‘Ravenous 4’, the latest volume of Eighth Doctor adventures sees the culmination of the current storyline. Accompanied by Liv and Helen, plus his troublesome villain-turned-ally The Eleven, the Doctor has been battling the Ravenous, creatures with a voracious appetite for the Time Lords themselves.
The Eleven is cured. The personalities of his former selves, which bedevilled his conscious mind, appear gone – casualties of his battle with the Ravenous. With Helen keen to believe, Liv remains deeply distrustful and the Doctor feels he has a duty of care. Looking for a medical facility, the remote Still Foundation seems an ideal choice.
Matt Fitton’s opener is a concentrated affair, channelling horror movie vibes using a monster attracted by sound. Focusing on the four principals, the story considers Liv’s mistrust and her choice to carry a gun. While this does come to a head, for us, it did not feel fully dealt with… could she, would she truly use it?
As the title suggests, much of the dialogue is as close to a whisper as is technically possible and the intensity of the drama is a great achievement. For those so inclined, the Extras discuss this at some length.
Planet of Dust
The second story, also by Matt Fitton, sees the Eleven wishing to visit the desert planet of Parak. There, the TARDIS crew find a desperate population in thrall to a dictator, The Provider. He rewards the population’s efforts digging in the sand with access to the most precious commodity on an arid world: water.
There’s an added element in the form of the Master. Here the emaciated Master (Geoffrey Beevers) seems more desperate than ever, up against the challenge of his own mortality and the threat of his fellow Time Lords. Scenes between the Master and The Eleven are terrific, the former initially seeing the Eleven an irritant. We loved the clever use of drone technology and the mention of “water thieves” too!
Day of the Master
The Ravenous arc concludes with a two-part finale, written by John Dorney. Mindful of spoilers, suffice to say he develops an unexplored element of Time Lord mythology. One that would appear to have been staring fans in the face since the 1980s!
Through a temporally twisted narrative, with callbacks to both Salzburg and the previous ‘Doom Coalition’ series, the story draws multiple Masters together. Naturally there are parallels with ‘The Day of the Doctor’ but they run deeper than the title – while the Doctors united to save Gallifrey and rewrite the end of the Time War, the Masters’ motive are far less altruistic. Any universe saving is purely a product of enlightened self-interest. Despite an impossible shopping list of characters, the story weaves in three Masters, Missy, the Eleven and the Ravenous. John does this judiciously with the TARDIS crew split, each encountering a different Master before events bring them back together. For us, it was all about the character dynamics.
While the much anticipated reuniting of The Eighth Doctor and his Master (Eric Roberts) is fun, and there is much mirth mined from Missy’s reactions to the TV Movie incarnation’s handsome looks, for us the scenes with the War Master (Derek Jacobi) and Liv (Nicola Walker) stole the show – the pair, Last Tango in Halifax co-stars, are electric together! The multi-Master interactions fascinate too: the TV Movie version is dangerously thuggish, while Missy is unpredictable and the War Master commanding.
While Ravenous has followed a looser story arc than before, it has been no less enjoyable with its focus on myths and legends, leading us to the confrontations with Time Lords’ nightmares. Keen students of the Master/Missy’s timeline should be pleased too with the efforts made to knit their complicated stories together. As ever, the production standard is exemplary. This is no mean feat too, given the number of moving parts, with actors recorded in diverse locations.
The team of Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, Liv and Helen (Hattie Morahan) continue to work incredibly well together and we are keen for more. While we wait, December brings a Liv-centric Kaldor spin-off, ‘The Robots’, filling in her missing year on her home planet. Mark Bonnar’s The Eleven too will pop up in January’s ‘Dark Universe’ to face off against the Seventh Doctor and Ace.