Released February 2016
Doom Coalition 2, the second set of four stories in this sixteen-story epic to be released over four box sets, continues the adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Helen, and Liv, as they hunt for and battle the renegade Time Lord villain the Eleven.
Nicholas Briggs’s ‘Beachhead’ starts the set off with the Doctor looking to take a bit of holiday following the events of Doom Coalition 1, taking Helen and Liv to the quiet English village of Stegmoor in 2017. As is increasingly the case in Doctor Who, though, water works against the TARDIS team, a sudden flood knocking the Doctor out and leaving Helen and Liv to piece the puzzle of a mysterious energy source together. This provides a good premise for listeners to get re-acquainted with these companions and shows that they are both sensible and reasonable as they discuss what actions to take once they discover an uncovered black rock on the beach that might just be a spaceship. Helen, in particular, comes off as being much more confident here than she did in her initial adventures, but Liv is portrayed quite strongly as well as she eventually heads to the village to see if she can put her medical training to use in dealing with any injuries due to the flooding.
The setup for this story is actually quite ingenious as it transpires that the Third Doctor and UNIT previously visited Stegmoor following reports of a spaceship landing, finding nothing of note and in so doing leading to some long-term repercussions that set the basis for this story. Once the Doctor regains consciousness and finds out about the potential spaceship, he gleefully heads to the beach to explore, finding a crashed Voord force that has been hiding and recovering power for a very long time, indeed. The Voord disregard the Doctor’s warning to leave the Earth alone, giving him cause to turn their technology against them, though their ultimate fate remains unknown and they may again rear their heads at some future point.
In all actuality, the Voord do not feature all that much, and the resolution is quite rushed in terms of how quickly it all comes about. Instead, ‘Beachhead’ is more an episode for getting to know the companions and realising that the Doctor’s actions (or inactions) sometimes leave unintended consequences for those remaining in their wake. And so while this is more of a standalone adventure than would usually be anticipated for the opening story of a box set, it still serves its purpose quite well and leads the Doctor to the space that was once the Voord home planet as he realises that someone or something has been messing with time on a colossal scale.
John Dorney’s ‘Scenes from Her Life’ picks up from those events in ‘Beachhead’ as the Doctor tries to figure out how and why the Voord planet has been destroyed. His companions and he come upon a dilapidated TARDIS with its city-like interior exposed anchored in the time vortex, and the Doctor makes the decision to land and explore, knowing that this is a very dangerous choice that could end in disaster.
The Doctor soon comes upon Lord Stormblood and Lady Sepulchra, shown earlier to be sadistic torturers as they conduct their experiments. However, the due to the Doctor finds are clearly insane, ravaged by prolonged exposure to the time vortex and unaware that they are Time Lords or even in a TARDIS. The babbling insanity is perhaps a little hammy in some regards, but it is a striking contrast to the sharp and brutal minds they started out as and expertly shows just how serious the environment is to everyone involved.
Featuring events that occur during Doom Coalition 1’s ‘The Eleven,’ the Eleven himself makes his return here, Mark Bonnar again easily jumping between the multiple regenerations. However, it’s one of the experiments in Caleera that steals centre stage here, becoming a driving force for further events in this set. Whereas events were a bit rushed in ‘Beachhead,’ ample time is taken to explain this new character’s history and why Helen develops such compassion for her. Of course, in Doctor Who events never go exactly as planned…
And Marc Platt’s ‘The Gift’ picks up directly from that ending, bringing the Eighth Doctor back to San Francisco, albeit some ninety-three years before he regenerated into the man he is now. The Doctor is in a bit of a dazed and manic state following the traumatic events in the time vortex and leaves Helen and Liv as he sorts out his preoccupation with getting a haircut and comes upon Sam Sonora, a man preaching about the ending of the world tomorrow. It’s 1906, meaning the famed earthquake is imminent, tying into the titular gift and the preceding story.
Helen, meanwhile, is dealing with her overwhelming remorse regarding the compassion she showed earlier to Caleera, a fascinating arc for her character to explore as the repercussions of that compassion continue to unfold. She and Liv happen upon Charles Virgil McLean, a desperate actor committed to his craft who unfortunately finds himself in debt to some unsavoury characters in a mafia-type setup. This leads to a very strong moment for Liv as she stands up to the man Charles owes, but events lead up to an even bigger and verbally fantastic confrontation between the Doctor and Charles in the TARDIS as the gift starts to exert quite overpowering and menacing effects. The central conceit behind the gift is quite bold, and although the Doctor manages to emerge victorious, it’s not without cost as history must still run its course. However, through that destruction and sadness, a clear path to the finale emerges, as does a very strange note reading only, ‘Hello, sweetie.’
Matt Fitton closes out Doom Coalition 2 with ‘The Sonomancer’ as River Song calls for the Doctor’s help when she finds herself up against the Eleven on the planet Syra. The Doctor soon becomes embroiled in a battle to save the planet and to prevent the genocide of its inhabitants who believe their planet is a living entity as he confronts his foe, but it also becomes clear that the Eleven is now under the rule of Caleera.
The companions are again moments to shine in ‘The Sonomancer’ to further strengthen their characterizations. Helen continues her increasing run of confidence and independence as she tries to negotiate with the Syran populace, and Liv finally divulges some of her backstory dating back to before her first appearance in ‘Robophobia.’ Liv and River share a great chemistry as they sit imprisoned together, and it’s great to see Liv’s realization of just how many people in how many places the Doctor actually helps. Likewise, it allows River to drop some references to the modern era of Doctor Who before realising that she’s again crossed paths with the Eighth Doctor whom she must not meet directly.
It goes without mention, but Alex Kingston as River Song and Mark Bonnar as the Eleven are both absolutely pitch perfect. Although the Eleven ends up being sidelined in this release more than expected and his battle with Liv is all too brief, he’s still an absolute joy to listen to and clearly presents a unique menace who will hopefully continue to wreak havoc in future releases. If there’s one minor complaint with characterizations, it’s that River comes off as much harsher than usual when she continues to attack the Eleven following his apparent defeat. River has certainly been prone to angry outbursts and bouts of temper, but this is a more extreme extent than she’s reached before.
Overall, the plot points of the first three stories all converge very well in the finale of this set ‘The Sonomancer,’ giving the impression that all four authors worked in close collaboration and making for a more seamless experience. It’s surprising that the Eleven isn’t featured more prominently given how ingenious the concept behind him is and how successfully he translates to the audio medium given the excellent performance of Mark Bonnar, but it will be interesting to see where the introduction of Caleera takes the Doom Colation saga going forward. There are a few slightly off performances from the supporting cast, although nothing that ruins the experience by any means, but the lead performances are all superb and the scripts gives each player multiple opportunities to shine. While this may not be a monumental step forward in terms of progression of the overall storyline, the four stories still provide a very satisfying experience that further whet the appetite for the upcoming eight stories.