Expiry Dating

Posted in Audio by - November 26, 2020
Expiry Dating

Released November 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Given how late in the Tenth Doctor’s televised run the enigmatic River Song was introduced and promptly shown to meet her ultimate fate, reuniting this pair for the latest trio of Tenth Doctor stories is certainly one of Big Finish’s more surprising moves. Of course, this woman who would become so incredibly important to the Doctor and who has flitted throughout his many lives has already found remarkable success in the audio medium, and after being seen to die the last time this particular incarnation met her, she is now asking him to undertake a mission with billions of lives hanging in the balance in James Goss’s ‘Expiry Dating.’

Few characters have such a complicated relationship with time and the Doctor as River Song does, and Goss maximizes on that potential with a story that primarily unfolds through a series of letters that show an increasingly complex game of manoeuvres and countermanoeuvres as she tries to get him to steal an important scroll that forms the crux of a fixed point in time and allegedly the fate of the universe. Through this prolonged sequence, both characters show just how confident, quick-thinking, and even arrogant they can be as each looks to manipulate the situation so he or she comes out on top and gets in the last word, and in many ways this burgeoning relationship comes to encapsulate what a married couple is often assumed to become. Naturally, River knows far more about the Doctor than he does about her at this point which certainly causes moments of consternation for the Doctor, but David Tennant and Alex Kingston share a genuine energy and chemistry that makes this charming and at times poignantly introspective tête-à-tête nothing less than enthralling even if it does carry on for a bit too long with many of the same notions repeated over and over again.

Yet while the chemistry between the leads and the potential that time-traveling allows are undoubted highlights, it can’t quite hide the fact that the ultimate storyline is fairly lean and ultimately perhaps too clever for its own good since River is furtively trying to get the Doctor to do something that is in his and the universe’s best interest all along. There is something to be said about the Doctor changing the way he thinks about certain basic assumptions, but the trials and requests that River has the Doctor go through could have been completely circumvented by one honest conversation. To that effect, River’s willingness to bring other incarnations into her scheme also serve only as additional filler, no matter how enjoyable that filler may be. The Fifth Doctor is amusingly most affected by River’s presence in a prolonged guest spot that takes infatuation to the next level, and both Peter Davison and Colin Baker help to dynamically flesh out this unnecessarily layered scheme that likewise brings out rarely seen aspects of the Tenth Doctor along the way.

‘Expiry Dating’ is without question a story perfectly suited for the audio medium, yet while these vignettes and the underlying game of one-upmanship between the Tenth Doctor and River are deftly acted, directed, and scored, they more serve to bring the Tenth Doctor closer to the Eleventh Doctor in his interactions with River rather than to truly develop the plot at hand. As such, it’s an intriguing character piece that is superbly confident throughout, but the end result is something less resounding than might be expected with the reunion of this particular duo.

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