Here we go then, the dream has become reality and Christopher Eccleston is back as The Doctor for full cast Big Finish audio dramas. Sadly Mr. Briggs naturally grabbed the first release for himself, all three episodes, so the story does fall into some of his pitfalls but does the excitement of hearing Mr. Eccleston as The Doctor again overcome them?! Let’s find out!
On the Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor is about to shut down an evil Immersive Games business empire. He’s assisted by a valiant galley chef called Nova. But his plan spectacularly fails… And who exactly is Audrey?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
While I “never said never”, it is nice to see “Christopher Eccleston” at the top of a Big Finish cover!
The first and most notable thing about the release is thankfully how much energy Christopher Eccleston puts into the role once again. He’s been honest in interviews that he literally agreed to do these audios because he needs the money and work is thin during the pandemic, but thankfully that didn’t mean he phoned in the performance (although he may have literally done that due to the pandemic, but you know what I mean!)
There are some good ideas at the heart of the story, peaking through. The main crux is that a horrible group of entities dubbed “Ravagers” are literally eating through the whole universe and in order to stop them a scientist named Audrey (Jayne McKenna) used some old Time Lord tech left floating in the wake of the Time War to hold them in place. The Doctor arrives and only sees the effects of the Time Lord tech, “Time Eddies” that are swapping people around to different time periods and generally ruining the time vortex, and so goes about stopping her, not knowing the true horror he was unleashing. That’s a good plot, sadly spread out over roughly three hours it… well, doesn’t live up to its potential…
… Yep, all looks like a normal day for The Doctor here!
So you read my breakdown of the plot above? Well, in order to hold the creatures in place Audrey sets up VR games that make the Ravagers experience the thrill and fear of the people caught in the Time Eddies but at no point, despite many… MANY meetings with the man, does she tell The Doctor any of this. She just acts like a generic villain and that The Doctor is getting in the way of her plans right up until the universe begins to end because of The Doctor’s plan, and even then The Doctor only finds out the details thanks to going back through Audrey’s past as a weird … “time ghost” or whatever and actually viewing all of it. Why would she not just tell him at some point and ask for his help?! All The Doctor saw was a struggling population being worked to death in order to create VR games with an after-effect of massive time disruption, so it’s no wonder he tried to stop it…
To make matters worse the story is so very wordy. I’m pretty Part 2 is almost entirely people talking and giving exposition to each other, and Part 1 was told via flashbacks while The Doctor was talking to what turned out to be Audrey in disguise for… some reason. Even the final part was mostly The Doctor talking to Audrey and the Ravagers themselves, I really loved hearing Christopher Eccleston back in the role but there was no need to make 85% of the entire boxset him being snappy while talking to somebody. One off companion Nova (Camilla Beeput) wasn’t exactly engaging either, she just makes cringey jokes like calling the Psychic paper “silly paper”, asks questions and says stuff like “What are you, some sort of hovering security robot?” because Mr. Briggs was presumably rushing the script and couldn’t think of a better way to paint images in listeners minds (he used to be good at that, you know? Back when he was edited, I guess…) Also they cast Dan Starkey as a Roman general named Marcus Aurelius Gallius which was a big mistake because there were times he sounded too much like Starkey’s now classic Sontaran performance.
It’s annoying because I did enjoy listening to it thanks to our returning lead having such a ball, but it felt like the script needed to be trimmed and rejigged to be a bit less talky. Splitting the writing duty with someone or allowing a fellow writer to actually edit your work might have helped… (I know I usually pull my punches when talking about Nicholas Briggs but after seeing him bully a reviewer to the point where he took his perfectly reasonable 7/10 review of a Briggs script down I don’t see why I should any more, the guy clearly has a fragile ego and it has negatively affected a lot of his recent scripts. There, I said it.)
Wow, a lot more simple of a cover, then again nothing really happened in this part other than talking, so…
Beyond this taking place post Time War but pre-Rose (as in the story “Rose” … well, and the companion as well, but … yeah.) there isn’t anything to talk about continuity-wise.
The blue, purple, green and fiery orange covers match the four individual Series 1 DVD covers’ colour scheme. A fun little touch!
Ravagers constantly saw me with a smile on my face but that was entirely due to the enthusiastic and energetic performance from Christopher Eccleston and not the actual story. Sadly the actual plot of full of holes, poor dialogue and far too much talking, so… take this 3 out of 5 as purely a reflection of our lead. Now to look forward to some stand alone stories written by a variety of different writers…