Swipe Right

Posted in Audio by - June 02, 2024
Swipe Right

Released May 2024

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In what has been billed as Christopher Eccleston’s final Big Finish series at least for a while, Star-Crossed has the scarred and broken Ninth Doctor confront the famed archaeologist River Song, the woman who in another time and place will become his wife. They are hardly the perfect match here, however, as they independently investigate the mysterious Matchmaker that is looking to pair up the local population of Crell, and time is quickly running out for the locals who have not accepted potential matches in ‘Swipe Right’ by John Dorney.

Dorney sets the scene for this story incredibly effectively right from the start, showing the fatal consequences of someone swiping past too many dating profiles on this world. Given the ubiquity of dating apps in the modern world and how casually people can dismiss others in their search for relationships and love, this is an intriguing subversion of typical operating procedures where one can browse and choose anonymously with little consequence by immediately creating a sense of genuine tension as time and possible relationships pass by so easily. On Crell where relationships have become paramount to a functioning society since the Matchmaker arrived and quickly expanded its influence far beyond being simply another quirky app that pervaded the public consciousness, the ramifications for those not yet paired up is palpable with each and every dinner date truly becoming the most important thing in the world as each interaction is monitored and reported. Indeed, in a prolonged restaurant scene that verges on farce given the mistaken identities and the frequent bickering of the two restauranteurs, the comedy is used to offset the genuine tension, nervousness, and even fear that constantly accompany the single members of this society while allowing both the Doctor and River separate entry points into the particular dangers of this world.

Of course, the Doctor in this incarnation is anything but a man looking for love, and while he does not condemn the search for love and happiness by any means, he is rather appalled by the prospect of dating being turned into something resembling a virtual meat market. Still, the fact that he himself is not paired allows him to integrate into the system and save another individual from meeting their end, or at least it would were it not for the fact that the system recognizes River Song as his wife to further complicate affairs. Especially once River and he are together, this fact forces him to confront certain aspects about his potential future, and Eccleston is excellent here as his Doctor steadfastly proclaims that he will never have anything to do with romance even as evidence to the contrary stares him in the face. Alex Kingston and Eccleston share a superb chemistry as their characters ally to change the Matchmaker’s outlook on life and societal efficiency, and River boldly claiming that she will always be the one to take more overt actions so that the Doctor can continue to cling to his pacifist claims is a fitting summation of their relationship-to-be that honours the incredible amount of adventures and drama these two have and will come to experience. Just the fact that both the Doctor and River take it upon themselves to investigate this world based on the rumours of the Matchmaker with startlingly similar plans of action is a testament to the characters, and Kingston dramatically conveys the heartbreak of a woman who must accept that this version of her husband wants nothing to do with her or love in general, a harrowing fact that itself proves vital to allowing the Matchmaker to see beyond its stated parameters.

‘Swipe Right’ is, in essence, another story of an artificial intelligence taking its instructions far too literally without regard for consequences, but the very human element at its core as the familiar search for love proves to be anything but happy and optimistic adds an extra layer that is further elevated as the script also gingerly touches upon asexuality and rather humorously touches upon the fact that some of the happiest relationships can seem anything but to those observing. It’s not necessarily the deepest story, but ‘Swipe Right’ allows for an intriguing framing of the River relationship and of the Doctor’s feelings at this time that keeps its more fantastical elements grounded within the very real world of dating apps ad the waves of emotions they can likewise create.

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