Big Finish Productions
Doom Coalition 1

Written by Matt Fitton, John Dorney, Marc Platt and Edward Collier. Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2015

Starring Paul McGann

Synopsis: The Eleven, one of the most dangerous and insane criminals in Time Lord history, has escaped.


Monster of Gallifrey by Niall Jones 27/3/21

It's been more than a decade since Gallifrey returned to our screens, yet in that time we have met very few Time Lords. While the Master and Rassilon have returned on several occasions, it is hard to think of any major new Time Lord characters who have debuted within the past ten years, aside from the General. The lack of original Time Lord characters in the TV series may come down to the fact that most of the recent Gallifrey stories have focused on reassessing the Doctor's past - their role in the Time War in Day of the Doctor; their departure from the planet in Hell Bent; their whole identity in The Timeless Children - rather than on introducing genuinely new plotlines.

Big Finish's Doom Coalition acts as a corrective to this tendency by introducing a new Time Lord villain: the Eleven.

Whereas most Time Lords experience one incarnation at a time, the Eleven suffers from regenerative dissonance, meaning that his past personalities haunt his body and fight for supremacy over his mind, driving him insane. Although it is this distinctively Gallifreyan malady that makes the Eleven unique, the audio drama makes it clear that he is not a villain because of his condition, as almost all of his incarnations have voluntarily embraced evil. The Eleven is presented as a kind of anti-Doctor, someone who has pushed Time Lord morality to its very edge. Unlike the Doctor, the Eleven views kindness and love as weaknesses, and sees no value in the lives of 'lesser species' like humans. Significantly, the writers present his sense of morality as having been warped by his power as a Time Lord. Plans are made hundreds of years in advance and their eventual consequences justify any destruction caused along the way.

The first story in the boxset, entitled The Eleven, takes place almost exclusively on Gallifrey and sees the Eighth Doctor and Liv attempt to prevent the newly escaped Eleven from stealing the dangerous Regeneration Codex.

The Eleven is a pacy and exciting story that, like The Deadly Assassin, digs beneath the surface of Gallifreyan society and reveals the rot at its core. Although the story introduces a hitherto unknown character from the Doctor's past - Cardinal Padrac - it does not centre around the Doctor. Instead, it focuses on the Eleven, whose actions drive the narrative. Mark Bonnar is excellent as the Time Lord criminal, voicing all of the character's incarnations and brilliantly expressing his divided nature, as well as his sadism and violence.

The second story, The Red Lady, takes place in London in 1963 and introduces the character of Helen Sinclair, who goes on to join the Eighth Doctor and Liv in the TARDIS.

Inspired by Verity Lambert, Doctor Who's first producer, Helen is a linguist, working for the National Museum, who finds herself rebelling against the sexism of her era. She is a good companion who both contrasts with and complements Liv. Whereas Liv is used to space travel and is familiar with robots and aliens, all this is new to Helen. In the third story, The Galileo Trap, her amazement at the experience of time travel is palpable and infectious. Although her refusal to bow down to patriarchy makes her seem more like a New Who companion, her departure from 1960s London is presented as a clean break, in contrast to many recent companions who have attempted to live a normal life alongside their adventures in the TARDIS, as she is more than happy to leave the 1960s behind.

The story centres around the mysterious Red Lady, a mysterious, deadly figure who appears in works of art from across history. The story deftly exploits the audio format to create uncertainty and unease, as the Red Lady looks different to different characters. Overall, the Red Lady is a creepy almost-ghost story that takes a simple idea and executes it admirably.

The Galileo Trap takes place in and around Florence in 1639 and sees a deadly plague gripping the city. Like many of the most successful Doctor Who historicals, The Galileo Trap takes distinct historical facts, such as Galileo's blindness and house arrest, and convincingly builds a science fiction plot around them.

While it would be easy to present Galileo as a heroic figure, he instead comes across as irascible and stubborn. Moreover, his desire for knowledge results in him being exploited by the story's villains, alien mercenaries whose cruelty and greed is disturbingly human. As with The Red Lady, The Galileo Trap uses the audio format to create a plot twist that would be impossible to achieve on TV.

The final story, The Satanic Mill, sees the Doctor and his companions confront the Eleven once more. Although the scale of the story is relatively small, the stakes are very high, as the Eleven threatens to destroy everything the Doctor holds dear. The setting, a Victorian factory orbiting the Sun, is intriguing, as are the people who work it. Created by the Eleven to taunt the Doctor, the workers live to work and have no sense of time - and therefore no sense of hope. They are slaves who do not recognise their own condition.

The Satanic Mill refers back to The Eleven and develops a number of its plot strands, as well as hinting at a larger plot that will no doubt come to the fore in subsequent boxsets.

Doom Coalition is an excellent series that achieves much across its four stories. It deepens the mythos of Gallifrey, introduces a new villain and a new companion. Even though it follows on from Dark Eyes 4, it does not become bogged down by continuity and carefully combines the telling of a long, overarching story with enjoyable adventures that largely stand alone.

Moreover, its deft exploitation of the audio format to tell its stories makes it a brilliant advertisement for Big Finish as a whole.