Released March 2008
Consenting to Hex’s request for a holiday, the Seventh Doctor agrees to take his companions to The Festival of the Twin Moons of Tuin. Unbeknownst to the companions initially, though, is that Tuin is caught in the middle of a millenium-old war between the Ri and the Ir, the only momentary peace existing during the Festival. Yet while Ace and Hex try to make the best of their moment of respite, the Doctor is determined to put a much larger scheme into motion as he tries to bring about a peaceful accord through any means necessary- even his own marriage.
Intriguingly, although also in staying true to the character, the Seventh Doctor does not follow through on his promise from ‘Nocturne’ to keep his companions more aware of his plans, pamphlets that he just happens to find being the impetus for him suggesting Tuin as their destination. And while the Doctor spends the majority of the story trying to find a peaceful resolution for the two longtime enemy races, he never lets his companion know what he does and does not know himself. His secrecy does have some near-fatal consequences here, but it will be interesting to see if that brush with death finally forces him to start following through with his promise.
There are some very intriguing concepts littered throughout ‘The Dark Husband,’ but oftentimes they are treated as routine affairs rather than as interesting and revelatory issues. This is perhaps most egregious with the actual truth behind the ongoing war, both in terms of who is causing it and what it will take to stop it. It’s simply a plot point that is not fully fleshed out, and even rituals and the origin of the Ir and Ri that go along with it cannot further elevate that fact. Similarly, the writing and exchange of dialogue is quite formulaic, and there just isn’t any sort of lasting impact or fallout from the events that the characters will carry with them going forward.
There are some padding issues as well, but even the main performances aren’t quite as engaging as usual. The Seventh Doctor is an incarnation who thrives on deceit and wordplay, but he just doesn’t seem to be as invested in the situation as he normally is. Likewise, the normally stalwart Hex is written and portrayed radically different than in any previous story as he simply dedicates himself to immaturely enjoying the party. Ace does manage to get a few standout moments, at least, even managing to heroically rush to save the Doctor, but overall her character is somehow missing her usual spark and vivaciousness. There are flashes for all of them that prove they are still the same characters, but it’s as if they have all been muted and toned down. On the guest side, Danny Webb certainly does deserve due credit, playing two key characters whose identities should not be spoiled. He somehow manages to nail two completely different tones and accents in rapid succession as the plot brings both characters together, a definite bright spot in the release.
Ultimately, though, the repetition and rather muted performances overall keep ‘The Dark Husband’ from fully realizing its potential. With a little less padding and more time dedicated to the interesting concepts in the background, this could have been a standout release; as it is, it is a perfectly acceptable story that’s just a few tweaks away from becoming great.