In 2005, Doctor Who returned to our televisions with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper as the Ninth Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler. The series was an instant success and the audiences around the world fell in love with the new updated version of the classic series. Series 1, as it was described, is generally regarded as one the best in the programmes long and decorated history. But the exploration of the ninth Doctor’s exploits were short-lived as Eccleston left the show after one series with no plans to return.
Now after 16 years, Eccleston makes his welcome return in his grandest adventures yet in the first of several new box sets created by Big Finish. The Ravagers, written and directed by Big Finish’s executive producer, Nicholas Briggs, features the ninth Doctor in a time before he travelled to Earth and met Rose Tyler.
Across All Time and Space
The Ninth Doctor Adventures: Ravagers begins with a bang or rather an explosion. The Doctor has partnered with Nova, a valiant gallery chef, portrayed by Camilla Beeput and the two are in the process of disabling the Immersive Games server on the Sphere of Freedom. But something goes terribly wrong, and Nova is lost inside a time eddy. A time eddy that the Doctor’s gizmo should have shut down.
Step back a few hours in the Doctor’s timeline, as another time eddy pulls the TARDIS off course to 1959 London. A Roman legion has been dropped inside Piccadilly Circus, London, lost and confused. The time eddies are everywhere and tearing apart all of time and space.
The Ninth Doctor is back and it’s like he never left.
One Story in Three Chapters.
The Ravagers boxset consists of three chapters from the same plot with each chapter starting where the last one ends. In the first chapter, Sphere of Freedom, the Doctor finds himself on the Immersive Games homeworld, where he is pulled into a simple problem. Your standard evil corporation has gone amuck in its desire to earn money. The workers are indentured slaves. The product is mind numbingly addictive. And the desire to make more and more money has resulted in a destructive force that is tearing apart the universe. A simple problem for the Doctor – just stop the time eddies.
In Cataclysm, the Doctor quickly discovers the obvious solution isn’t always the right one and sometimes you have to listen and learn from those around you. He finds himself having to find out more about his companions – Nova and Audrey – and what is going wrong with the universe
In the final chapter, Food Fight, the Doctor is racing throughout time and space to save Earth, Nova, Audrey and the universe. The Doctor is rapidly jumping from location to location in time and space. On occasion a bit too quickly to keep up but changes escalate the tension and the drama into a satisfying conclusion.
Eccleston quickly picks up the broad brush of his Doctor’s character and the story recaptures the Ninth Doctor. The script certainly provides him plenty of Doctorisms to run with. He’s manic, sarcastic and quick-witted. Sometimes all three at once. And while it is a joy for any Eccleston fan to hear him back in the role, Ravagers offers only one mode of the complex Ninth Doctor.
What is a bit lacking, is some of Nine’s compassion and his underlying pain caused by the loss of his home and his debilitating shame and grief. The Time War has been completely ignored in the plot. While this absence is a deliberate decision, this Ninth Doctor is missing one of his enduring characteristics. One that Eccleston portrayed with exquisite talent in the first season of the reboot. But I am sure that we will see more sides of the Doctor in the later stories.
During Ravagers, the Doctor dances between two women – Nova, the valiant galley cook who has been sold into indentured servitude the Sphere of Freedom and Audrey (Jayne McKenna), the aged game player who spars with the Doctor all the while questioning his decisions as he attempts to solve the problem of the time eddy. Both women hold their own against the Time Lord. Nova, portrayed with aplomb by Camilla Beeput, is the younger more companion-like character. Intelligent, let down by life and raring to go on an adventure. Expect to see much more of Nova in future tales.
Audrey, on the other hand, was a lovely match for the Doctor. Her irritation and annoyance at the ancient Time Lord as she waited for him to catch on to the problem was entertaining. Although I must admit Audrey did sound a bit like Anne Reid in Dinnerladies from time to time.
A special treat was Dan Starkey, who portrayed the Roman Centurion, Marcus Aurelius Gallius. While there was a certain tone of one Sontaran in particular in his performance – I half expected him to be shouting “boy” – Starkey added the touches of humour to the scenes at Piccadilly Circle.
Music and Sound
Sometimes it is easy to forget that the original Murray Gold theme first belonged to the Ninth Doctor, not the Tenth. Certainly it brought back the excitement of 2005 when the team burst on our screens at the start of the episode Rose. As for the rest of the background music, Howard Carter channelled Gold’s musical description of Nine. The frenetic tone would have fit in well with that opening series. Something that I will be listening to in the background throughout my day.
Maybe it was my copy of the release or perhaps my headphones but I needed to rewind through some of the sound effects of the mechanoid creatures. The effects dominated the spoken word and sometimes key details were lost. I will go back and listen again with another speaker but from time to time it was quite difficult to understand what was said.
Ravagers is a great start for a return of a beloved Doctor. It hits the emotional notes while telling a fun adventure to save the universe. Nova is a great character for a companion and Eccleston excelled in his return, not missing a beat. We look forward to more from Big Finish.
The Ninth Doctor is back and it’s FANTASTIC!!
DOCTOR WHO – THE NINTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES: RAVAGERS
- Script Editor Matt Fitton
- Producer David Richardson
- Cover Art by Tom Webster
- Duration: 214 minutes
- Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor)
- Camilla Beeput (Nova)
- Clare Corbett (Ravager)
- Ben Lee (Lieutenant Farraday)
- Anjella MacKintosh (AI / President / Cafe Owner)
- Jayne McKenna (Audrey)
- Jamie Parker (Captain Halloran)
- Dan Starkey (Marcus Aurelius Gallius)
Three brand new adventures featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, written by Nicholas Briggs.
1.1 Sphere of Freedom
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?
Nova is dislocated in time while the Time Eddies are out of control. Meanwhile, the Doctor is about to face the end of the universe. Or is that just the Battle of Waterloo?
1.3 Food Fight
The TARDIS is starting to get a little crowded! Audrey finds herself haunted by a ghostly Doctor.
Available at Big Finish exclusively until 31st July 2021