After dozens of audios spanning multiple eras, the Eighth Doctor’s tenure on audio has been vast indeed, and Ravenous 3 includes tributes to every era of Paul McGann’s audio adventures, including references to the eras of Charley Pollard and Lucie Miller, the return of River Song and the shadow of the Time War that is yet to come. The Ravenous creatures appear prominently in this series after their dramatic reveal in Seizure, the audio that concluded Ravenous 2, and they make a great impression as the main threat of this saga due to their terrifying sound design and clear, simple motive.
3.1 – Deeptime Frontier
This audio continues on directly from Seizure, establishing that the Time Lords are aware of the threat of the Ravenous after several attacks. The time-vortex space station, Deeptime Frontier, is managed by Time Lords but run by a Human, reflecting the desperate situation that the Gallifreyans find themselves in after encountering the natural predator of their race. The Doctor, Liv and Helen are rescued by the Time Lords after ending up on a planet full of Ravenous that is about to explode, and soon meet Under-Cardinal Rasmus (now regenerated into a new body) and Human scientist Daria Visteron, who are in charge of the station. The crew soon find the body of a Ravenous creature and attempt to take the opportunity to learn more about their foe from the corpse. However, the dead Ravenous soon turns out to be not so dead after all, and before long the loathsome creature is on the hunt again. Even after being dissected and incinerated, the Ravenous is still able to return to life and its horrific, clown-like face is twisted into a sickening smile.
Like Seizure, this audio does a good job of establishing the Ravenous as a species that all Time Lords, including the Doctor, fear by instinct. The Doctor explains that their clown-faced appearance is a result of their base fear influence, and that the fear of clowns that Humans experience is a result of the Ravenous themselves, and the Doctor references his bad experiences with circuses in the past such as the in the Seventh Doctor TV story The Happiness Patrol. Rasmus also explains that the Ravenous were banished into the Time Vortex during the early history of Gallifrey, and Helen soon makes the connection that the station is a natural staging ground for a Ravenous incursion due to its close proximity to the vortex. Liv also calls out the Time Lords for being frightened of their natural predator, as she has seen through the proud, high-and-mighty persona that the Time Lords present to Humans for years and now her long-standing impression of the Time Lords is made clear for all to see, offering her some degree of vindication in her views.
Just as in Ravenous 2, the sound design for this audio is excellent and the horrific voices and roars for the Ravenous make them a terrifying foe with a really intimidating presence. The legends and tales involving the Ravenous from different points in Time Lord history that are offered by various characters are a delight to listen to, and the soundtrack perfectly compliments the increasing fear and tension that elevates as the plot unfolds. The voice of the Ravenous, George Asprey, is on perfect form here and the Ravenous leader gets a fantastic monologue explaining his motivations and the innate desire of the creatures to feed and consume as much as they can. Paul McGann also does a great job of selling the Doctor in a fearful, panicked state, as the usually thoughtful, charismatic and charming Eighth Doctor is unusually snappish, tense and sometimes even slightly callous, which is very interesting to listen to after getting to know this incarnation so well over the dozens of audios he has had so far. Deeptime Frontier delivers an effective opener to the third series of Ravenous that gives the Eighth Doctor, Liv and Helen some great character moments and delivering another great appearance of the Ravenous themselves.
3.2 – Companion Piece
Companion Piece begins with a nice call-back to Doom Coalition, as we pick up following the Nine as he is being pursued by the Chancellery Guard and encounters River Song, and given his kleptomaniacal nature he soon decides to start a collection. He rescues Liv and Helen from the Deeptime Frontier station, only to transport them to his facility where he is keeping many of the Doctor’s companions prisoner. This is a Doctor-lite story, but features cameo appearances from many of the Doctor’s companions including Jo Grant, Romana II, Jamie, Leela and Adric. Most notably, this audio features the return of India Fisher as Charley Pollard, and also the chronological debut of Rakhee Thakvar as Bliss who appears in the upcoming Time War audios. Hearing Charley interacting with the Nine, Liv, Helen and the other companions is a treat, and India Fisher makes a fantastic return to the role after so long.
This audio is definitely a fan service story idea, but there is an important underlying premise to this audio, as River makes the excellent point that even without the Doctor present, the Doctor’s companions are among the most capable collection of individuals in the universe, and it doesn’t take long before the inmates begin hatching an escape plan. River manipulates the Nine into attempting to kidnap Katarina, who is portrayed by Ajjaz Awad taking over from Adrienne Hill, as part of a scheme to distract him long enough for Liv, Helen, Charley and Bliss to escape. Helen also finally gets to put her specialty, ancient languages, to some practical use as she attempts to decipher the Gallifreyan symbols that code the controls. Bliss is also great in this story, as she is able to pick up on the insane events of the story as they unfold despite the fact that this is set before the Time War so at this point she knows nothing about Gallifrey, Time Lords or the Doctor.
Although Companion Piece seems like an idea that was merely conceived to deliver fan service on the surface, it is actually a really fun ride with some brilliant twists and turns and excellent performances from all the returning characters. Hearing Charley meet and interact with Liv, Helen and River is really fun and her return is very well-executed. It is a pity that neither Lucie Miller nor Molly O’Sullivan make an appearance, particularly as they are also companions of the Eighth Doctor, but overall the condensed main cast of Liv, Helen, Charley, Bliss and River Song gives each character a chance to shine and they have plenty of time to talk and get to know each other. The fact that there are lots of references and easter eggs in this story makes it fun for those who keep up with Doctor Who lore, but ultimately the best thing about this audio is how it manages to tell a great story with substantial focus on the characters as well as deliver excellent fan service.
3.3 – L.E.G.E.N.D.
L.E.G.E.N.D. has an interesting premise, as the Eleven seemingly decides to aid the Doctor and his companions in their fight against the Ravenous. Although Liv and Helen are understandably mistrustful of the Eleven, the Doctor shows a genuine desire to reform him, and the Eleven’s earnest offers of information and assistance makes an interesting dynamic. The TARDIS team arrives in 19th century Germany in pursuit of a Professor Marathanga, who has arrived on Earth and disguised in humanoid form. She has arrived looking for the Brothers Grimm to collect folklore tales for her sentient computer, the eponymous L.E.G.E.N.D. which acts as a compendium for all the universe’s tales and stories. The Doctor must rely on the Eleven’s co-operation in order to extract information about the Ravenous from this computer, even though the two clearly do not trust each other.
Liv and Helen are great in this story, there are several funny scenes involving Helen being excited about meeting the Brothers Grimm, and Liv continuing the recurring joke of knowing absolutely nothing about Earth history as she has never heard of Snow White, Red Riding Hood or any of the other classic tales. The driving force behind this story is Liv and Helen’s distrust of the Eleven, which is fair as by this point he has terrorized them throughout their travels with the Doctor, and the Doctor does come across as somewhat naïve for apparently believing his sudden change of heart. Mark Bonnar does a fantastic job as the Eleven as always, by this point each of his different incarnations are well-established characters and listening to them interact with each other and the other characters, all done through Mark Bonnar’s exceptional acting skill, is something that never gets boring. He has some great scenes with Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor, including a hilarious sequence in which they have to eat their way into a Gingerbread House, and some of the Eleven’s previous incarnations like Gingerbread a bit more than the others.
Talking of which, Marathanga’s computer malfunctions and starts making aspects of Brothers Grimm tales come to life using plasm, and Helen is trapped in the forest with Wilhelm Grimm as monsters from the tales prowl through the trees around them. This audio also contains a bizarre yet funny sequence in which Helen is temporarily transformed into an eel, which pays off with the Doctor subverting the classic ‘prince kisses the frog’ trope. The reasoning that L.E.G.E.N.D. gives for its obsession with the Grimm tales is interesting, as it latches on to the themes of transformation that are prevalent throughout the tales and uses that to create a whole new philosophy, and uses the plasm to create avatars that represent parts of its consciousness. Although this audio goes to great lengths to establish the premise for having Brothers Grimm elements in a Doctor Who story, it has to be said that it doesn’t do much with the idea, instead focusing on Marathanga and Liv’s exasperated interactions with her as well the L.E.G.E.N.D. computer itself inevitably becoming a problem. Nonetheless, this story has some great character moments for Liv, Helen, the Doctor and the Eleven.
3.4 – The Odds Against
After a fantastic opening sequence where the Nine plays a game of eye-spy with his past selves, the Eighth Doctor, Liv, Helen and the Eleven arrive at an abbey housing a dimensional gateway, and the Eleven begins to suffer some temporal side-effects of the crossing of his own timestream. The Odds Against focuses on the contentious relationship between the TARDIS team, as the Eleven and Liv are at each other’s throats while the Doctor and Helen attempt to keep the peace while the group hunt for the origin point of the Ravenous incursion. The Eleven gets more development as a character, as he is in a vulnerable position and is dependant on the Doctor and his friends for help in saving his past self from the Ravenous.
The Ravenous themselves are back in this story, after being absent from the previous two audios, and their origins are elaborated on a little more, though there are as many questions revealed in this story as answers. The abbey in which the Ravenous were allegedly first trapped is soon attacked by a horrific ‘Glitch’ – a partially-formed Ravenous that is murderously insane and shrieks its desire for death in a twisted, grating electronic voice. It didn’t seem possible to make the Ravenous voice sound even more terrifying, yet The Odds Against somehow manages it. Another interesting thing about this audio is that it manages to subvert the standard setup of a Doctor Who story and also deliver a great twist at the same time.
Having two versions of the same Time Lord meet is always a treat, but when the Eleven meets the Nine a whole wealth of untapped potential is unleashed, as the two begin to argue and, given their condition, things soon get out of hand as various other incarnations fight. A particularly funny sequence unfolds when both the Nine and the Eleven’s two versions of the Four bicker, leading to the two having an upfront conversation about their respective positions in the timeline which is quite interesting, and also gives some new insight into the nature of their condition. It is particularly morbid that the Eleven’s long-dead version of the Nine talks with his still-living counterpart, commenting on their former selves’ plans and reflecting on how they inevitably go wrong. Overall this audio is a fantastic treat for fans of the Eleven and his previous incarnations, as he takes a central role in this story as a neutral entity who is neither hero nor villain, which is always a fun direction to take a character.