While July brought us Paul McGann’s dashing Eighth Doctor again railing against the inevitability of The Time War, this month’s release returns us to his earlier adventures; travelling with companions Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) and Helen Sinclair (Hattie Morahan), the trio finally encounter the terrifying Ravenous!
Like Doom Coalition before it, Ravenous is a story sequence comprised of sixteen episodes, spread over four box sets. However, so far, the linking arc has been very light and these stories can all be enjoyed without any prior knowledge.
Escape From Kaldor
On a whim, the Doctor has brought Liv home and it offers a chance for Helen to learn a bit more about her friend’s background as they visit a newly opened recreation centre for the mega-rich. Kaldor is a highly class driven society, with the descendants of the twenty founding families forming an aristocracy of sorts and controlling all the wealth. Of course, the planet is also famous for its servile robots and we meet an updated version, voiced in the tones of their creator Tula Chenka, Liv’s estranged sister.
Against a backdrop of strained family relations and protesters for a fairer society, writer Matt Fitton delivers an exciting and action-packed tale as the robots turn homicidal once more. Kaldor again proves fertile territory and these events nestle perfectly in continuity, referencing both the original Sandminer incident from The Robots Of Death and Big Finish’s own returns to the theme, such as Liv’s introductory story Robophobia and The Sons Of Kaldor.
In a strong guest cast, David Rintoul shines as the mercenary company head, Galla Posca, and we enjoyed the fractious family reunion between Liv and Tula (Claire Rushbrook).
Better Watch Out & Fairytale In Salzburg
The second and third parts of the set pull out all the festive stops (and it is close enough to December so why not) to deliver us an epic two-parter, with our heroes at the mercy of the demonic companion of Father Christmas, the Krampus.
Writer John Dorney weaves multiple strands of stories within stories, as we learn of a fateful trip to Salzburg for the time travellers, the plight of two families at the mercy of a miserly landlord, of a mysterious Pilgrim (Sian Phillips) and a man watching the city burn from a high vantage point in the alps.
In amongst the fear spread by the Krampus and his hellish minions, evil imps who demand to know who has been bad, there is also room for plenty of humour: we loved the Doctor’s repeated references to The Sound Of Music, much to Helen’s despair, and Liv’s instant dislike of snow.
This a terrific story, full of both festive cheer and emotional drama- as well as the denizens of hell, and one we will want to revisit in the festive season; it will set perfectly on our advent playlist alongside Tom Baker’s rambunctious rendition of A Christmas Carol!
After building up a charming familial theme, Guy Adams’ concludes the set with a story threatens to tear it all apart. Doing what Doctor Who does best, he’s dropping our friends in terrible jeopardy and scaring the willies out of us in the process.
Seizure is a smart, efficient story which begins as the Doctor responds to a distress call from the devious Time Lord criminal “The Eleven”, and materialises onboard a damaged TARDIS – despite his companions strongly voiced misgivings.
Leaning into the horror, and even referencing The Haunting Of Hill House, the story finally introduces us to the Ravenous – played in genuinely unsettling fashion by George Asprey (The Crown). As ever, Mark Bonnar is superb as many dissociative identities of The Eleven and it is great to hear him add sheer terror as a motivating factor to the character.
Based on this release, it is fair to say that the Eighth Doctor is in rude health and perfectly matched with this duo of bright and intelligent companions, the sceptic Liv and bright Helen.
Across the four stories, there is plenty of atmospheric sound design from Benji Clifford and this particularly comes to the fore in Seizure where, with sharp direction from Ken Bentley and Jamie Robertson’s music playing its part, tensions build admirably.
Already announced for Paul McGann is a jump back to an even earlier era, as he is re-teamed with Sheridan Smith for The Further Adventures Of Lucie Miller in July – as well as appearing in the celebratory multi-Doctor set The Legacy Of Time that same month.
Meanwhile, the Ravenous stories continue in April and we are grateful, because the cliff-hanger which ends this set definitely left us hungry for more (sorry, couldn’t resist!)