Doctor Who: The Hunting Ground Review

DW The Hunting Ground

The Sixth incarnation of The Doctor is once again travelling alone in The Hunting Ground, our last main range audio drama story of 2018, and boy… it’s not very interesting. It gives off a vibe of the writer having a core concept but not knowing how to either spread it across two hours, nor how to write cliffhangers. Still, it’s not all bad! Let’s take a look in more detail…

Official Synopsis:

The Doctor arrives in present day Iceland and receives a frosty reception from Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir when he becomes the chief suspect in a murder enquiry. But the Doctor knows that the real killer is of extraterrestrial origin.

Joining forces with Yrsa, the Doctor goes in pursuit of a ruthless alien that is hunting humans for sport. Yrsa unearths a dark conspiracy which reaches back into her own past.

Determined to expose the truth and prevent further deaths, the Doctor and Yrsa soon find themselves running for their lives, prey on the hunting ground.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Colin Baker) – The Doctor has decided to take a nice stroll in the forests of Iceland, sadly, though not surprisingly, he soon finds a dead body. Oddly, The Doctor calls the police instead of investigating it himself… though he soon starts investigating it himself anyway…

Yrsa Kristjansdottir (Amy Beth Hayes) – Yrsa lost her father a few years back, a fellow officer, her father stumbled upon a case he shouldn’t have pursued… Now a new murder victim has appeared with the same frozen-face motif as her father had and Yrsa feels it’s finally time to solve the case.

The Hunter (Michael Griffiths) – This nameless Hunter has paid for Hellion, a company that arranges hunts, to give him a good hunt on Earth, but he has been plagued by local law enforcement. He wants his money back, or at least some good compensation…

Ingrid (Margaret Ashley) – Ingrid is the chief of the local law enforcement group and is in on the conspiracy to keep Hellion’s actions a secret, including covering up Yrsa’s father’s death…

Marflick (Joe Jameson & Will Hislop) – A two-headed alien who loves all things accounting and paperwork… when he’s not busy literally arguing with himself. Sadly for them they refused to incorrectly report a Hellion contract and now find themselves prey on a hunting ground…

Plus more!

The Good:

DW The Hunting Ground Cover

Damn that’s a great cover! Makes the story seem like the most exciting thing in the world… *ahem*…

The setting of Iceland is at least different, even though it sounds like they’re just in a snowy part of England due to audio dramas’ lack of visual feedback and the fact they used English actors speaking with their native accents… The use of wolves with metal teeth and claws was a good mental-visual though, and some early scenes of The Doctor and Yrsa running from them was exciting. In fact the first episode, which felt more like The Doctor stumbling into a police procedural was actually fun and different, and contained an amusing scene where The Doctor fixed a constable’s printer but made it slightly sentient and able to “sing” via whirls and beeps. The printer running gag throughout the story was definitely one of the highlights. Made me laugh, anyway…

Yrsa does a fine job as a temporary companion, but she is just your classic tough cop up against a conspiracy that “goes up to the top”. Nothing about her really made you take notice, but that’s fine for a one-off, as long as the rest of the story around her makes up for her lack of characterisation…

The Bad:

Overall the story just wasn’t very interesting. The lead villain is a hunter on Earth hunting human prey thanks to a company that arranges such things, and he’s so generic and one-note that in the cast he’s just called “The Hunter”. There was a sort of twist that instead of heads mounted on the wall he collected his prey’s most fond memories using a device and displayed them on a screen, but other than that just think Tim Shaw from the latest series of Doctor Who TV and there you go, right down to the distorted voice and manner of speech.

Then we get to the major problem: the cliffhanger writing. Now, I know some writers might find it annoying having to write cliffhangers for three episodes knowing that a lot of people will listen to the next part right away, but AK Benedict needed to put some effort it… Part 1’s cliffhanger of The Doctor and Yrsa being chased by cyber wolves ended because The Doctor had a translator he had conveniently prepared and calmed them down with. Part 2’s cliffhanger of The Doctor and his new two-headed friend Marflick being caught in a trap by the Hunter is undone by the Hunter getting caught in a trap that subsequently freed The Doctor and his pal that he had “set up earlier” as part of a plan that included getting caught up in the first one, and finally Part 3 of The Doctor getting his memory drained is undone because our Time Lord had seen the memory extractor earlier and tinkered with it so it gave painful feedback to the Hunter instead, not for a specific plan, but “out of habit”. All of those are just “The Doctor prepared something for this beforehand and therefore got out of it” resolutions. They’re dramatic cliffhangers for cliffhangers sake, and it REALLY shows…

Marflick, by the way, is sadly annoying. An alien who is obsessed with clerical work and who generally finds admin exciting and fun is an extremely generic and predictable character trope, and while the twist in Part 2 that it wasn’t two people arguing it was one being with two heads was a good one, it didn’t save the tedious scenes with it and The Doctor later.

There was also a conspiracy involving the Hellion company and a local Governor that included a few passing characters but I just didn’t care. The idea that in 2018 the Governor could arrange a live human hunt with people watching and enjoying from a viewing box while eating posh dinner without any kind of major repercussion (or that all of the rich folk were up for it) was just hard to take seriously, especially as it all happened in the final part…

The Continuity:

Not much to speak of, apart from the aforementioned similarities to the Thirteenth Doctor’s debut story “The Woman Who Fell to Earth”, which I assume is just one of those funny coincidences given when they must have both been written.

Overall Thoughts:

The Hunting Ground is sadly a rather poor way to end a pretty good year for Main Range audios. It’s generic, most of its attempts to be funny fail to land (with the exception of the singing printer, which is a rather damning sum up of the story when an inanimate object is the highlight…) and it has some rather embarrassingly slapdash cliffhanger resolutions. It’s not actively bad, it’s just boring…

2 Star Listen

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