Mark Donaldson concludes his three part review of Ravenous 2 with Guy Adams’ Seizure, an atmospheric and creepy tale that introduces us to the Time Lords’ most primal fear. Answering a distress call from the villainous Eleven, the Doctor, Liv and Helen are soon exploring a dying TARDIS, haunted by a ghostly figure. That’s the least of their worries though, as the Time Lords’ greatest fear, the Ravenous are also on-board.
Stories about the Time Lords are tricky things to get right, too much information and fans will say that you’re ruining the mystery or contradicting what has gone before (WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF DOCTOR WHO?) whereas an underwhelming story will lead some to feel that there was hardly any point in revisiting the Time Lords after all.
Seizure runs the risk of being the former, introducing the Ravenous as “the creature that all Time Lords fear” is a big ask, given that they’re an eternal, omnipresent, super-intelligent race of beings. What could possibly scare them? The eventual reveal of the boxed set’s titular villains is something altogether more monstrous and primal than you may expect, which this reviewer found slightly underwhelming. Whilst memorably played by George Asprey, there’s a distinct ‘monster of the week’ quality to the Ravenous, slobbering, shuffling monsters, with a penchant for taunting banter. One scene where Liv is chastised for bantering with the monster is an interesting role-reversal for Doctor and companion. They certainly have the potential to give us some new insight into the Doctor and his race, exemplified by a scene where the Doctor is so fearful that for a split-second he considers running away and leaving one of his companions behind. So, if the aim of the remaining two boxed sets is to explore what happens when Time Lords are scared then the Ravenous could indeed prove to be a fascinating creation.
Fear is certainly at the forefront of Seizure, which is as much a Timelord ghost story as it is the introduction of a story arc. The sound design complements the script beautifully, providing the listener with a creepy soundscape of creaking doors, shifting stone walls and something scraping its way towards you out of the dark. It’s the strongest element of the play, a Gallifreyan take on (in an accidental piece of Netflix promotion) The Haunting of Hill House, featuring a TARDIS driven mad by the telepathic connection to its owner. It is, therefore, the perfect environment for fractured Time Lord villain, the Eleven.
Mark Bonnar is reliably terrific as the Eleven, shifting effortlessly between each of the characters previous regenerations in his desperation to survive. That said, the black jacket he wears on the cover, the willingness to sacrifice anyone, and the fact that he’s not the lead villain does often call Missy to mind rather than the villainous Time Lord we met in Doom Coalition. For example, the opening scene where the Doctor discusses the morality of helping (or not helping) the Eleven is reminiscent of similar scenes between the Twelfth Doctor and Clara/Bill throughout the Capaldi era.
This is a story that is very much driven by character, a creepy chamber piece predominantly featuring characters with whom we’ve spent a great deal of time over the years. On top of that, there is a small but strong guest cast in the form of Pippa Haywood as Jaxa, imbuing the role with just the right level of mystery to make her an engaging and tragic presence. Combined with the regulars, Haywood provides an invaluable contribution to an atmospheric chamber piece that allows each actor a chance to shine, a strong example of what these audio plays can do so well. Indeed, Ravenous 2 is a far stronger collection of stories than the previous set and has a much more assured sense of tonal and thematic cohesion which, if maintained, will serve future entries well.
Whilst the monsters themselves may not quite live up to Big Finish’s ominous promotion, there is certainly promise in the form of an almighty cliffhanger which suggests that Seizures themes of fear, sacrifice and survival are a taster for the main course to the come when Ravenous 3 is released next year.
Ravenous 2 is available now
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Mark Bonnar (The Eleven), Pippa Haywood (Jaxa), George Asprey (Ravenous)
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs