halves, how­ever – the first two episodes veer so closely to tra­di­tional Who- style romps that they some­times feel a touch generic, espe­cially the sec­ond episode’s space­bound who­dunit.

It’s in the last two episodes that things re­ally click into place, as the fo­cus shifts onto River’s re­la­tion­ship with the Doc­tor. The stronger, more char­ac­ter­ful ma­te­rial is matched by a re­li­ably im­pres­sive per­for­mance from Alex Kingston, and putting her along­side Paul McGann’s Doc­tor is a great idea. Ul­ti­mately a wor­thy and en­joy­able spin- off – even if its flaws also sug­gest that there aren’t an un­lim­ited num­ber of River Song sto­ries left to tell. Saxon Bul­lock

River also fea­tures in Big Fin­ish’s next Eighth Doc­tor box set, Doom Coali­tion 2, due for re­lease in March.

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