Doctor Who Main Range 246: The Hunting Ground review

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December’s double dose of Doctor Who Main Range action concluded with a chilly outing for Colin Baker, as crime novelist AK Benedict (who has also written for Torchwood) provides a solo adventure for the Sixth Doctor set in Iceland.

In a story which begins with a New Year’s Eve tale of trolls, Police Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir finds herself dealing with a gruesome murder – the victim’s head being left frozen – and a characterful chief suspect in the Doctor.

The tale develops on a dual fronts, offering both political conspiracy and alien incursion as we move from giant inhuman tracks to the mystery surrounding a company named Helicon, and find links back to an unsolved murder too.

Throughout, AK Benedict packs her tale with plenty of local colour and Icelandic geography, blending the feel of a Scandi thriller with comedy, while teasing at the concept of hidden folk and taking a strong anti-hunting stance too. As the extras later reveal, the latter is a theme close to Colin Baker’s heart.

There are lighter hues too, from the alien Marthicks (who endeavour to become the Doctor’s administrative assistants at one point) to Richard Reed’s largely comic constable and his printer issues.

The script captures the Sixth Doctor very well, with Colin Baker on fine form as he is by turns engaging, kind and heroic – if only he had been allowed the room to give this kind of performance on screen. That said, the scope of this tale is far beyond a 1980’s television budget and perhaps even the current incarnation of the show. Instead, some excellent sound design and an evocative score from Steve Foxon colour in the visuals for us.

For her part, Yrsa works thorough her disbelief and embraces the alien, achieving a level of acceptance by the story’s end. Amy Beth Hayes (Mr Selfridge) imbues the character with passion: Yrsa is strong-willed, smart and determined, and ably drives the plot in the Doctor’s absence. She is what we would call good companion material.

Subscribers this month will also receive access to Tuesday, a narrated short trip for the Eighth Doctor which finds him catching up with former companion Harry Sullivan in a subtly changed world. It is a clever and touching tale, providing a thoughtful nod to Harry’s time in the TARDIS and his exploits since, with the tale penned by Tony Jones (noble audio reviewer of this parish).

Well-crafted and satisfying, The Hunting Ground is a cracker of a way to round off 2018’s main range. For 2019, it’s back to the late Fifth Doctor era and a run of stories featuring Tegan, Turlough and his shape-changing android companion Kamelion – to be voiced by John Culshaw. Less than successful onscreen, these tales are Kamelion’s audio debut so let’s hope that a sprinkling of audio magic can redeem him!