Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 3/12/17 1:15 pm
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.
In The Side of the Angels, the penultimate story of Doom Coalition, the Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companions have arrived in New York in the 1970s, only to find a very different city. With several new building projects underway, the Doctor soon discovers that Cardinal Ollistra (Carolyn Pickles) is behind this, funded by Reverend Mortimer, better known as the Monk (Rufus Hound), in an attempt to create a new Time Lord enclave on Earth. However, the Time Lords have made a deal with a deadly force, and when the Eleven (Mark Bonnar) comes to Earth to find the Doctor, these creatures may turn against the Time Lords. The penultimate story of Doom Coalition 4 was a busy story; stuffed with the Weeping Angels, the Monk, Cardinal Ollistra, the Eleven, AND New York City, this could have been a mess. But Matt Fitton found a way to bring together all of these strands in an interesting, exciting way. Buoyed by some strong performances by parts of the cast, this story was an enjoyable adventure, and a fantastic penultimate story.
Paul McGann returns once again as the Eighth Doctor, after being absent for most of the previous story. McGann leads alongside Rufus Hound as the Monk here, and he really does a great job. His presence wasn't missed in the last story, because of the excellent performances by Kingston and Bathurst, but his return is a very welcome thing all the same. McGann is a little more unhinged and ruthless here; he's willing to fight the Monk and Ollistra directly if it means saving his friends, and he's willing to get into a standoff with the Eleven, using the Weeping Angels as his gun. The rooftop confrontation between the Eleven, the Monk, and the Doctor is one of the highlights of this story, with McGann showcasing the ruthlessness of his character here.
Joining the Doctor in New York City is the Monk, played by Rufus Hound. Hound was a delight in The Black Hole as the Monk, and did a fantastic job in The Blame Game, but his performance here absolutely blew both of those performances out of the park. Hound brings a fantastic quality of confidence to his version of the Monk; he's arrogant, he's strong, and that makes his fall from grace by the end of the story all the better. His scenes are fantastic, but when the Elven (Mark Bonnar) finds him in the restaurant, Hound really pulls out all the stop. The final confrontation on the rooftop, with the Monk desperately trying to wriggle out of death, is Hound's best bit of acting from this story. Also joining the cast is Carolyn Pickles, playing an earlier incarnation of Ollistra, played by the lovely Jacqueline Pearce in the War Doctor audios. Pickles doesn't have as much screentime as Hound does, but she's still effective in the role as Ollistra. Her performance is bit more muted than Pearce's performance as Ollistra, and doesn't have quite the same sense of malice that Pearce's performance implied, but Pickles still does a strong job here. I particularly liked her chemistry with McGann, which both McGann and Pickles were able to harness to make for an interesting performance together.
Finishing the cast for this story are Mark Bonnar as the Eleven and Ronnie Ancona as Joanie Carrington. Bonnar, returning after a long absence, slides back into his role as the Eleven extremely well. Bonnar has consistently been one of the highlights of each story he's in, with his frenzied, varied performance always a delight. He is able to very successfully convey eleven different personalities with very little effort; from a murderous incarnation of the Six, to a taunting one of the Two, to the voice of reason of the Eight, Bonnar is able to portray each and every one well, no small feat for an actor. His performance is always sure to delight, and The Side of the Angels is no exception. Finishing the guest cast is Ancona as the deputy mayor of New York City, Joanie Carrington. Ancona has a smaller role here, acting almost as a companion du jour for the Doctor, but Ancona has several excellent performances, namely her death scene with Veklin (Beth Chalmers) and the disconcerting scene when the Angels use her voice to talk to the Doctor and the others. Ancona gives a strong performance, in a story with several strong performances overall.
Fitton's final contribution to Doom Coalition is a strong story, bringing together many disparate elements into an attractive, engaging package. It finally gives Big Finish a strong Weeping Angels story, after the disappointing Fallen Angels from Classic Doctors, New Monsters, Volume 01, while managing to build excitement for the finale of the box set. The highlight of this story is the excellent usage of the Weeping Angels. It's very difficult to make an original Weeping Angels story, but Fitton smartly doesn't try to make a new story. He pulls together pieces from The Angels Take Manhattan and Flesh and Stone, to make a story with elements that have been done before seem new and exciting. This story starts out as an odd alliance between the Time Lords and the Weeping Angels, and I figured that the Eleven would come in like an assassin, taking people out. But instead, Fitton has him turn the Weeping Angels loose against the city, plunging New York into a blackout that gives the Angels ample area to hunt. It was an interesting twist that I didn't see coming, and it made the second half of the story much more interesting and chaotic. Fitton didn't have as many humorous lines in this story, compared to the last one, instead focusing on the more serious aspects of the story. What I liked most of all from Fitton's writing though was how well he used the Eighth Doctor. The Eighth Doctor of Doom Coalition 4 has been driven to the breaking point; he isn't the same man who exclaimed that his shoes fit perfectly in San Francisco. He's a man who is trying to save the universe, and is very cross with the people who are preventing him from doing it. He ruthlessly allows the Monk to be sacrificed as part of his game to trap the Eleven, a shocking scene that represents a step towards the broken Eighth Doctor seen in Night of the Doctor.
One of the other highlights of this story was Benji Clifford's sound design, especially with regards to the effects used for the Weeping Angels. When Classic Doctors, New Monsters, Volume 01 was first announced, the Weeping Angels, a silent, extremely visual monster, seemed like a confusing choice. And whatever problems I had with Fallen Angels, Big Finish did a great job making the Angels work on audio. Clifford continues this tradition, delivering some excellent sound designing here overall, but especially with the effects used for the Weeping Angels. When done in conjunction with Jamie Robertson's swelling music, the tension increases with every flash of the Weeping Angels' sound, making for a disconcerting end result. It almost feels as if the Angels are closing in, making for a superbly visual story.
Overall, The Side of the Angels was a strong penultimate story. It had some excellent performances by McGann and Hound, with strong guest performances by Bonnar and Ancona. The story that Fitton delivered was strong as well, giving Big Finish their first effective Weeping Angels story, while also delivering a strong bit of character work for the Eighth Doctor and the Monk. This story had the potential to be an overstuffed disaster, but Fitton was able to effectively string together a number of disparate ideas into a strong, coherent story, to mark the end of his work on Doom Coalition.