Following the success of the first Dark Eyes box set, Big Finish began to increase their focus more on multi-part boxed sets rather than individual stories. Dark Eyes 2 represents the transition period between box sets being an experiment and box sets being the norm for Big Finish, so the writers go to a great deal of effort to try and sell Dark Eyes 2 as the next chapter in what would be an ongoing saga that lasts for a total of four box sets, making one long 16-part story arc. Whilst the first Dark Eyes was its own self-contained narrative, Dark Eyes 2 begins a story that picks up where the first box set left off and explains some things whilst also posing its own series of questions.
2.1 – The Traitor
This story introduces one of the Eighth Doctor’s longest running companions, Liv Chenka, who had previously appeared in the Seventh Doctor audio Robophobia. By this point she is working as a medical technician on Nixyce VII, under the supervision of a Dalek occupation. In a unique twist for a companion introduction story, Liv proves herself more than capable of dealing with the Daleks before she even meets the Eighth Doctor, and she is easily the standout element of this story. As the eponymous ‘Traitor’, Liv works with the Daleks for the greater purpose of providing medical care to slave workers on the planet, and when rebels attempt an incursion she is mixed up in helping them.
The Doctor, in the meantime, is infiltrating the same facility disguised as a roboman whilst being hunted by the Dalek Time Controller, and the story uses its runtime well to keep the intrigue present throughout and move the plot along quickly and logically. Unlike the previous Dark Eyes stories, there is less reliance on technobabble and instead we are treated to a classic Dalek runaround, which is a welcome change and a promising start to the series. The conflict between Liv and the rebels brings up the interesting question of whether reform or revolution is the best path to take, as Liv uses Dalek technology to help the wounded whilst the rebels kill slaves to hurt the Daleks.
Another thing worth mentioning about this story is the character of the Dalek Time Controller, who returns once again and is as devious as ever. Nick Briggs does a fantastic job voicing this Dalek, the voice is unlike any other Dalek we have heard before, almost sing-song like Dalek Caan yet as arrogant and domineering as any Supreme Dalek. By this point the character of the Dalek Time Controller has been fully realised, and he is a refreshing new twist on the Dalek leadership that allows for more flexibility of storytelling as his motivations deviate from that of other Dalek Supremes. In many ways, this is reflective of The Traitor itself, as it is in many ways a standard Dalek story but it is different enough to be refreshing, and the New Series should definitely look to stories like this for ways in which they can use the Daleks in new ways.
2.2 – The White Room
The Eighth Doctor is reunited with Molly once again, and her dark eyes return as the retro-genitor particles from the previous box set appear to infect her once again. After living in the Doctor’s house until he shows up, she is involved in temporally-related intrigue as a sinister organisation begins abducting deserters and criminals to perform twisted experiments on them that render them almost completely translucent, and capable of limited time-travel. In the meantime, the Doctor hunts Molly down using the TARDIS after she is kidnapped by the insidious shadowy force at large.
The shadowy force turns out to be the Viyrans, a recurring species original to the Big Finish audios who were introduced in the Sixth Doctor Main Range story Patient Zero who are hunting various strains of alien virus that were scattered throughout the universe as the result of a Dalek incursion. Rather like the Judoon, the Viyrans are not necessarily evil but they are often willing to go to any necessary lengths to complete their task, which sometimes puts them at odds with the Doctor. In this case, the Viyrans are attempting to contain a controlled outbreak of a time-active virus, and are willing to destroy a sizeable portion of England in order to neutralise it.
The White Room is the first example of the Dark Eyes series telling a story that is not directly related to the overall story, and instead opts to use a pre-existing monster to tell a story that involves Molly and the Doctor reuniting, and the end result is very good. In fact, this is arguably one of the best audios in the Dark Eyes saga so far, as Molly is finally treated as an actual character first and a plot device second, and we also get a sense that the saga encompasses more than just the Doctor, the Daleks and the Time Lords. More importantly, however, it stands as its own story, and requires none of the context of the previous stories, unlike the next few stories which delve deeper into the series arc.
2.3 – Time’s Horizon
This audio is where the Dark Eyes story starts to get more complex, as the Doctor seemingly aids the Daleks in destroying one of their foes as he has knowledge of the other species that the listener hasn’t met yet and claims that they are in fact a greater threat than the Daleks themselves. The Doctor and Molly arrive on a spaceship at the edge of the universe, where Liv and a crew of humans have woken up from years of cryogenic sleep after fleeing the Dalek invasion. For Liv, this is set after the events of The Traitor, but for the Doctor those events haven’t happened yet, which presents an interesting situation for the two characters as Liv is still dealing with the aftereffects of that story. The intrigue that surrounds her and the other members of her crew plays an important part in this story, unlike many base-under-siege Doctor Who stories, the supporting characters are developed as actual characters instead of as throwaway pawns.
In many ways this audio is a turning point in the Dark Eyes series, as it not only introduces the newest recurring enemy of the saga but also shows the first meeting between Molly and Liv, and the disjointed order of the stories in Dark Eyes 2 so far begins to make more sense as the big threat is finally revealed known as the Eminence. This psychic, gaseous entity transforms living beings into bizarre entities known as Infinite Warriors, and is soon identified by the Doctor as a serious threat from the times he met them in Fourth and Sixth Doctor audios. The Doctor’s willingness to help the Daleks against the species that we now know to be the Eminence in The Traitor makes a lot more sense as they are arguably just as deadly a threat to humanity as the Daleks.
It is worth mentioning that there are some genuinely horrifying scenes in this audio, and the sound design, soundtrack and excellent performances from the cast come together beautifully in some really tense scenes surrounding the introduction of the Eminence and the Infinite Warriors. Interestingly enough, this audio features an eerie electronic remix of the Doctor Who theme used as part of the soundtrack, which is one of the few times in the entire history of the series that this is done. As one final treat, Time’s Horizon delivers an incredible twist that proves once again that Matt Fitton is one of the best writers Big Finish currently have at their disposal.
2.4 – Eyes of the Master
This audio culminates the wider story of Dark Eyes 2 whilst also rounding off several elements of the the original Dark Eyes, making it one of the most gratifying audios of the series as answers are finally forthcoming. However, this one is not for the squeamish as the Master has set himself up as an Optician and is literally harvesting the eyes of unwitting humans. Speaking of the Master, this audio features the first appearance of Alex Macqueen’s Master in the Eighth Doctor audios, and for many this is the first chronological story for the character that they will have encountered. In that sense it is unfortunate that the title spoils the reveal that Alex Macqueen is playing the Master, as it would have been an excellent reveal of it hadn’t been spoiled in advance. Macqueen makes an exceptional Master, and it is unfortunate that this incarnation has never had any appearances on-screen as he is a perfect blend of John Simm’s jovial insanity and Roger Delgado’s gentlemanly charm and seems to be tailor-made for the tone of the New Series.
This audio also features the return of Dr Sally Armstrong, another link to the previous Dark Eyes box set. Since the events of that series never happened for another other than the Doctor, Molly and the Dalek Time Controller, Sally is still alive, only in this timeline she has been recruited by the Master as an assistant. The Master’s plan is suitably ruthless, as he is quite literally harvesting humans with little regard for life, and this makes Eyes of the Master a suitably high-stakes finale. The Master’s shockingly domestic ‘optician’ personality is a great call-back to the very personal attacks on British home life that Roger Delgado’s Master employed, such as disguising himself as a rural vicar in The Daemons.
The Doctor and the Master get some great scenes in this one, and Alex Macqueen and Paul McGann are brilliant in their respective roles. The Master questions the Doctor’s decision to not destroy the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks, and then to spare the Daleks again in order to save Molly in the previous Dark Eyes box set. This questioning of the Doctor’s good nature is a crucial aspect of the Master’s character that Alex Macqueen absolutes owns, as his ability to chew the scenery whilst simultaneously retaining a villainous presence is showcased perfectly in this audio. As the conclusion to Dark Eyes 2, Eyes of the Master does a fantastic job of rounding off story points from the previous two series, slotting the final story points from the non-linear narrative of this box set as well as introducing Macqueen’s Master to the mix, making it one the most effective finales of the Eighth Doctor’s era so far.