When the Doom Coalition series of boxes ended with a cliffhanger, many were left confused as the 8th Doctor Time War sets soon began their run… Thankfully, a new series of boxes titled “Ravenous” was soon announced as being the continuation of the Dark Eyes-Doom Coalition story strand. So how does it start? Oddly, it starts completely in isolation, the first two parts being more like throwaway stories from the old Eighth Doctor Adventures range of one-hour tales, but I enjoyed them a lot, so it worked for me! After all the arc heavy stories and Time Wars it’s nice to hear Paul McGann in a somewhat normal environment again (normal for Doctor Who anyway!) So let’s take a look at the first two parts of “Ravenous 1”, shall we?
Official Synopsis (of Part 1 “Their Finest Hour”):
In the early days of the Second World War a strange and elusive craft attacks British targets. Could it be a German superweapon? Churchill calls for the Doctor’s assistance and with the help of a squadron of Polish fighter pilots the TARDIS crew take to the skies to investigate.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Paul McGann) – The Doctor and Liv are on the trail of their lost friend Helen, though given the nature of time travel and how long calculations involving a trail in time take, it’s safe to say The Doctor can take a phone call from an old friend in the meantime…
Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) – Liv, originally a med-tec from 30th Century Kaldor, has no idea who Winston Churchill is or why it’s a big deal he called The Doctor, all she wants to do is go back on the trail for her friend. Still, if the calculations really do take that long, they may as well help out …
Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) – Prime minister in the midst of World War II, has a personal line to the Doctor in times of alien intervention into what is a key, or fixed, point in time. He wishes to use The Doctor’s knowledge and equipment to win the war, but is constantly denied…
Wilhelm Rozycki and Jan Ostowicz (Laurence Dobiesz and Gyuri Sarossy) – Two Polish pilots waiting for their chance to help with the war effort, but currently suffering humiliation by the British pilots who deemed them not good enough based purely on their country of origin…
Stralla Cushing (Judith Roddy) – Stralla is on the verge of creating time travel via portals punched into thin air. Her financial backer, Mr. Morningstar, is her only true obstacle, given his tendency to undermine her at every turn…
Cornelius Morningstar (Roger May) – Very wealthy man who wants nothing more than to become even more wealthy. He sees Stralla’s time travel technology as a means to make money, but he’s starting to lose confidence in her abilities…
Gorl and Dron (Sarah Lambie and Jane Booker) – Female mercenary and her robot companion… well, I say mercenary, but this is their first job, but if it goes well then they can call themselves that… “Steal Dr. Stralla’s time travel machine” is their mission… sounds simple enough!
A comparatively simple-yet-striking cover.
Having not really been interested in the Churchill Years box Big Finish released a while back, it was nice to hear Ian McNeice as the man himself again. The story was fine, had some historical backbone (particularly the Polish pilots being treated poorly until Britain suddenly needed them) and I enjoyed the old “mysterious object in the sky taking out planes” storyline it had going for it. The Doctor and Liv still play off each other well, constantly arguing in a old friends kind of way, and Nicola Walker has the sneering sarcasm down to a tee (plus I like that she had no idea who Churchill was, given her background). It’s not perfect, but a good start.
I found episode 2, “How to Make a Killing in Time Travel” much more fun. It had a almost Fargo quality to it. Genius inventor Stralla Cushing is constantly brow-beaten by her super-over-the-top arsehole investor until she spur-of-the-moment kills him and throws his body through one of her makeshift portals. It’s got that whole “completely innocent person is pushed to the limit and commits murder, now let’s see how far they go to keep themselves safe” thing that Fargo does so well. Given we saw (or heard, rather) the murder, the fun of the story is about how The Doctor and Liv (who are only here because of Stralla’s portal pulling the TARDIS in on the way to find Helen) figure out everything. It also has an enjoyable bunch of other characters, including a odd-couple pair of mercenaries (again, very Fargo-y, though one half is a robot, so… not so Fargo-y there!), a pair of scorpion-like creatures who are vying for power, and a bumbling old policeman who is played to perfection by Christopher Ryan. It gets pretty nuts, but in a very good way.
By the end of the story The Doctor and Liv head off to find Helen and it’s Part 3 where the story actually continues on from Doom Coalition 4. That being said, these two stories were a nice reminder of when the Eighth Doctor wasn’t so tightly wrapped in story arcs and Daleks, and instead appeared in more light-hearted mini-adventures.
Alright, bad is pushing it, but it’s still “not as good as the other story”. Great cover again though!
The main complaint about “Their Finest Hour” was the setting… boy-oh-boy am I ever fed up of Doctor Who stories set in World War II. Seriously, talk about over-used setting! As nice as it was to hear McNeice as Churchill again, and the focus on air-battles and the Polish pilots did at least make this a little different (though reminded me of last year’s Second Doctor audio “The Night Witches”) it still gave a story a bit of a hit for me.
The overall box cover… which if it weren’t for Churchill would be pretty exclusively based on the last two stories…
Well, there are a few obvious ones! This continues on from the Doom Coalition series, with The Doctor and Liv on the hunt for their friend Helen. Also as mentioned, this sees the return of Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill, a role he first played in the Eleventh Doctor TV episode “Victory of the Daleks”, which also establishes the idea that Churchill has a direct line to The Doctor (though his phone call doesn’t always contact the right Doctor…)
Beyond that and a mention of Ogrons, not really any hard continuity. If you go into Ravenous 1 with the knowledge that someone called The Eleven kidnapped one of the Doctor’s companions and The Doctor and his other companion are searching for them, you don’t need to know much else.
To some I’m sure this is a poor start to Ravenous, but to me a chance to take a breather and do a bit more light-hearted, isolated stories with the Eighth Doctor and Liv was a treat, especially Episode 2. It’s a fun, relaxing start before the continuity and cliffhangers re-emerge in the next two parts…
Ravenous 1: Episode 2 “How to Make a Killing in Time Travel”:
Ravenous 1: Episode 1 “Their Finest Hour”: