Posted in Audio by - June 04, 2024

Released May 2024


After three series of twelve stories that have immensely expanded upon Christopher Eccleston’s tenure as the Ninth Doctor, the current run of The Ninth Doctor Adventures comes to a close with Tim Foley’s Star-Crossed finale, ‘Archipelago.’ With the Doctor wanting only to be left alone, River asks him to accompany her on a dangerous journey on the planet Fortuna to help a small ship’s captain find his missing husband, promising to never bother him again if he does.

The unfortunate truth underlying this box set- as with any adventure featuring a Doctor earlier than the Tenth late in his timeline directly interacting with River- is that eventually a reset button or other means of amnesia must be employed to ensure that established events remain in tact. For better or for worse, ‘Archipelago’ boldly leans into this fact quite early as it visually describes the time storm confronting this vessel’s passengers and the unique temporary time boundaries within which a full-length beard can be grown before any evidence is erased as time for an individual resets once exiting. With that fact so boldly advertised, however, Foley nonetheless manages to impressively sidestep the ultimate inconsequentiality of this story while likewise erasing the events of the previous two by telling one of the most emotional and heartfelt stories this range has ever offered.

For his part, the Doctor is still quite standoffish to River, understanding the desire of a man to find his lover despite all odds being against any chance of success but not understanding just why River is so invested in this journey. He understands that River knows far more about him that he knows about her and still cannot fathom the fact that he in any incarnation could have the type of relationship she has intimated they will have from his perspective. As the journey turns more dangerous and they become stranded with a strange coral exerting its colourful influence as echoes of the future surround them, he does slowly begin to let down his guard and show a more vulnerable and even caring side than he has ever shown previously. This is a scarred Doctor who tries his best to hide his pain with bluster and humour, and River quite brilliantly calls him out on just why he acts the way he does in a standout moment that truly causes the Doctor to think about and confront himself as well as the possibilities that River offers. Doing the unthinkable and actually reading through River’s famed diary both to find help with their current predicament but also to fully understand just who this woman is, the Doctor comes to gain a respect and even admiration for River but insists that they must start slowly as friends, allowing for a truly poignant relationship to develop naturally with both firmly on equal ground without one knowing any more or less than the other as the Doctor astutely points out early on would forever be a detriment to any relationship. Although the voices don’t quite capture the immense passage of time portrayed here, the pure emotion and sentiment that Christopher Eccleston and Alex Kingston pour into their performances to highlight just how deeply these characters come to understand and care for each other are stunning and come to make the beauty of the new landmarks as time eventually circles back all that more resonant.

Again, while it is incredibly unfortunate that this series ends on a run of three adventures that are completely erased by his story’s end with only the most cursory explanation provided for the Doctor abruptly turning away from Crell, exploring the emotional depths of the Ninth Doctor who so rarely opens up to anything approaching the extent he does here is an absolute highlight that by itself makes Star-Crossed a worthwhile purchase. Beautifully written, directed, and acted, ‘Archipelago’ with River’s devout connection to her vortex manipulator and her husband in every incarnation is a strong finale that makes the most of its narrative limitations and necessary endpoint and that hopefully marks the beginning of only a brief pause with Eccleston’s Big Finish involvement given the immense quality on display here.

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