Doctor Who Audio Review: The Eleven, The Ravenous, And A Lot Of Masters

Ravenous 4 is a Doctor Who audio boxed set from Big Finish Productions and concludes the latest Eighth Doctor saga with the…well…the Ravenous, in case there was any confusion.  Paul McGann is once again in the lead role and accompanied by Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan, as stalwart companions, Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair, respectively.  Matt Fitton and John Dorney share the writing duties with Ken Bentley serving again as director.

Following on from the last series, Mark Bonnar joins the TARDIS crew as the Eleven, the Time Lord who contends with the personalities of his other selves in one body.  The Eleven presents himself as rather reformed when this latest collection begins and is wanting to make amends…..or is he?  Anyway, Big Finish has elected to keep the Eleven around for a while longer.  I am thinking he has sort of worn out his welcome with me anyway, but Bonnar is a talented enough performer for me to find his continued presence forgivable.

Matt Fitton begins this particular series with Whisper.  The Doctor and his rather eclectic group land on an island where there is a creature hunting people down by sound.  Not exactly the  most original story idea these days, but the performances and sound design make up for the repetition. The story is competently written and serves well enough to set up the rest the set, but it’s not much more than that.

Fitton’s second contribution is a bit more intriguing with Planet of Dust in which the TARDIS crew land upon a world in which slavery is being enforced by the scarcity of water.  They know the ruler as the Great Provider, while we fans recognize the handiwork of the Master, once again played by the masterful Geoffrey Beevers.  This is the Master who is hideous to look up on, but a joy to listen to with Beevers delivering his lines in the familiar silky malevolence that can chill the bones of the listener in the right setting.  By the way, Beevers himself is not hideous to look upon in case that was not clear.  This is where the Ravenous also starts to reemerge, and the Eleven reveals that he is not quite that interested in resuming on his path to redemption.  The story is a bit more engaging on its own, and the performances and production make it much more enjoyable.  Fitton will sometimes use ideas that can seem a little overused at times, but he usually manages to come through with an enjoyable tale.  He does so with his contribution to this set as well.

John Dorney gets the pleasure of wrapping up this saga with a two parter concluding story.  Day of the Master brings about an extravaganza of evil doers. The listener gets to hear how the Ravenous came into being.  Another legendary Time Lord known as Artron is introduced and played by Rob Whitelock. Eric Roberts, who played the Master in the 1996 television movie with McGann, is back.  Derek Jacobi returns as the version known as the War Master.  Michelle Gomez is also back as Missy, the ill-advised female version of the Master.  Missy actually kind of works here.  Gomez is actually a wonderful performer as she was in the television series with Peter Capaldi, but the revelation of a female Master sort of induced some exasperated eye-rolling from me when she first came on the scene.  This story is a bit of a mess and little hard to visualize at times, but it’s still quite fun.  All of the Masters interacting with each other is just witty enough for me to just go with it.

Paul McGann and the usual regular cast members for this particular era are fine.  I certainly want more Eighth Doctor stories, but Liv and Helen feel like they have been around a little too long.  I don’t dislike them, but I am not going to get terribly misty eyed if one or the other go on to different pastures.

Overall,  I think this is a solidly enjoyable set, but some of what was done felt a bit like padding and done as a bit of a stunt.  The Ravenous is probably an adversary that would work better visually over trying to imagine it.  It’s just a big noisy monster who eats all things Gallifreyan.  The other guest cast such as Clifford Samuel, Natalie Simpson, and Chris Jarman were well chosen, but Big Finish almost always gets that right.

Now that the story of the Ravenous has come to a close, let’s see what challenges and catastrophes are in store for the Eighth Doctor next.

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