Ah, the Eighth Doctor on audio. It all used to be so simple, you had Charley, C’Rizz, Mary then Lucie. Then Dark Eyes came out and felt like a real epic, then Doom Coalition and then Time War and now, Ravenous. The only problem is that all the Eighth Doctor stuff never feels like it has happened in chronological order anymore. What doesn’t help is that in Ravenous, the Doctor is travelling with Liv and Helen and in Time War he is with Bliss, so many time jumps can really make things confusing and you feel like you are missing out if you don’t buy releases that get mentioned later on down the line. Perhaps that is the biggest problem with this set, you have to hear Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition to get the whole story.
Having saved the universe and restored peace at home, the Doctor and Liv go in search of their lost friend, Helen. They follow a trail of breadcrumbs through time and space, from the war rooms of WW2 to a space station experimenting with dangerous time travel. They eventually wind up in a maximum security prison where an old enemy is waiting in the wings with a rather unsavoury plan…
THEIR FINEST HOUR
Ravenous kicks off with Their Finest Hour, a little story set in WW2 which focuses on the Doctor and Liv having to stop a spaceship which is wiping out Churchill’s air force. This is easily one of the best stories of the set, quickly setting up the action and rarely letting that feeling go. It certainly is an energetic start to the new set with Paul McGann being his usual lovable self, devouring the material he has been given.
Their Finest Hour will possibly go down well with fans because it gives us a chance to appreciate Liv a little bit more. This is nothing to do with Nicola Walker’s performance but in the previous sets, Liv has never really stood out, next to the Daleks, the Master and Molly in Dark Eyes, The Eleven and River Song in Doom Coalition, she has never really had time to shine. She is brilliant in Robophobia, her debut story with Sylvester McCoy from a few years ago and this story gives her plenty to do. In fact, she gets much more to do than the Doctor as she joins a pilot in the air and literally dives from an alien spaceship with a parachute. Walker seems to delight in the material too and as a result, I got a real appreciation for Liv.
Like The Night Witches, Big Finish has once more taken some points from the era that we wouldn’t have learnt about in our history lessons. The Night Witches taught us about the Russian Night Witches who would fly planes and try to stop the Nazi advancement by blowing up their convoys. Their Finest Hour looks at the Polish fighter pilots who got involved to avenge their friends and family who they had an idea if they were still alive. There is one particularly moving speech Liv’s friend gives her about his family that is performed brilliantly and will bring a tear to the eye.
Ian McNiece is back as Winston Churchill and I must say, I much prefer him with the past Doctors than the modern ones. He just suits the way they older Doctors act than the rather energetic performance of the Eleventh Doctor. And McNiece is wonderful as always.
HOW TO MAKE A KILLING IN TIME TRAVEL
Like Their Finest Hour, How to Make a Killing in Time Travel is a lighter affair but being from the mind of John Dorney, it is quite a dark farce, even if it isn’t as successful as some of his other recent work. It really feels like a story which is trying to escalate and escalate but never really delivers on that front.
Still, the guest cast is brilliant, Judith Roddy puts in a great performance as Stralla Cushing and Christopher Ryan is excellent as the Security Chief Macy but director Ken Bentley never quite hits the kind of tone the story needed. It is virtually impossible not be hit half-way through this tale by its lack of substance. In a story like this, I couldn’t tell you what was needed but something was missing.
WORLD OF DAMNATION & SWEET SALVATION
Although they are released on two separate discs, these two episodes by Matt Fitton are really a two-part story. We finally find out what has been happening with Helen and the Eleven and the Kandyman from The Happiness Patrol is thrown into the mixture for good measure. As a fan of the Sylvester McCoy era, I was looking forward to this reunion and the idea is certainly a sound one. The Kandyman is serving confectionary to the inmates of a maximum security prison to alter the minds of the prisoners. But the change in the design of the iconic monster to work on audio seems a little silly as does changing his voice, no matter how damn good the actor is. I know there was some rights issues to his character but still. The Kandyman is one of those monsters who need to look sick and sweetly to really work and I like Nicolas Rowe in the role a lot, he just wasn’t I would have liked.
And unfortunately, the story feels like a Matt Fitton-by-numbers tale with a lot of the characters feeling supercilious to the loud bangs and action and the structure of World of Damnation is probably too clever for its own good. And then there is the notion that the Doctor doesn’t trust Helen any more thanks to her exposure to the Eleven which comes out of nowhere and then doesn’t have anything done with it. But the idea that the Eleven and Helen have some kind of connection is an interesting one but all too soon, the Eleven is ranting and raving about taking over the cosmos. The concept of the Eleven and Mark Bonnar’s performance is brilliant but it really does feel like Big Finish hasn’t quite worked out what to do with him just yet and that is a shame because it really limits the kinds of stories it can tell as a result.
It might be impossible not to feel a little let down with Ravenous Volume 1, it is certainly a rather underwhelming start to latest Eighth Doctor saga. One doesn’t know if this boxset format is getting tired or the creators or if I am a little.
Paul McGann will always be a brilliant Doctor and his performance is excellent, as are Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan and Mark Bonnar’s. But in a boxset which will go up to an expensive full price in a little over a month’s time, this set needed to be so much better…
Having saved the universe and restored peace at home, the Doctor and Liv go in search of their friend, Helen. Following a trail of breadcrumbs through space and time, they discover an unsavoury conspiracy, and an old enemy lurking in the shadows, waiting.
1.1 Their Finest Hour by John Dorney
In the early days of the Second World War, a strange and elusive craft attacks British targets. Could it be a German superweapon? Churchill calls for the Doctor’s assistance and with the help of a squadron of Polish fighter pilots the TARDIS crew take to the skies to investigate.
1.2 How to Make a Killing in Time Travel by John Dorney
A disturbance in the vortex causes the TARDIS to land on the Scapegrace space station, where Cornelius Morningstar experiments in time-travel for nefarious purposes. But the Doctor’s plan to stop him winds dangerously out of control as the different agendas of criminals, murderers and alien dynasties conspire against him.
1.3 World of Damnation by Matt Fitton
Rykerzon is a maximum-security planetoid designed to hold the most dangerous criminals in the star system. The Governor plans to reform its inmates, with the help of the Kandyman. But two prisoners prove particularly troublesome: the alien fugitives known as the Eleven and Miss Helen Sinclair.
The Doctor and Liv have finally tracked down their friend – but are they too late?
1.4 Sweet Salvation by Matt Fitton
The Eleven has the authorities in the palm of his hand and an entire world held to ransom when the Kandyman cooks up a deadly confection containing a secret ingredient. In a last-ditch attempt to prevent disaster Liv teams up with a desperate criminal, and the Doctor must decide whether Helen is still his friend.
Written By: John Dorney, Matt Fitton
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Paul McGann (The Doctor), Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka), Hattie Morahan (Helen Sinclair), Mark Bonnar (The Eleven), Ian McNeice (Sir Winston Churchill), Laurence Dobiesz (Wilhelm Rozycki), Gyuri Sarossy (Jan Ostowicz), Tracy Wiles (Secretary / Ground Control), Beth Chalmers (The Heliyon), Roger May (Cornelius Morningstar / Verdarn), Judith Roddy (Stralla Cushing), Sarah Lambie (Gorl), Jane Booker (Dron / Yetana), Christopher Ryan (Macy), Nicholas Rowe (The Kandyman), Amerjit Deu (Governor), Charlie Condou (Crabhead / System / Jarl), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Ruzalla), Beth Goddard (Ludina Braskell). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Ken Bentley
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs