Classic Doctors, New Monsters Vol.2 moves forward into the Fifth Doctor era as the Racnoss make their appearance. Unlike the Tenth Doctor TV episode, this sees The Doctor end up in the heart of the Racnoss Empire itself, and tells a good one hour story in the process. Let’s have a closer look!
When a distress call rips the TARDIS from the Vortex, dragging it back through time, it arrives in the midst of a conflict between Gallifrey and an ancient foe.
The Doctor, as ever, wants to help, but in returning a wounded combatant home, he becomes further and further entangled in a web of deceit and recrimination. A web spun by an eight-legged Empress and her minions…
The Empire of the Racnoss is at war, and wherever he stands, the Doctor is on the wrong side.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor is currently travelling alone, a rare thing for this incarnation of the Time Lord, and has found himself pulled towards a distress beacon… because that always ends up well!
Alayna (Lisa Kay) – A Time Lady who was captured during the war with the Racnoss. She ends up accompanying The Doctor throughout this adventure, and possibly more…?
Racnoss Empress (Adjoa Andoh) – As the name suggests, the Empress of the Racnoss. Her previous mate and her are at war, while the whole of the Racnoss are at war with the Time Lords… Not a great time for a marital affair!
Racnoss Emperor (Nigel Planer) – The old Emperor who was cast aside by his Empress in favour of a new suitor. He still holds the imperial seal and has far from given up in his quest for revenge…
I’m pretty sure that was my face when I heard the Racnoss were returning…
It’s good seeing the Racnoss in a new light, given the single Racnoss struggling to live we saw on TV. The internal politics going on at the same time as an inter-species war was an interesting idea, rather than just going for one or the other.
I liked Alayna and her fellow Time Lord and how they were very much of their time, in other words striking out against a powerful race purely because they might be a threat to Gallifrey in the future. The fact that Alayna eventually comes to see the error of her ways is an interesting touch, and I do now wonder if we’ve seen the last of her or not… The ending did seem to imply that the two were heading off together in the TARDIS…
While I’ll get to the Empress in a bit, I enjoyed the Emperor and his replacement a lot. They sounded alien and insect-like, but didn’t go completely over board like the Empress (both here and on TV). It made the Racnoss being an intelligent space-fairing race more believable than it originally seemed on TV…
In “The Runaway Bride” I found the Racnoss Empress far too over-the-top, performance wise, and I guess for the sake of recapturing what happened on TV, the same can be said here. Her vocal mannerisms and general speech patterns would make an 80s cartoon villain feel embarrassed! It’s made even more apparent by the other Racnoss around her sounding far more low-key (yet still alien insect-y), so it’s possibly even worse here!
I like how shocked or appalled all the Doctor looks, apart from McGann, who’s just looking like “Yeah, whatever…”
As mentioned above, The Racnoss first appeared in the 10th Doctor Christmas Special “The Runaway Bride”, which this story sets up nicely. The episode mentions Time Lords having a hand in wiping the Racnoss out during the “Dark times” of the early universe, and we see The Doctor save some Racnoss eggs and put them on a new planet near the start of the universe, explaining how the last Racnoss Empress eventually managed to hide her ship in the centre of a newly formed Earth…
Empire of the Racnoss is a good story. It shows early Time Lords, it shows the Racnoss society in a bit more light, and is generally well written and entertaining for its one hour duration. The Empress is still far too cartoony for my liking, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment too much…