Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 4

The final box set of the Ravenous series features a plethora of psychopathic Time Lords, from the Eleven to various incarnations of the Master. At the time of release, Ravenous 4 featured more incarnations of the Master in one story than any other piece of Doctor Who media, with Geoffrey Beevers, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and Michelle Gomez all making an appearance as their respective incarnations. The Ravenous series was initially marketed as a saga revolving around monsters, and there are few monsters in the Doctor Who universe who can rival the Master, let alone four Masters in one box set. The eponymous Ravenous also make a return, and we are finally given some explanation as to their origins way back in the early history of Gallifrey.

4.1 – Whisper

Despite this box set’s obvious focus on the Master, the first story focuses primarily on the Eleven. Unlike in the previous box set, we as the audience are aware of his ultimate intention to betray the Doctor, so Liv’s continuous mistrust of him is now more sympathetic than in the previous box set. Whilst Ravenous 3 was focused around the question of whether the Eleven could be an ally to the Doctor, Ravenous 4 has no such pretence following the ending of the previous story, so whilst Liv’s hostile attitude towards the Eleven could have come across as unwarranted in the previous box set, here we are rooting for Liv because we as the audience know that she is right. Nonetheless, the Eleven being his usual devious and deceptive self desperately trying to keep a lid on his previous incarnations is great to listen to. Over the course of the Ravenous saga the Eleven has developed a lot as a character since his early days as a manic villain, as here he takes on a much more subtle, sinister approach and it is interesting to see how much control he has over his other selves when he unites them in a singular purpose.

The premise of this story is relatively simple, yet it is an ingenious concept for an audio story. The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Liv, Helen and the Eleven to the Still Foundation in response to a distress call, only to find that the facility is under siege by predators who hunt by sound. As such, the characters have to communicate in whispers whenever the creatures are near, and this combined with the exceptional ambient sound design makes for some really atmospheric listening. Whisper is unique in that it is a base-under-siege horror story but with a very small main cast, with just a handful of supporting characters. The primary focus is on the Eleven and Liv’s volatile relationship as they try to work together to survive the situation. Helen is appalled as Liv chooses to carry a firearm when travelling with the Eleven, and she desperately tries to reason with her friend as she threatens to kill the Eleven to prevent him from killing anyone else. This audio tests Liv in a way that no story in the series so far has, as the Eleven almost goads her on and Helen has to hold her back.

The Doctor spends most of the runtime exploring the facility and attempting to understand exactly what the creature is and why it is attacking the facility. The fact that Liv has brought a gun to the party does not go down well at all, and this audio gives us a rare example of the Eighth Doctor being genuinely disappointed, perhaps even angry, with one of his companions. This is made even worse by the fact that, due to the monster hunting them by sound, the TARDIS team have to work out their differences in a whisper. The Doctor finally realises that the time has come to cut ties with the Eleven, as his altruistic desire to help the Eleven puts his companions in constant danger. The Doctor agrees to take the Eleven on one final trip, to a place where he can meditate and heal. The Eleven, however, has other ideas.

4.2 – Planet of Dust

This audio features the return of the Master, who hasn’t been in an Eighth Doctor audio story since all the way back in the Dark Eyes saga. This is also the first appearance of Geoffrey Beevers as the Master in an Eighth Doctor audio, for those who don’t know Beevers played the Master in one TV story of Classic Who, The Keeper of Traken, in which he played the decayed version of the Master who steals a new body to become Anthony Ainley at the end of the story. Despite only appearing once in the Classic series, Geoffrey Beevers has returned to the role for multiple Big Finish audios and his interpretation of the Master has since gone on to become a fan-favourite incarnation. Beevers’ Master is sly, cunning and manipulative, but also vulnerable and at times desperate, and no audio exemplifies this more than Planet of Dust.

The Doctor, Liv, Helen and the Eleven arrive on the planet after the Eleven is finally allowed to fly the TARDIS by the Doctor. He claims he wants to come to the desert planet Parrak to meditate but all is not as it seems. The population of the planet is being controlled by the ‘Provider’, who seems to be the only being on the planet capable of giving the residents water. Robotic Rangers patrol the deserts and supply the population with a meagre supply of water in exchange for their co-operation on dig sites throughout the desert. The Master attempts to force the population into abject slavery in order to scour the desert for an ancient tomb. There is a great scene midway through this audio where the Master and the Eleven discuss the Master’s knack for escaping death, and the Master quite frankly tells the Eleven that he is no longer sure how long he has lived, and the Eleven gradually realises that the Master is finally dying.

It is great to hear the Eleven and the Master finally meet, but one of the best moments in this audio is between the Doctor and the Master, though to explain too much about it would spoil the plot. Needless to say the critical condition that the Master has found himself in makes him desperate, and he is more vulnerable now than ever. The ever-compassionate Eighth Doctor seems to genuinely want to help his old friend, and there is a great moment between the two near the end of this story that proves that the two are still friends in a strange, twisted sort of way, despite everything that has happened between them. In the end though, it is the Doctor’s old friends Helen and Liv who pull though for him in this story, as they both show their independence and self-determination by assisting the citizens of Parrak while the Doctor and the Eleven go tomb raiding. Planet of Dust is one of those audios that needs to be listened to, as for fans of Geoffrey Beevers’ Master and the relationship between him and the Doctor this audio is a real treat.

4.3 / 4.4 – Day of the Master

Unusually for an Eighth Doctor audio story, Day of the Master is formatted as one story split into two parts, rather than two or more stories sharing one overarching narrative as is customary with Eighth Doctor saga finales. Whilst the previous audio focused on Geoffrey Beevers’ incarnation, Day of the Master includes three more Masters – the ‘Bruce’ incarnation, the War Master, and Missy, played by Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi and Michelle Gomez respectively. With three Masters comes three separate plotlines across three separate timelines, and the Doctor, Liv and Helen are separated for the majority of this two-part story with each character being paired up with a respective Master.

Following on from the events of the previous audio after being lured away by the sound of a vortex manipulator, Helen is kidnapped by Missy after initially mistaking her for River Song, and she is transported to a future Earth where the entire planet is a barren wasteland. Helen is seemingly the only one who can guide Missy to her goal by reading a prophetic book that writes out everything they do as they do it, which is an interesting setup that allows for some fun interplay between the characters. Missy’s habit of not taking anything seriously contrasts heavily with Helen’s caring and compassionate attitude, and the two clearly do not get along. Hattie Morahan and Michelle Gomez are clearly having great fun with this audio and it is really fun to hear these two characters trade quips with each other.

The Doctor arrives on the planet Kolstarn in search of the ancient proto-Time Lord Artron, who is unknowingly being assisted by an earlier version of the Master who has a personal history with the Eighth Doctor. This meetup of the Eighth Doctor and the Master from the TV Movie in a time period that predates the foundation of Time Lord society is a showdown that has been in the making since 1996, and this alone makes Day of the Master a worthy finale to the Ravenous saga. Hearing Paul McGann and Eric Roberts trade verbal spats once again is wonderful to hear, and both actors are on top form in this story.

Liv is dropped off by the Doctor on a Time Lord station against her will, as he intends on keeping her safe but accidentally abandons her in the middle of the Eleven’s attack on the Time Lord facility in orbit around Kolstarn. The War Master arrives in response to the death of his earlier self, and adopts Liv as his temporary companion as he pretends to be a Time Lord specialist sent to aid her against the Ravenous. The two initially spy on the Eleven, who has allied with the Ravenous and unleashed them on the unsuspecting Time Lord military personnel, and the true horror of the Ravenous is finally revealed as they feast on their Time Lord victims. As the War Doctor gleefully explains, when the Ravenous feasts on a Time Lord then they die an agonising death, one incarnation after the next, as their regenerations are devoured by the nightmarish creatures. Derek Jacobi and Nicola Walker play off each other really well, and when Liv finally discovers the Master’s true identity there is a real sense that the two characters have a lengthy history, as Liv previously faced a much younger incarnation of the Master played by Alex Macqueen in Dark Eyes.

The pacing of this story is surprisingly well-handled, as despite the myriad of plot elements the fact that this is a two-part story coupled with the strong script makes this audio a fantastic listen and a fitting finale for the Ravenous saga. This story has everything you could want from a series finale, there’s a fantastic cliff-hanger for Part One which comes out of nowhere, there’s an exploration into the history of some of the major plot elements that finally answer some of the main questions that have been running throughout the series, and it also gives a satisfying conclusion to the character arc of the Eleven, as his elaborate scheme that he has been planning throughout the series is given a satisfying ending that rounds off the character excellently.

There are also just some really fun moments in this story, and some interesting details that fans will enjoy. Each incarnation of the Master wields their own laser screwdriver, for example. No amnesia is involved with the Eighth Doctor in this story, for once, as he is given only vague descriptions of both the War Master and Missy and so mistakes them for Roger Delgado’s Master and the Rani, respectively. When the three Masters do finally meet, there are some great scenes with banter between the three of them, as the two Masters are constantly at odds and Missy mocks both of them. The meeting between the three Masters is certainly a highlight of the story, and the three of them facing off against the Ravenous and the Eleven is a wonderful ending to the saga.

The recurring theme throughout recent Eighth Doctor audios of the Doctor needing someone to pull the trigger becomes particularly relevant here as the Masters shows up to stop the Eleven from destroying the universe simply because they happen to be currently occupying it. Make no mistake though, the Doctor, Liv and Helen are as fantastic as ever in this story, and despite featuring the Ravenous, the Eleven and three Masters the main cast still manage to shine. It is particularly fitting that the next chronological story in the Eighth Doctor’s timeline is a small-scale character story in the Stranded series, as the trio of the Doctor, Liv and Helen have become a united, cohesive team that can deal with anything. Well, almost anything, as their next series of adventures strands them in 2020.

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 3

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.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 4

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 2

With the conclusion of Ravenous 1, the Eighth Doctor’s audio adventures take a series of unexpected twists and turns. There is a lot that Ravenous 2 sets out to do, including setting up a spinoff series, introducing the saga’s main villain, and undertaking a horror-inspired Christmas-themed audio. From this set onwards, Big Finish use the updated branding for the 2018 TV series and the wider box design allows for more expansive and creative cover artwork, so it is fitting that the theme of Ravenous 2 is Monsters, though probably not the ones you were expecting. From deranged Robots to Killer Clowns to the Krampus itself, Ravenous 2 promises action, thrills and scares a plenty.

2.1 – Escape from Kaldor

The Doctor, Liv and Helen arrive on Liv’s homeworld of Kaldor, which also happens to be where the Voc Robots (from the 1977 TV story The Robots of Death) are built. Fans of the Fourth Doctor era will immediately recognise these sinister-sounding droids as they are known for their murderous activities after being re-programmed to kill the crew of a Human Sandminer. This audio depicts a different side to the Robots as they are immediately presented as being a key element of society on Kaldor as Liv explains that they are integral to the economy and the upholding of the current system of power on the planet. It is worth mentioning that this audio mostly serves to set up Liv Chenka’s spinoff series, ‘The Robots’, so this one is a must-listen for fans of the character.

Liv is apprehensive about returning home, which the audience can sympathise with as we know enough about Liv’s backstory from her audios so far to know what she thinks of the planet. Built on a class-based society, Kaldor is ruled by its 20 founding families who make up the entitled social elite who look down on everyone else – Human and Robot alike. Liv explains her disgust at the system in place on the planet and we finally get to hear more about her young life, her father and why she chose to leave the planet to become a Med-Tec. In the meantime, the Doctor enters the Kaldor Company Headquarters after encountering a protest against the practices of the robot manufacturer. As it happens, Liv’s sister Tula (who the Doctor ‘coincidentally’ meets) is a senior figure in the manufacturing of the new ‘Super-Vocs’, an advanced android that speak with her voice. It isn’t long before things start to go wrong, however, as the suitably sinister Robots are set against the population of Kaldor for reasons unknown…

In essence this story is a classic Base-Under-Siege story with every criticism of capitalism that you would expect from a story set in a corporate dystopia. However, there is a more sophisticated element weaved into this story that stems from the character of Kit, a former friend of Liv’s who happens to be a member of one of the 20 founding families. The corporation vs consumer story is offset by the meddling of an entitled, naïve and immature member of the elite, and in many ways this story is a more thoughtful version of the 2018 TV story Kerblam! as it treats the saboteurs and the corporations as equally liable rather than shifting all the blame on the rogue element and letting the corporation get off scot-free. Overall, Escape from Kaldor is an exciting adventure that leads into the spinoff series ‘The Robots’, a full set of audio box sets starring Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka and Claire Rushbrook as Tula Chenka. Liv’s relationship with her sister takes centre stage in this story and the payoff is certainly worth it, as we finally get some closure to Liv’s backstory that has been slowly teased at throughout her time as a companion.

2.2 – Better Watch Out

The Doctor takes Liv and Helen to Salzberg to experience a traditional European Christmas, which Liv has never experienced having grown up in the far-future on Kaldor. In fact, Helen has to explain the concept of Christmas to Liv early on in the story. This audio has some great soundscapes that really invoke the Christmas feel, everything from carol singers to Christmas markets. But make no mistake – this audio is a monster story. The Doctor, Liv and Helen arrive in Salzburg not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but December 5th – Krampusnacht, or the Feast of St Nicholas. The theme of the Krampus, a hideous goat-legged demon-like monster from Alpine mythology, runs throughout this audio, and the idea of virtues and sins being judged by a demonic entity that stands as the antithesis to Father Christmas is a bizarre yet brilliant idea for a Doctor Who story. In many ways, the Better Watch Out / Fairytale of Salzberg two-parter explores ideas that the TV Christmas Specials would never have been able to, and the fact that it draws from traditional Christmas legends makes it one of the richest Christmas-themed stories Doctor Who has ever fielded.

The story begins as the Doctor steps in to assist a woman who is being threatened with homelessness by her landlord, who the Doctor notices seems very eager to evict his tenants. The parallels to A Christmas Carol are referenced by the Doctor himself, who compares the landlord to Scrooge, and the Doctor’s attempts to convince the landlord to embrace the spirit of Christmas are rebuked. Meanwhile, Liv and Helen are attacked by Imps in the street, as physical manifestations of the Krampus’s demons begin abducting the residents of Salzberg. The Imps themselves are suitably bizarre to listen to, and there is a great scene where Helen slowly realises that the Imps are not part of the festivities and are actually taking people, and Liv discovers that they are actual creatures after knocking one out with a well-aimed right hook. The Imps represent the physical manifestations of the demons of hell, and as such are driven to round up and punish anyone who has committed any sin, and as such they begin to round up the entire population of the city.

Throughout this audio, the events of the story are analysed and commented on by two distinct sets of characters who are separate from the main narrative. The first set is the Doctor in the future, who has brought another character called Bruno to Salzberg in the future, which is engulfed in flames as a result of something that Bruno did in the past, seemingly the end result of the Imp’s attack on the city. Another pair, an elderly pilgrim and a Bishop, discuss the legend of the Krampus and how it ties into the story. This fragmented method of delivering story elements is interesting and is the kind of storytelling that an audio drama format lends itself well to. Clearly not all is as it seems with this story, there is plenty of intrigue abound as the various seemingly disconnected story elements gradually come together. Considering the fact that Ravenous 2 promised monsters a plenty, Better Watch Out fills the quota almost single-handed with not only an army of demons but also the Krampus itself, which is brought to life with incredible sound design with a terrifying roar. The story also ends on a great cliff-hanger that leads into the next story, Fairytale of Salzburg.

2.3 – Fairytale of Salzburg

After Better Watch Out presented a bizarre and intriguing story, Fairytale of Salzburg finally starts to explain things about the story and answer some of the most pressing questions from the previous audio – namely, how the Krampus and the Imps come to exist in the first place and how the disconnected elements of Better Watch Out link together. The structure of this audio is somewhat reminiscent of a Moffat story, as it holds its cards close to its chest for the majority of the runtime before finally sliding the last critical pieces into place to bring the whole story together. Overall, the Krampus two-parter is presented as an epic, and should be regarded as such as this is an ambitious undertaking that pays off excellently, cementing Ravenous 2 as a box set that delivers on its promise of scary monsters.

Unfortunately, revealing too much about the story of Fairytale of Salzburg will spoil crucial plot elements of not only this story but the previous one as well. It has to be said that these stories are among the strongest in the Eighth Doctor’s tenure, and both Liv and Helen really get a chance to shine as Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan do a fantastic job in their roles. Each character gets more than one great scene in this audio, as Liv demonstrates her ability to stand in for the Doctor as she leads her friends on a mission without him, and Helen is instrumental in resolving the story, making some incredible sacrifices to save her friends from a horrible fate and proving once again that she is a worthy addition to the TARDIS team.

This audio foregoes the Christmas theme completely in favour of a full-on monster story, with the Krampus condemning sinners to hell and casting them down with commands uttered with its booming voice. The ultimate conclusion to this story is satisfying and poignant, and hearing all the various splintered narratives from throughout this two-parter finally culminate as the plot unfolds makes Better Watch Out / Fairytale of Salzburg one of the best stories in the Ravenous saga. The ending showcases the best of all three main characters, with Liv, Helen and the Doctor all at their absolute best in this story, particularly Helen as she plays a critical role in this story and she gets some great moments with Liv that show just how much their friendship has grown during their time travelling together. Overall Fairytale of Salzberg delivers a brilliant conclusion to this two-part story that not only delivers on the monster factor but also gives us a wonderful story that is a strong outing for this TARDIS team.

2.4 – Seizure

After the incredible epic that was Better Watch Out / Fairytale of Salzburg, Ravenous 2 hits a home run with this finale. Seizure might well be one of the most atmospheric, exciting and scary audios that Big Finish have ever produced, and it is a testament to the imagination, skill and dedication of everyone involved in creating this production that even this far into the Eighth Doctor’s huge series of audios, Big Finish can still outdo themselves and create some truly incredible pieces of art. Seizure has one of the most interesting setups for a Doctor Who story ever devised, as the Doctor and his companions arrive in a dying, haunted TARDIS drifting in the vortex in response to a distress signal, and soon discover that the Gothic hallways are being stalked by several evil monsters, including the Eleven who returns once again, although this time as a reluctant ally to the Doctor, Liv and Helen. But there is something even more monstrous lurking among the endless empty hallways.

Spoilers – it’s one of the eponymous creatures that have thus far only been mentioned or hinted at in this saga, the Ravenous. These are disgusting monsters from the early legends of Gallifrey, creatures that all Time Lords, even the Doctor, fear on instinct as they feed on regeneration energy by draining the lives of any Time Lord they come across. This story has atmosphere and chills a-plenty, as a sinister spectre stalks the halls of the dying TARDIS as the internal geography begins to break down. The Doctor and Helen are soon separated from Liv, and soon meet the Eleven, who is terrified out of his mind and desperate to escape. With ghosts and monsters prowling about the hallways and the TARDIS itself collapsing in on itself, The Doctor and Helen must find Liv, save the Eleven and escape before they are devoured.

The introduction of the Ravenous creature itself is also excellent, as the sound design and voice work sells this monster as a terrifying entity. The design works best for audio, as the horrific screech, the music and the sound effects make the Ravenous an intimidating presence. They also have an interesting effect on the Doctor, who is usually calm and calculated during adventures but in this case he is driven almost mad with panic, even before the Ravenous appear he begins to show small out-of-character moments of annoyance and anger. This is an interesting aspect to a monster as there is a real sense that he is genuinely scared of the Ravenous, and it isn’t hard to see why as the cover art shows just how disgusting and horrifying these creatures are, but the sound effects is what really sells these creatures with their horrific roar and grating voice. Seizure has scares, chills and atmosphere that make it a fantastic finale to Ravenous 2, and it is a really strong introduction to the eponymous Ravenous creatures.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 3

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 1

The Doctor and Liv are in pursuit of Helen and the Eleven after the conclusion of the Doom Coalition series, and this brings us to the first of the Ravenous box sets. Separating Helen from the Doctor and Liv is an interesting series arc for this box set, and provides a more pressing reason for them to go searching for the Eleven following the events of Doom Coalition and it also allows for some interesting character development between Helen and the Eleven later on. Ravenous represents a new era for the Eighth Doctor in more ways than one – the first box set of this series is the last to use to the silver Classic Series logo as all audios from this point forward use the new branding for the 2018 rebranding of Doctor Who.

1.1 – Their Finest Hour

Set during World War 2, Their Finest Hour features Ian McNeice who reprises his role as Winston Churchill that he played in Victory of the Daleks, as Churchill calls the Doctor on the eve of the Battle of Britain after several RAF fighters mysteriously disappear. It is interesting to note that Liv Chenka has no idea who Churchill is, as although she is Human she is from another planet in the far future, and all of her information about Earth’s history comes from the other companions she meets such as Molly and Helen, and there is a nice reference to Molly early on as Liv compares the two World Wars that she has now experienced at two different points in her travels with the Doctor. Although World War 2 is a fairly well-used setting for Doctor Who stories at this point, this audio focuses on a very specific aspect of the war that has not been explored in Doctor Who much.

This audio prominently features the Polish pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain, who in real-life history escaped the Nazi occupation of Poland and flew for the RAF in the Battle of Britain. This story’s two Polish pilots, Jan Ostowicz and Wilhelm Rozycki, are the two main pilot characters in the story, and honestly it is refreshing to have a World War 2 story that isn’t populated with over-the-top tally-ho British characters with faux-toff accents that are overused tropes of this historical era, and the pilot characters are very memorable and likeable in their characterisation which is a great surprise. After the sheer number of British pilot stereotype characters that have been featured in Big Finish’s early days, this audio comes as a breath of fresh air.

Their Finest Hour doesn’t shy away from a realistic depiction of war, and the characters are realistically depicted by a great cast. Paul McGann and Nicola Walker are great as always, Liv gets some great scenes as she is separated from the Doctor and trapped on an alien ship with one of the pilots and so must assume a Doctor-like role in order to escape. One of the most memorable things about this audio is its ending, which is suitably bleak given the setting and delivers a great gut-punch that hits home how horrible life was on the front line for those fighting in World War 2, particularly the Battle of Britain. As a series opener, Their Finest Hour does a great job, and it makes a really good first impression for the Ravenous saga.

1.2 – How to Make a Killing in Time Travel

This story begins with the much-maligned scientist Stralla Cushing attempting to invent time travel for her brutish boss, Cornelius Morningstar. Her experiments draw the attention of the TARDIS, and The Doctor and Liv are diverted in their search for Helen to the space station Scapegrace. Unfortunately, several other parties are aware of the developments in temporal technology taking place on the station and the cross-interferences of each group causes absolute chaos as the story progresses. This audio sometimes feels like a play, there are a few larger-than-life characters and bizarre creatures with enigmatic character traits, this is perhaps the closest this era gets to feeling like the Hartnell era, but at the same time it is also fast-paced and snappy like a New Series story. Liv is particularly funny in this story as she calls out the Doctor on his initial blasé approach to meddling, as his assurances that everything will be sorted in a jiffy are, of course, naively optimistic.

The story does take a few dark turns, however, and there are some great performances from the supporting cast that sell the grimmer scenes in this audio, and everyone from the comically deranged Morningstar to the charismatic duo of Gorl and Dron are memorable and give this story a very unique identity. The title is also fitting, as the invention of time travel and the string of crimes and blackmails that follow are the catalyst for a fascinating temporal murder mystery, with an interesting twist that the audience are aware of what is going on and yet all of the characters, including the Doctor and Liv, blunder through the story completely unawares. In a very Much Ado About Nothing-style series of mishaps and innuendos one murder causes a chain of events that threatens to destroy an entire civilisation.

Although this audio plays itself as somewhat of a comedic story, with the ending being played for laughs more than anything, this is a genuinely exciting listen and there are some great character moments between the Doctor and Liv. How to Make a Killing in Time Travel is a fun standalone story that has little to do with the wider story of the Ravenous series, but this is ideal as the next two stories return to the more pressing issue of Helen’s kidnapping. Nonetheless, some of Big Finish’s best earlier works are standalone audios, and this story continues that tradition with a fun run-around that makes for a nice diversion whilst also offering some funny and heart-warming character moments between the Doctor and Liv.

1.3 – World of Damnation

The tone shifts dramatically for the next story, World of Damnation, as the Eleven and Helen are trapped on Rykerzon, a maximum-security prison for the most dangerous criminals. To address the elephant in the room, this audio features the return of the Kandyman from the Seventh Doctor TV story The Happiness Patrol in 1988, who menaced the citizens of Terra Alpha with his deadly desserts. He is seemingly up to his old tricks in this audio after reconstituting himself with a new grotesque body, as he serves sickeningly sweet treats to the prisoners and officials alike on on Rykerzon. The Eleven is held prisoner, and Helen acts as a carer and emotional mentor for him, taking on an almost motherly role as the two characters are given months of time together to form a bizarre ‘friendship’. The scenes between these two characters throughout this audio are some of the most fascinating in the series, and it is good that the Ravenous series is doing more with the character of the Eleven as he is a really fun anti-villain to have around and there is a lot of potential with the character.

The Doctor and Liv finally arrive in pursuit of Helen and the Eleven, and are immediately separated, as is customary. Liv meets up with two of the best of the supporting cast, Ruzalla and Crabhead, who explain that the Kandyman has taken control of the prison and now treats the majority of the prisoners like animals, feeding them troughs of desserts to placate them as a form of crowd control. The setting of a decrepit prison being subverted by the Kandyman and transformed into a sickening sweet factory has some great potential that World of Damnation takes full advantage of.

Oddly enough, despite his notorious reputation in the fanbase, the return of the Kandyman is pulled off exceptionally in this audio as his completely reformatted body allows him to be reintroduced as almost a completely different character. Although the horrific, high-pitched voice of the Kandyman in the Classic Series was one of his defining features, the design of the creature caused several issues for the show and its appearance detracted from any potential explanation for its bizarre sugar-related philosophy. This audio sets up the Kandyman as an actual character rather than a monster, and without the insane voice and stomping costume the character has been changed for the better for audio. He even gets a great reunion scene with the Doctor as the two meet again after many years. The cliff-hanger ending to this story is also suitably gut-punching, though not for the reasons you might expect.

1.4 – Sweet Salvation

After finally meeting back up with Helen at the end of the last story, the Doctor senses that something isn’t right. As it happens, he is right, as the Eleven and the Kandyman have made an alliance to take over not only Rykerzon but the nearby Colony 23 as well, using pacifying sweets and fizzy drinks to take over the planet. As their plan is set into motion the Doctor, Liv and Helen as well as former prison occupant Ruzalla meet up at last and begin to unravel what is going on. This is somewhat of a low-key finale for the first series of Ravenous, though as with Doom Coalition before it lower-stakes finales allow for more room for character development. This story tests the trust between the Doctor and Helen as he suspects her of being manipulated by the Eleven and continues to question her motivations, much to the chagrin of Liv who trusts Helen implicitly. Overall the pairing of Helen and Liv has been a highlight of this era, and there is no better showcase of this than their relationship in the Ravenous series.

Speaking of great character pairings, the matchup of the Kandyman and the Eleven is an interesting choice to say the least, as both villains are suitably deranged and maniacal so the two complement each other quite well, though one has to wonder how anyone was fooled by their attempts to impersonate legitimate officials to deal with the people of Colony 23. The basic plan of influencing the population using particular flavours is interesting and fits with the character, as he is once again playing the role of enforcer for a tyrannical regime as he was in The Happiness Patrol. The Kandyman has some great interactions with some of the Eleven’s earlier personalities, particularly the child-like Three and animalistic Six, as their kid-in-a-candy-shop glee at being evil matches up well with an actual evil Kandyman.

Overall Sweet Salvation wraps up the first box set of the Ravenous series with a great character-focused finale and it sets up several plot threads for later in the series, including the Eleven’s developing character as well as the mysterious screeching entities that are pursuing him and the Doctor. Although this box set is only the first in the Ravenous series, it represents the end of an era in one crucial respect: this is the last box set to use the classic Doctor Who logo on its branding, as releases from this point onward use the new branding introduced in 2018 for the New Series under Chris Chibnall. There is a lot more to Ravenous 2 than a simple change of box art design, however, as from here things start to get spooky, as the next box set in the Ravenous series has one defining theme – Monsters.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Ravenous 2

Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Doom Coalition 1

At the conclusion of the Dark Eyes saga, the Doctor and Liv Chenka are finally free of the Daleks, the Eminence and the Master, and as one saga ends another begins. Doom Coalition is much more character-focused, as whilst Dark Eyes was a space opera saga in audio form, Doom Coalition is more of a return to the traditional Doctor Who format of many stories in a series linked by a recurring story arc, in this case the malevolent meddling of a renegade Time Lord criminal known as the Eleven. This new series not only introduces a new companion, bringing the TARDIS team to a total of three members, but it also introduces a new villain who has a lasting impact on the next few series of Eighth Doctor audios.

1.1 – The Eleven

This audio begins with a great sequence involving the Seventh Doctor played by Sylvester McCoy and a new Time Lord character that this series introduces called the Eleven, played by Mark Bonnar. This Time Lord suffers from regenerative dissonance, a Time Lord condition in which the previous incarnations of the Time Lord live on as voices in their head, and the Eleven is so named because he is the eleventh incarnation, and so possesses ten previous incarnations that periodically take control of his body to comment on events, converse with each other, or attempt to take control. Bonnar’s performance is electric and the Eleven is perhaps the greatest original villain that Big Finish have created, and this audio is a great introduction to the character.

The Doctor and Liv are drawn to Gallifrey as the Eleven escapes his long imprisonment, and we get to visit post-Classic era Gallifrey at the height of its power, that not only tolerates Human presence on the planet but outright seeks the Doctor’s help in stopping the threat, which is a welcome change from previous Gallifrey stories that position the Time Lords as antagonists of the Doctor. Learning more about Gallifreyan society during the presidency of Romana II is fascinating, and the majority of the Time Lord characters are well-developed, although there are still some Time Lords who insist on playing the bad-cop role.

Thanks to an obscure Time Lord law and a brief period as a member of the High Council in his first incarnation, the Eleven is able to seize control of Gallifrey and install himself as Acting President, taking Liv prisoner and attempting to steal the Time Lord’s repository of weapons. There is some interesting banter in this story, between both the Doctor and Farina and the Eleven arguing with his various incarnations, and this is a great series opener that makes excellent use of the run time to deliver a great Gallifrey story that doubles as a fantastic introduction to the Eleven. Paul McGann, Nicola Walker and Mark Bonnar are all fantastic, and the supporting cast do a great job of bringing Gallifrey to life for a new era of audios.

1.2 – The Red Lady

This audio is very memorable, beginning with a fantastic opening in which the collection of a recently deceased art collector is donated to the National Museum despite the fact that his final instructions insisted that it remain hidden from view. This kicks off a mystery involving the eponymous Red Lady, as she appears in every single piece of artwork in the collection which peaks the interest of several academics. The Doctor and Liv arrive in London 1963 in pursuit of the Eleven, and are soon embroiled in the mystery. This audio is steeped in curiosity and intrigue, and makes for a great self-contained story that is similar in several ways to the New Series TV story Blink, as this is definitely one of the most intriguing horror stories in Doctor Who.

This audio introduces us to the newest companion of this era of Eighth Doctor audios, Helen Sinclair, who works in the National Museum in 1963 despite the disdain of her male colleagues. Helen’s struggle to make a name for herself in the predominantly male-dominated world of 1960s Britain makes her a sympathetic character from the start, and she has immediate chemistry with both Liv and the Doctor making her an ideal addition to the TARDIS team. Played by Hattie Morahan, Helen is a great companion for the Eighth Doctor and her introduction in this story is easily one of the best things about Doom Coalition 1. Hattie Morahan is a wonderful addition to the cast and she is immediately likeable in this story despite technically filling an antagonist role towards the Doctor and Liv for the first act.

The Red Lady does a great job of presenting a mystery that is, for now, totally unexplained. One of the best things about this audio is that the threat is ambiguous, its powers are completely unknown, and we are left completely stupefied as to what its true intentions are. There are several mysteries threaded throughout this audio, not all of which are resolved here. Nonetheless, The Red Lady presents a fantastic standalone story that serves as a wonderful introductory story for Helen Sinclair whilst also being a great standalone horror story. The mystery and terror surrounding this unique and unexplained entity makes this audio a thrilling listen, so The Red Lady sets the bar high for the rest of Doom Coalition 1.

1.3 – The Galileo Trap

Helen’s first trip in the TARDIS takes the team to Florence in 1639, drawn there by a message sent by none other than Galileo Galilei, who is already a friend of the Doctor, and as the name implies, is aware that his involvement in this series of events is little more than a plot to draw the Doctor in. There are several non-Human persons at large in the time period, including a particularly vicious pair of mercenaries who are unleashing several murderous creatures onto the citizens of 17th century Italy as part of a hired job from an as-yet unknown benefactor. They themselves are being hunted by extra-terrestrial forces however, which makes for an interesting setup with several parties following their own set of goals.

This audio is important for developing Helen’s role as a companion, as this serves as her introduction to the concept of time-travel as well as the idea of non-Human entities. The interactions between Helen, a companion from the relative past, and Liv, a companion from the relative future, is one of the most engaging aspects of this era and makes one wonder why the New Series has not made use of the time-travel aspect of Doctor Who to establish companions from various eras who can provide different points of view on the various settings and time periods. The characterisation of Galileo is also good in this story, as it makes sense that the two would already know each other in this late period in Galileo’s life, rather like how Winston Churchill already knows the Doctor in the TV story Victory of the Daleks.

This audio does a great job of illustrating the injustice of Galileo’s situation towards the end of his life, as he is imprisoned under house arrest for the simple act of declaring that the Earth must revolve around the Sun. A Doctor Who story that features a historical figure often attempts to humanize the historical figure in the context of the modern day, and this one is no exception. The Galileo Trap is a great story that makes a great build-up to the final story in the first series of Doom Coalition, and gives Helen a story to develop as a companion as well as a character before the finale to her introductory series. Hattie Morahan steps into the role of Helen instantly, and she immediately establishes herself as a valuable addition to this TARDIS team.

1.4 – The Satanic Mill

This audio starts with another sequence of the Eleven attempting to regain control over his other incarnations, and its worth mentioning that the character is brilliantly realised in a way that the audio drama complements perfectly. Over time it becomes clear which of the Eleven’s incarnations are which, be it the murderous Six, the mischievous Three, the kleptomaniacal Nine or the remorseful Eight, each of them become as much their own individual characters as the Eleven himself and Mark Bonnar puts in a wonderful performance here that makes the Eleven one of the most dynamic villains in Doctor Who history. The Doctor, Liv and Helen finally catch up to him on a bizarre planetoid-sized Workhouse that Galileo named ‘Phaiton’, which they discover is filled with seemingly hypnotized worshippers who walk around around the place like zombies. The Eleven has set himself up as the leader of this facility, which is in fact an abandoned stellar manipulator from ancient Gallifreyan history that the Eleven locates using the Regeneration Codex, a device he stole in the first audio of this box set.

During some slow-paced scenes early on which serve as a welcome break from the usual fast-paced action of Eighth Doctor series finales, Liv and Helen get some time to chat as the two learn more about each other, and Liv tells Helen more about the Doctor and the nature of regeneration, and we are once again reminded of just how long Liv has known the Doctor, as she first met him in his seventh incarnation, the same one which trapped the Eleven. It is worth mentioning that despite the fact that the two companions are from completely different time periods, Liv being from the far future and Helen being from the 20th century, these differences are rarely an issue save for the occasional colloquial misunderstanding which is often played for comedy.

The Eleven’s plan is suitably devious, and there is a great scene in which the Eleven’s previous incarnations discuss the plan and offer their various opinions on how events are unfolding, including the Eight who is the only one of the Eleven’s incarnations who isn’t evil and expresses regret and remorse at the actions of his successor. One of the things that makes the Eleven an unpredictable villain is that he has to appease his various other incarnations, particularly the Six who is often quick to ask for the murder of whoever happens to be in the room. In many ways the Eleven brings out the darker side of the Eighth Doctor as he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect his friends, and The Satanic Mill is a perfect example of this. As the finale for Doom Coalition 1, this audio is excellent, as it is not only a fantastic outing for the Eleven as a villain but it also solidifies the new TARDIS team whilst also posing several questions to be addressed in later releases in the Doom Coalition series.

Next – Eighth Doctor Big Finish Audios Review – Doom Coalition 2