The TARDIS is starting to get a little crowded! Audrey finds herself haunted by a ghostly Doctor.
As I approached the end of the first boxset of the Ninth Doctor’s audio adventures, concidentally in the same week that the first set of the second series is released, the novelty of having Christopher Eccleston back in new Doctor Who has still not yet worn off for me. In this finale to the three-part opening salvo for this Doctor, Nicholas Briggs does have to bring all his plot threads together in a satisfying conclusion.
Ultimately, the story does start to buckle a little under its own weight in this story and does threaten to collapse inwards on itself as we get to the conclusion. Overall, the story told over the Ravagers arc feels as though something that would have come from the pen of Steven Moffat rather than Russell T Davies, especially in the first series of the revived series, which makes it interesting to see this Doctor thrown into this kind of story. The concluding part does feel a little bit padded, especially when it comes to picking up the three characters from Sphere of Freedom in the beginning, even though this adds some fun dynamics and they do have a role to play in the final moments. Ultimately though, the Ravagers feel like a rather underwhelming after being built up to be a grand force to be feared in the previous two parts of this story. I think that the twist is ultimately quite a good one – that the Ravagers feed off their own fear pheromone rather than that of other beings – which ultimately leads to the resolution, but does no favours for their overall feeling of threat. I feel that we don’t know enough about them before this story, which ultimately means that when the Doctor comes face to face with them here and again when they are finally really unleashed, it doesn’t quite have the effect that Briggs was probably going for.
The story has a small but effective guest cast, and whilst they don’t have a lot to do, Ben Lee, Jamie Parker and Dan Starkey are good as Farraday, Halloran and Marcus respectively, and convey a sense of confusion and disorientation that could be expected for people taken out of their own time. The Doctor points out that for Farraday and Halloran, space travel means a dog dispatched in The standout character in this trio of stories is certainly Jayne McKenna as Audrey Mohinson, who is ultimately proved not to be as evil as originally set out and I think McKenna plays this character really well. Audrey has come up with an effective, if flawed system for containing the Ravagers and the society that she has created around it relies on slave labour, which is less than ideal. The character is far from being the problem that the Doctor believes she is and the exchanges between her and the projected Doctor via the Gallifreyan node allow us to see some of her backstory to help us understand how we got here a bit better.
One day, I’ll write one of these reviews without saying that Eccleston slips back into the role effortlessly, but it never ceases to amaze me. The Ninth Doctor still retains the charm that endeared him to audiences back in 2005 and in this story, he shows that even when he is ultimately wrong about the conclusions he has come to over the previous stories. This incarnation had such a limited time on television that we as an audience still have a lot to learn about him, and, with the Doctor making assumptions about how the situation on the Sphere of Freedom is ultimately fixed, it put me in the mind with his arc in Series One. I think there are differences between these two scenarios – in The Long Game, the Doctor believes that he is putting time back on the right course, leading to him having to deal with the consequences in the two part finale. Whereas here, the apocalyptic situation is not entirely of the Doctor’s making and he makes presumptions about people involved. Camilla Beeput is really good as Nova, even if her memories of her travels with the Doctor are ultimately wiped by the timeline reset. Nova being a sci-fi nerd and that meaning that she finds it easier to understand than most would-be companions at the start of their adventures with the Doctor, and it is nice to see this Doctor make good on his promise to her to take her away from the Sphere of Freedom. I was originally surprised that she wasn’t going to be a companion going forwards, but it makes sense that this battle-scarred Doctor is wary of making attachments following his experiences in the Time War.
Verdict: Food Fight brings the opening set of stories for the Ninth Doctor to a close, with some mixed results. 7/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Camilla Beeput (Nova), Clare Corbett (Ravager), Ben Lee (Farraday), Anjella MacKintosh (Drones), Jayne McKenna (Audrey), Jamie Parker (Halloran) & Dan Starkey (Marcus Aurelius Gallius).
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Behind the Scenes
- Nova is described as being a fan of the television show Professor X, the in-universe replacement for Doctor Who. She also mentions having watched all 861 episodes, which at the time of recording was the same number of episodes as Doctor Who.
- The five guest cast members – Beeput, Lee, McKenna, Parker and Starkey – all appear in the other two episodes in this mini-arc.
- Jamie Parker has appeared in a number of previous Big Finish plays, including Leviathan, Shadow of the Daleks 1 and Shadow of the Daleks 2.
- Dan Starkey has played various Sontarans on the television and for Big Finish, most notably Strax. He has also played a number of roles on audio for Big Finish.
- Clare Corbett also appeared in The Rise of the New Humans and The Unzal Incursion.
- Anjella Mackinosh has also appeared in Prisoners of Fate, Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories and Devil in the Mist.
Endless possibilities and events. Future, past and everything in between, all crushed and stretched, surging and ebbing in an eternal swirl of unimaginable energies.The Ninth Doctor
Previous Ninth Doctor review: Cataclysm
Ravagers is available to purchase from the Big Finish website.