Doctor Who Review: Five Twenty Nine

I often hear a lot of criticisms towards characters from the Moffat era, most of which I agree with due to his often unflattering representation of gay or bisexual characters bar some obvious exceptions like Bill who was written wonderfully. But while I agree with nearly all of these one that I don’t disagree with fully but tend to find somewhat unwarranted is that of River Song. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this character; I hate her overly complex and arrogant back story but when she is given something interesting like in Silence in the Library or the Pandorica opens then she is nothing short of a highly compelling character. I was watching the Husbands of River Song the other day and I was just blown away by how good she was away from the pretentious poetic dialogue or delivering every line with an eye brow raised as seeing her away from the Doctor made me realise how interesting this badass archaeologist is, even if what she does is nothing like a real archeologist. Naturally I was disappointed that this was the last time River was going to appear on the show despite her incredible improvements, but was thrilled when she was added to the name of characters Big Finish develop into countless spin offs. 

As part of the weekly free lock-download Big Finish recently made one of River’s stories available. While I was pleased back in the late 2010’s that River was getting a spin off I didn’t have the time or money to actually listen to them so I was thrilled when this was released especially as it lived up to the hype I was going in with. The story follows a simple premise in which River washes up on a private beach where an old couple along with their synthetically grown daughter take her in until she can leave. 

The story is intelligently written as it is told from the family’s perspective meaning when River shows up and something very strange is happening you are hanging onto the little details, waiting to work out what. The actual plot sounds hard to understand and far fetched to begin with but when you actually think about it everything was clearly thought out from the very beginning, in order to make this work. The conclusion builds to a very emotionally satisfying climax which leads to, in my opinion, the best type of Doctor Who story; using high concept themes and ideas to explore character. I actually felt saddened by the crushing effects of the story and the score was beautifully subtle yet impactful. The entire cast deliver wonderful performances especially Alex Kingston who throughout the entire story really sold her place as a cosmic observer who can not interfere with established events but can help where possible. It’s quite a Doctor like role to take on and she proves seamlessly that a woman can easily play the Doctor. 

Overall this is a brilliant story that proves perfectly that River Song is a great character when she isn’t acting up in front of the Doctor. The writing perfectly balances plot and character and there is a wonderful sense of pathos throughout. 

I give this a 9/10. 

Written by: James Fraser

If you enjoyed this review then be sure to look out for my Talons of Weng Chiang review out tomorrow and be sure to let me know what else you would like me to review. 

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