This is an absolutely gorgeous listen. There’s simply no other way to describe it. It’s the kind of story that’s so good it makes you wonder why they haven’t been doing stories like this the whole time. It’s like River was made for this story. A multi-generational mystery exploring the depths of love, loss, familial drama, and hope in the face of all of that. It’s funny, it’s adventurous, it’s touching, and it’s heartbreaking. One of the behind-the-scenes interviews suggests this story’s like “This is Us” with time travel, and that’s an incredibly accurate statement.
Plot-wise, it’s very timey-wimey – but not in a gimmicky way. Instead, this is the kind of time travel story where every weird thing has a purpose, and each twist and turn builds on what’s come before and all comes together in an enormously satisfying way. You’ll definitely need to pay attention as you listen, otherwise, you could pretty easily get lost. But I promise it’s worth putting in the extra effort.
It’s also the kind of time travel story that’s very character driven. It’s not time travel for the sake of time travel. Rather, it’s a character journey. River’s at first, naturally. But as the story goes on, and the focus widens, you realize the story is about much more than River just trying to figure out what’s going on. That being said, River goes on such an interesting journey here. I don’t wanna delve into any spoilers, but I’d say this does as much for River’s character as “The Ruby’s Curse” did. And Alex Kingston has simply never been better than she is here – particularly in the set’s final episode.
On the whole, “Friend of the Family” is an absolutely must-listen – even if you’re not a fan of “The Diary of a River Song”. It’s so unlike anything else this series has done, and that’s what makes it so existing. It’s a great River Song story, a great “Doctor Who” story, an immensely impressive sci-fi story, and a genuinely moving piece of fiction in general. This is Big Finish at their very best.
5 out of 5 wands.