Big Finish: Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Adventures RAVAGERS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Adventures RAVAGERS Review

Matthew Kresal feels fantastic again.
In 2005, Doctor Who came roaring back to TV screens around the world. Christopher Eccelston's Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper's Rose Tyler introduced the Time Lord's adventures to a new generation of viewers, many of who wouldn't have been alive when Sylvester McCoy's Doctor walked off into the proverbial sunset 16 years earlier. Yet, almost as soon as it started, the Ninth Doctor's era was over in a mere thirteen episodes (one of which had started life as a Big Finish audio). While other Doctors would follow, there's always been a longing for more adventures with this incarnation, something that didn't look likely to happen on-screen. Of course, thanks to Big Finish, past Doctor's don't have to return to the role just on TV anymore, and in 2020 the company's announced they'd secured Eccelston for four box sets. Ravagers, the first of them, launches his audio adventures with a bang.

Written by Nicholas Briggs, Ravagers harkens back in some ways to the first Dark Eyes set with Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor. Namely, in that, it's a piece of serialized storytelling told across three discs rather than being separate episodes, as is often the case in other releases. There's a potential universe-ending threat, time travel hijinks, and a new companion for the duration in the form of Camilla Beeput as Nova. Here, Briggs goes a step further by starting the opening episode in media res. It sets a non-linear tone that follows throughout the entire set, though flashbacks in the opening episode give way to what Eccelston's successor described as "time-wimey stuff" in the latter two episodes.

As all of this might suggest, there are a lot of familiar tropes that Briggs uses. In that regard, he's following in the tradition of Big Finish's first set of Tenth Doctor Adventures from five years ago, which used its three standalone episodes to present some pretty by-the-numbers tales. Briggs doesn't do that here, though things like the Sonic Screwdriver and Psychic Paper play their role in the plots. Instead, it's like the audio equivalent of putting on an old pair of shoes: a sense of the familiar before setting off somewhere new. Those going in expecting the most groundbreaking thing Big Finish has ever done are going to be disappointed, but those happy to hear Eccelston back in the role or those newer to the audios will have plenty to enjoy.

And now, onto our returning leading man. As with the above, expectations are everything. It seems that in recent years, fandom's memory of the Ninth Doctor is that he was a morose and depressed figure. Of course, as watching episodes such as his debut in Rose or the opening minutes of The Empty Child, that was far from being the case on TV. The Ninth Doctor of Ravagers embodies all of those qualities, but it's the upbeatness that comes through. There's a genuine sense of Eccelston embracing the role once more as if over a decade and a half haven't passed since the last time he put on the jumper and leather jacket. His chemistry with Beeput as Nova echoes the relationship with Billie Piper as Rose, yet has a different quality in their interactions. If there's any single reason to pick up this set, it's going to be hearing Eccelston's Ninth Doctor back in action.

Ravagers also offers up a showcase for Big Finish's casting and production work. Around Eccelston is a solid supporting cast, including Beeput as the chef turned acting companion Nova, Jayne McKenna as the villainous Audrey, and Dan Starkey getting the chance to play a Roman soldier. Beyond them, composer Howard Carter presents a sweeping, cinematic score to accompany an ever-changing sound design from Iain Meadows. Between cast and soundscapes, they give able backing to the Ninth Doctor's return and present for listeners new and old a chance to hear what Big Finish can do.

When Big Finish teased Tom Baker's return a decade ago, they promised: "It's Saturday teatime in 1977 all over again." With Ravagers, it's very much a Saturday night in 2005 all over again. More than that, it's opened up a whole new set of adventures for a Doctor who so many have felt left us too soon. Now, for the space of three discs, it's Saturday night in 2005 all over again, and long may it continue.

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Adventures - Ravagers is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 31 July 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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