The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 4 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 25 October 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 4 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Moran, Mark Bonnar, Geoffrey Beevers, Michelle Gomez, Derek Jacobi, & Eric Roberts

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous has been an odd set of adventures.  The titular monster of the set doesn't even show up until the final episode of the second box set.  The first boxset was really more about doing a bit of clean-up from the aftermath of Doom Coalition.  It was the third set that really explored the Ravenous storyline for the first time. And now, one set later, we are already wrapping the whole thing up.  

 

As I always do, here I will warn that SPOILERS may be ahead. For those weary, skip out.  If you want to know whether or not you should grab this set: do!  It's a ton of fun and a great conclusion to these adventures.

 

The set opens up with Whispers, which is really just a Doctor Who take on the concept of the recent horror movie “A Quiet Place.” The TARDIS lands on a planet where they must be extra quiet as making too much noise gets then killed by a monster. It’s fine, if derivative. The point of this episode is really to just showcase the dynamic of having the Eleven being a new member of the TARDIS team, and how much distrust Liv still has of him.The events that lead to the ultimate conclusion of Ravenous truly begin with Planet of Dust. The Doctor takes the Eleven to a desolate planet where he can become a hermit and learn to control his other selves. It is quickly apparent, to the audience and it seems just Liv, that the Eleven actually has another scheme up his sleeve.It turns out the Master (in his Geoffrey Beevers husk form) is also on the planet, withholding the planet’s water in an attempt to hold the people hostage, as he searches for the Tomb of Artron. The history of the Husk version has always been somewhat confusing to me, particularly in spin-pff media. I get that he is post-Delgado, but on audio he also seems to appear both as pre-Ainley and post-Ainley. There was also dialogue in this that made me think he might also be post-Roberts...but also some dialogue that made me think he was pre-Roberts. At any rate the best I could gather here is that the Husk keeps returning. He can take on Tremas’ body, but it eventually fails...he can try to sustain himself with the Cheetah people, or turn into a weird liquid snake thing, or steal an EMT's human body...but in the end he keeps reverting back to the husk. And this time even that body is failing. So he is desperate to find Artron’s tomb which may contain some secret to eternal life.The second episode is quite good.  I've not listened to a ton of Big Finish stories featuring Beevers as the Master, but he really is damn good in the role. The story with the Master also sets up the epic two-part finale to the Ravenous line, as the dying Master is devoured by the Ravenous creatures, allowing the Doctor and company to escape. It also throws out any kind of redemption story for the Eleven, as it turns out he was playing the Doctor for a fool all along, and is still a baddie.

The two-part finale, The Day of the Master, makes good on it's title's promise, by giving us three major Master guest stars: Eric Roberts (playing opposite McGann for the first time since the TV movie), Derek Jacobi (who has been KILLING it on audio these days), and Missy (who is also there!).  

The Doctor and Liv were forced to leave without Helen, who somehow disappeared from the planet, and the Doctor decides the best way to find out where the Eleven has gone is to head for to the same planet the Master got his info on the Tomb of Artron. But where he needs to go is too dangerous, so he drops Liv off and leaves her behind, hoping to keep her safe.  And this is where all the Masters come in.  Helen, it turns out, was taken hostage by Missy.  Missy wants to use Helen's knowledge of ancient languages in order to translate some text that should lead to a God.  Meanwhile Liv is quickly rescued not by the Doctor, but by the War Master (though she assumes he is a Time Lord agent).  The Doctor ends up on a planet Kolstan, where he not only finds the ancient Time Lord scientist Artron, but also the "Bruce" version of the Master (let's just call him Bruce to simplify things) from the TV movie, who escaped the Time Vortex and eventually ended up here, on a planet within the Vortex.  

Ultimately the stories all converge with the Eleven and the Ravenous as well.  The Planet Kolstan is within the Vortex, and therefore everyone on it should be ripped apart. Yet a happy lovely people live on the world, the Kolstani.  They have a sort of energy that keeps them alive.  Artron hopes to use it as a key to immortality.  But when Bruce tries to force Artron to give him all of the Energy in order to sustain his own life indefinitely, it all backfires on Bruce when Artron takes all the energy himself to save the Doctor's life and keep Bruce from such unlimited power.  This turns Artron into essentially a God, but a God who feels guilty for what he has done to the Kolstani...as they are deprived of their lifeblood they become hungry for any kind of regenerative energy.  They become the Ravenous...hence their need to feed on Time Lords.  

This set is packed.  I've barely scratched the surface of things packed into it, but it truly does a great job of wrapping everything up.  We understand the origins of the Ravenous, and Artron even solves that issue when the Doctor points out while he has granted one wish to anyone who asks, he has never granted his own wish, to save the Kolstani.  He takes away all his power to give them back the life they once had.  And from there the set leaves the Eleven feeling pretty down, his epic plan having just been toppled yet again.  And while he hopes to team up with a variety of Masters, they kick him while he down by killing his current incarnation (because the Doctor doesn't NEED another arch enemy, they've got that covered!).  This sets up the Twelve that was heard in the Time War sets.  The Masters then go back and restore life to the devoured Husk of the Master from Planet of Dust, giving themselves a whole new future (except Bruce who gets chucked back into the Time Vortex).  While they leave it somewhat ambiguous as to what the new incarnation that succeeds the Beevers Master is, at the moment I am choosing to believe this is where the Alex McQueen version (who was featured throughout Dark Eyes) began...and that he was the start of a whole new cycle of regenerations that lead to Jacobi, Simm, and Gomez. 

Like I said, this is a packed set.  It does a great job of wrapping up a lot of elements from not only the Ravenous series, but also some elements from Doom Coalition as well (like the conclusion of the Eleven).  Whereas Doom Coalition ended with some cliffhangers, Ravenous feels like a proper ending.  It seems Big Finish already has a new series in the works for the Eighth Doctor, Liv, and Helen (only slightly hinted within the story's end, but confirmed in the Behind the Scenes portion). That is nice, that we have more to look forward to, but part of me wishes that the Eighth Doctor could move on from Liv and Helen.  They've been fine companions throughout, but neither has really grabbed me in the same way Lucie or Charley or Molly had.  Then again, Bliss has been a bit of dud over in the Time War sets, so who knows if Big Finish has any more fantastic companions in them for the Eighth Doctor. 

 

At any rate, Ravenous has come to an end.  It was a solid series of adventures, but this ending was big, bold, and a ton of fun. 






The Eighth Doctor: The Time War Series 3Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 8 September 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Time War - Series 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton, Lisa McMullin, Roland Moore, & John Dorney
 
 Director: Ken Bentley
 
Featuring: Paul McGannRakhee Thakrar, Adele Anderson, Michael Jayston

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released: August 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

The latest Big Finish boxset starring Paul McGann is the third entry in the Time War series.  This time, The Eighth Doctor and his companion Bliss face off against Multiverses, Planets ravaged by the Time War, A Survivor of an Alien Race meant to be entirely erased from history, and the unexpected return of the Valeyard! 

The story begins with a strong vehicle for Rakhee Thakrar's character Bliss (State of Bliss).  This is good because this is the third boxset, and I still feel like I hardly know the character.  Too often she feels like someone for the Doctor to talk to.  No more, no less.  This episode gives her a lot to do, and she carries the whole thing.  Unfortunately, this episode is not a sign of things to come, because for  the rest of the set she feels sidelined into the "generic companion" role.  It's a shame, because it feels like if the writers had any real character with Bliss, Thakrar is clearly capable of pulling it off. But the opener is the only story in this set that gives her any depth.  It's one thing McGann's other ongoing boxset has over the Time War series, Liv and Helen have personalities. They aren't my favorite companions, not even for the Eighth Doctor, but they seem to have some depth written into the characters that Bliss mostly lacks.  Still, this is a fine episode to open the set because like anything Time War related should, it really explores the consequences of the War.

So to does the second entry, The Famished Lands, which dives into a planet which has been turned upside down as a side effect of the Time War.  It's a planet that has limited resources of it's own, and relied on trade to thrive...but the Time War has cut off their supplies, and society has broken down.  A story like this, where the Eighth Doctor has to try and help a troubled world effected by the actions of his own people...well that is exactly what I want from this particular series.

The third entry is Fugitive in Time, and in order to help the people of that planet, the Doctor does a favor for Major Tamasan of the Time Lords...if he helps her, she will help out the little planet he wants to save.  But of course her mission isn't so easy.  They are meant to track down an alien whose race was meant to be entirely erased from History by the Time Lords, find out why she survived and make sure she joins the rest of her race.  This doesn't really gel with the Doctor's usual modus operandi, so it gives him some moral quandary to deal with. 

The set closes out with The War Valeyard which sees the return of Michael Jayston to the role, but this time he believes himself to be the Doctor, fighting the Time War on the front lines...though he seems to be battling himself, caught in a time loop.  The Eighth Doctor is of course concerned by his very existence, as he believed he had wiped him out when his Sixth Incarnation had regenerated.  This is a very entertaining end to the set, and it is always fun to hear Jayston's voice. 

On the whole, I'd say this is a pretty stellar set. It has good stories, good acting, and fun Time War concepts.  If I had a complaint, it is that beyond the opener, Bliss doesn't have nearly anything to do.  Maybe that is why she carries so much of the opener, they knew they were going to waste her in every story that followed. But even with that complaint, there is a lot to like in this set. 

 

 

 






The Eighth Doctor: The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 17 August 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Eighth Doctor: The Further Adventures of Lucie Miller (Credit: Big Finish)
Starring Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Written by Nicholas Briggs, Alice Cavender, Eddie Robson, & Alan Barnes
Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Released by Big Finish - July 2019

Once upon a time, it was not as accepted to be a nerd in the mainstream.  In college, I was slowly rediscovering my love for such nerdy things as Star Trek, when I discovered Doctor Who. Tennant was still the Doctor, just about to start his second series in the role, and I watched and rewatched his debut series and then the preceding one with Eccleston over and over again.  But because being a nerd was still not something that people proudly declared to the world, I would tell myself that I only liked the new series, I wasn't someone who would get sucked into that old show. Of course, I got sucked in and went back and watched the entire classic run as well. But I'd never be such a nerd that I'd listen to those audio stories.  

But Big Finish released the first adventures with Lucie Miller, and for whatever reason, I gave them a listen.  They were easily digestible, made in the style of the new series, and they had a Doctor that hadn't much of a TV run, so why not listen to these stories to see if maybe beyond his rather bad movie he could actually be good.  And McGann was great...and Lucie Miller was a fun companion to have along for the ride.  Eventually, I gave up trying to convince myself I wasn't "that big of a nerd" and just listened to the whole back catalogue of Eighth Doctor adventures, starting with Storm Warning on, and I became a massive fan of anything Eighth Doctor.  But every time a new series with Lucie Miller came out, I was always ready and excited.  As good as some of the early Charley stuff was, as good as epic boxsets that have come out since can be...nothing comes close to the Lucie Miller run in terms of consistent quality for me.  

Sheridan Smith has returned for this boxset, set in between her first and second series, and it sees her reunion with the McGann, eight years since Lucie departed in To the Death. In the set the get trapped in a black hole with some confused Daleks, take down an evil mega-corporation with Roller Derby, help some people trapped in a warped Downton Abbey nightmare planet, and finally take on the return of the evil Fendahl.  It's a fun set, and while all the stories are fun and well written, it is the return of Smith and McGann's rapport that is the star of the show.  They play off each other well, and they don't feel like they have missed much of a beat.

If you were a fan of the Lucie Miller era of the Eighth Doctor audio adventures, you no doubt want to get this already.  As a sampler for new fans looking to dip their toe in with the duo, it is decent.  I think it probably more fun for fans who already loved this team.  If you really want to see if you like them together, I suggest just starting with their first series.  Obviously, it is more cost-effective to buy this, and if you want a taste of this dynamic I can tell you that it does not rely heavily on continuity, and you won't be lost. 






The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 3 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 April 2019 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 3 (Credit: Big Finish)
Writer: Matt Fitton & John Dorney
Director: Ken Bentley
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released April 2019

Running Time: 5 hours

Ravenous 3 continues the Eighth Doctor storyline, seeing the Doctor and friends Liv and Helen trying to escape from the Ravenous, ancient monsters that love to eat Time Lords life energy.  Thinking back, it has been a long time since a Eighth Doctor lead boxset from Big Finish has let me down, and I am happy to say the rend continues!  Paul McGann has gotten some of the best stories from Big Finish since 2007 when he took Lucie Miller on board.  And that shouldn't even knock the good ol' Charley days of yesteryear, but 2007 is when I feel his Doctor truly took off...and he we are over a decade later and they are still knocking out really high quality boxsets with this Doctor. 

 

As always, I try to keep back the details of the stories as best I can, but Spoiler-phobic may wish to avoid may review...needless to say, I recommend it, those who want more details, carry on:

 

Our adventure begins with Deeptime Frontier, as the gang ending up on a Time Lord space station that is mining the Time Vortex...but the rift it has opened seems to be the very cause of the ancient Ravenous being unleashed upon the universe, and while the station seemingly only has one dead ravenous aboard, the Doctor knows more are on the trail.  I've felt that a lot of these boxsets have been staring slow, but I think this one comes out swinging.  As much as I have enjoyed the previous sets in the Ravenous series, it must be said that the actual Ravenous haven't played a large role so far.  They were only briefly mentioned at the end of the first set, and despite making their actual debut in the final story of Ravenous 2, they really played no role in the three stories that preceded.  They were good stories and fun to listen to, but they could've gone out in any set.  This set actually begins with the Ravenous heavily involved in the plot, and even as they take a backseat for an episode or two, at least the TARDIS team is technically still on the run from them.  

Episode two of the set (Companion Piece) has Liv and Helen captured by the Nine (a previous incarnation of the Eleven), and since he regenerated from the Eight back in Doom Coalition 3, he has been collecting all of the Doctor's companions and putting them in cells in chronological order.  Liv & Helen end up in a cell with a woman who keeps getting moved back in forth in her order, Charlotte Pollard.  Yay Charley!  I always liked Charley and the Eighth Doctor together.  While it is a shame there is no reunion between the Doctor and his old friend from his earliest Big Finish days, it was still nice to hear from her again.  The story also features River Song, who is being used by the Nine to help find all the old companions, though being River things are never so simple.  This was a fun episode, fun getting to hear so many companions make brief cameo, but just well executed fun beyond that.  

In L.E.G.E.N.D., The Doctor is reunited with Liv and Helen, having caught up with them at the end of the previous adventure, and with the Eleven in tow, they end up in an adventure in 19th Century Germany, where they meet the Brothers Grimm and have to fight off a super computer and some plasm that can create anything created by an alien researcher who is in over her head...the story may have little to do with the ongoing plot of the Ravenous, but I thought it was a fun story, and at least technically they are still on the run from the beasts. Likely not to be the most memorable story of the set, but still an entertaining hour. 

The set is closed out with The Odds Against, in which the TARDIS lands on a planet, they stumble upon a dead body, the authorities show up, and it seems like a regular day at the office...only the authorities don't believe they had anything to do with the death.  A nice change.  But it turns out the Abbot of the Brotherhood of Ix that seems so helpful may have something more sinister up his sleeve.  Of course, that is because he is more sinister. Meanwhile the Eleven has lost the voice in his head of his Ninth incarnation, apparently, he was eaten up by the Ravenous, or so he thinks.  It turns out that his particular regeneration condition makes him immune to the Ravenous wanting to eat him, and the Abbot is, in fact, The Nine (Ix, get it?).  Overall, a solid conclusion, and a nice cliffhanger, to this volume in the series.

The particular fact of the Eleven's immunity to the Ravenous trying to eat him will clearly play a major role in the fourth boxset, and if this series is to follow the suit of the previous Eighth Doctor boxset series, the fourth is likely to be the finale to this storyline.  If my reviews haven't made it clear, this set has been great, and it is so far the best set in the Ravenous line. 

 

 






The Eighth Doctor - Ravenous 2 (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
Ravenous 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
 

Big Finish Release (United Kingdom)

Released October 2018
 

Running Time: 5 hours

The Eighth Doctor is a box set machine these days.  Pretty much has been since his Fourth Series of "Eighth Doctor Adventures" ended it's run in 2011. Since then he has had four box sets under the Dark Eyes moniker, another four titled Doom Coalition, and more recently began a new line taking place nearer the end of his lifetime simply titled The Time War.  While Big Finish is producing The Time War, They are also continuing the story of The Eighth Doctor along with his friends Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair (his companions throughout Doom Coalition) with Ravenous 1.  This is the second box of that series, so unlike The Time War which is jumping closer to the time of the Eighth Doctor's regeneration as seen in Night of the Doctor, this one essentially carries on his adventures that really began back in 2007.

Ravenous 2 begins with Escape from Kaldor which has the Doctor return to Liv's homeworld, where they end up again battling killer robots and reunite Liv with her estranged sister.  It's a decent enough episode, plants some seeds of things to come, but I won't claim it was the best opener to a set. It felt like the family ties to Liv weren't perfectly conceived.  The episode also lacked a certain energy it needed to kick this new set off.

Luckily, things kick into a more interesting gear with the second story, Better Watch Out.  This story is more Christmas themed, and since the episode that follows continues that storyline...it made me wonder why they released Ravenous 2 in October, instead of waiting until December. At any rate, the story involves the Central European Christmas monster, the Krampus, who is essentially the anti-Santa Claus who steals the bad children away.  Krampus has had a bit of a pop culture jolt in recent years, with a pretty entertaining Christmas themed horror movie in 2015 (simply titled Krampus) as well as a slew of direct-to-video schlock in the last 5 or so years.  So Big Finish feels, in some ways, a bit late to the party.  Though their entry into the party is actually pretty darn good.

The Doctor takes Liv and Helen to Salzburg for their annual Krampusnacht event, but unfortunately, the bit of holiday fun falls apart when Krampus becomes real and begins to take all of the bad people in town.  This particular adventure spreads across two episodes in the set, concluding in Fairytale of Salzburg. That episode sees Krampus fought off by the ingenuity of the Doctor's companions and his historical opposite.  It's a good epic tale, and in some ways, I wish the entire set had been based around this one story.  Expand it in some places, end in Salzburg, then set up for the next boxset.  Then you'd have a pretty fun four hour Christmas adventure. 

Instead, the set comes to it's conclusion with Seizure, which brings the Eleven back into the fold.  The Eleven sends the Doctor a distress call, and the Doctor decides to answer the call, knowing that with the Eleven it could very well be a trap.  The Doctor lands inside the Eleven's TARDIS, but it is a labyrinth that begins to separate the Doctor and his friends...and a frightening beast is aboard.  The beast is the titular Ravenous, first mentioned in the first box set, and making it's first actual appearance here. It's a monster that feeds on life energy, constantly hungry for more...with it's favorite meal being Time Lords.  I think it is a cool monster, and this first glimpse is promising...though part of me wonders how much depth a monster like this can have, especially if it is to be the main antagonist of this particular series of boxsets going forward.  

All in all, this is a pretty good boxset.  While the first story didn't really grab me, the rest of the set is a lot of fun. While I enjoyed the eerie closing episode that marked the first appearance of the Ravenous, I still kind of think the whole set would've worked better if it had focused more on the whole Krampus story.  I think there was more to explore in those episodes, they had a lot packed into them, and the opening episode being dull, and the final episode felt like it belongs to a bigger story yet to come...I might've just enjoyed a Krampus set.  Still...McGann always delivers as the Doctor, and any set starring him is worth a listen.

 

 

 

 



Associated Products

Audio
Released 30 Nov 2018
Doctor Who - Ravenous 2




The Eighth Doctor: The Time War Series 2Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 21 July 2018 - Reviewed by Ken Scheck
The Time War - Series 2 (Credit: Big Finish)
 
 Director: Ken Bentley
 


Big Finish Release (United Kingdom):
Released July 2018

Running Time: 5 hours

The Time War continues in the latest Eighth Doctor boxset from Big Finish, and it is another effort that showcases just how good Big Finish continues to be when the passion is there.  I get the sense that the Monthly Range doesn't have the same passion and excitement it once had from those working on it, while the bigger scope and chance to truly expand on a topic that comes with the boxsets still has a flame of passion ignited. Admittedly, I don't listen to the Monthly Range as much as I used to, so I could be wrong, but this just seems to be an impression I can't shake.  But this boxset keeps my hopes for the company continuing to release exciting stuff for some time alive.  

 

****THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS****

 

In The Lords of Terror, The Doctor takes Bliss to her homeworld, but they find it has already been ravaged by the time war. Instead of the home, Bliss remembers, her city is now encased in a dome, and it seems to be a dystopian nightmare. While the front story is that the Daleks attacked and they have protected themselves and are building a retaliation rocket in order to wipe out the Daleks, the Doctor soon discovers that it is even more nefarious. I rather loved what this story does with the Time War arc.  It seems that the Time Lords are actually behind this plan, and they haven’t created one dome and one rocket, they have turned the entire planet into a missile production plant, with every city put into a dome and forced into slavery to create a rocket...all in the name of winning the war. 

The second episode (Planet of the Ogrons) has the Doctor and Bliss recruited by the the Twelve (a regenerated and more stable version of the Eleven), and an Ogron who believes himself to be the Doctor. They head to the Ogron homeworld, where a mad genius Dalek with hybrid DNA is performing crazy genetic experiments. While I certainly enjoyed this episode, it felt slightly less engaging after the killer of an opening episode. That said, it does still have a lot of fun to offer. 

For the third story, In the Garden of Death, we have the very familiar trope of the Doctor and friends locked up in jail with missing memories.  I feel like the Eighth Doctor has been in this predicament before.  Despite the well-worn territory, it isn't half bad. I like the places it takes the Twelve, and the idea that while in the prison camp no one can remember their captors, and only when taken for interrogation do they recall the Daleks.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that though I only just listened to the story, much of it has already faded from my brain. It is certainly an enjoyable listen, it just doesn't leave much of an impact.  

Jonah closes out the set, and it is a tense submarine thriller in which the Doctor is Captaining a sub in a body of water in which no time travel can take place...and beneath the waters a mythological creature that can see every possible outcome of the future, and that is a beast that neither the Daleks nor the Time Lords should get their hands on.  I rather liked this story and felt it was a great closer to the set, and it is about as strong as the opening story, at least more so than the two stories that bridge them.  

While I can't say that the second and third stories are perfect, they are still rather engaging and fun, and with opening and closing stories that really are top notch, it is rather easy to recommend this set.  I don't even want to come down to hard on the two lesser stories, because I still think they work in the long run. Even so, no matter what the first and fourth episodes are really great episodes of Doctor Who, and McGann is giving his usual quality performance throughout the set.  Julia McKenzie should also get special notice for her turn as the Twelve, doing a great job running with what Mark Bonnar began as The Eleven. 

I have a soft spot for anything McGann or the Eighth Doctor, but I also think this set is worth the continued exploration of the Time War (and the weird ramifications of such a strange type of war), and Big Finish always put their all into these box sets, even the weaker stories have something to offer. Recommended.