The Eighth Piece

Posted in Audio by - December 24, 2018
The Eighth Piece

Released September 2016

Following the magnificent but mostly standalone opening installment ‘Absent Friends,’ the proper story arc of Doom Coalition 3 more fully asserts itself in Matt Fitton’s ‘The Eight Piece,’ the first of a two-part tale that spans seven centuries in three distinct times with several new and returning faces taking part in a most otherworldly series of events.

Although increasingly common, it’s still relatively rare for a singular Doctor Who story to concurrently explore different times and settings, but the looming threat of the pieces of the Doomsday Chronometer being assembled and the end of everything becoming a known quantity allows for a thrilling rush through Earth’s recent history. With these types of stories, then, there are two pathways frequently taken, the first being that in which Doctor is present in each time to drive the narrative forward and provide answers as needed and the second being that in which the story’s supporting cast is allowed to carry the weight with scenes unfolding in real time and explanations coming later. Accordingly, as ‘The Eighth Piece’ is only the first half of a story, the decision to choose the latter approach allows the scope of the central mystery to be built in quick succession as Liv visits a strange Clockmaker in fifteenth century Prague, the Doctor finds his knowledge forcefully questioned by Lord Thomas Cromwell in 1538 England, and Helen visits a Professor who is nearing the completion of his greatest work in 2016 Rome, though the split narrative does mean that the characters don’t quite have enough time to fully develop before puzzling and perilous events begin to manifest.

Truly, ‘The Eighth Piece’ is a difficult story to judge on its own merit because so much of it relies on the potential payoff of events introduced here and how the three disparate storylines will ultimately coalesce into one. Thus, while the Doctor meeting Cromwell and coming to terms with the thoughts and actions of this historical figure as he tries to assert crown over church would be the focal occasion of any other tale, there’s little time for that underlying emotion and nuance to fully manifest or the historical era to truly come to life before the living puzzle box Solver that the Doctor thought was only a legend told by the people of his own planet arrives to seek out another piece of the Doomsday Chronometer at the command of the Clocksmith. And while the Clocksmith is presented engagingly and performed well by Nicholas Woodeson as an artist fully dedicated to his craft, it’s clear that he will yet have a far greater importance going forward as he mentions the Coalition and offers the first hint of the overall plot beginning to take form.

All of this is without mentioning the return of River Song to the series as well, indicative of just how packed this release is as the narrative bombards the Doctor and his friends on every front. Her trademark cheekiness and innuendo is, as always, a welcome presence that adds a unique dynamic to the plot, especially as a nun who has no qualms about overtly fancying other members of the clergy. Again, it’s a certainty that River will become even more essential to the plot given her own knowledge and abilities, and the psychic cloak she is able to put up ensures that she will be able to interact with the Doctor while keeping their established timelines in check as needed, but she’s already driving much of the action as she saves Cromwell from attack and realises that the metal deposits outside of Prague Castle where Liv is have come from Syra and must be remnants from the Eleven’s TARDIS. This is quite an interesting approach for a prolonged Doctor Who arc to take, but Alex Kingston is certainly more than up to the task of leading and has already formed an immense chemistry with both Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan to essentially make this adventure a miniseries in and of itself. With a lot of setup but as yet no payoff, ‘The Eighth Piece’ hurdles along at breakneck speed with many fascinating ideas but most certainly will rely on its concluding half to offer a more cohesive experience overall.

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