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.