The Robots are back! In October 2018 Big Finish released Ravenous 2, the continuing adventures of the Eighth Doctor, Liv Chenka, Helen Sinclair and The Eleven. The first tale, Escape From Kaldor, not only saw Liv return home, but also the third appearance of the infamous Kaldoran Robots (of Death) following Liv’s debut appearance in Robophobia, and the Fourth Doctor’s re-encounter in Sons of Kaldor.
Both of the previous stories showcased how good one can write what seem like simple androids and present thought provoking drama with them. They showed how robots are a mirror of ourselves, and only as dangerous as we allow them to be…
Escape to Kaldor also set up an interesting plot point. Liv staying behind on Kaldor for a year with her sister, Tula, to rekindle her family relationship. And then immediately after, Liv returns to the TARDIS team, having escaped something big happening…
Of course, this left one major question open… What happened for that year?
Well, Messrs Dorney and Moore decided to take on the telling of these stories and reintroduce us to the world of Kaldor. Would it be a welcome return, or is this one spin-off too far for the Big Finish team?
The Robots Of Life by Roland Moore
(I see what you did there…)
Liv is back at home, on Kaldor, for a year. And deciding to do the right thing, rather than leeching off of her sister, Medtec Chenka throws herself into the employment game, at Kaldor’s most prestigious hospital. But once there, Liv and Tula start to learn of some strange goings on, all leading back to noted surgeon Arak Varren and his assistant, SV57. But once the two Chenkas begin to properly investigate, they uncover a deeper conspiracy, ready to rock all of Kaldor to their knees…
The pilot is an important step in a series. It showcases the foundations of the series, introduces us to all the main players, whilst also balancing showing where the series can go, and giving an interesting initial story. Thankfully, Moore’s introductory tale gives us exactly that, reintroducing us to Kaldoran society, and giving us a nice little mystery to try and unravel, alongside some excellent character building between our two leads. Topped off with some expert performances from the supporting cast of Eric Carte, Robert Whitelock, Annabelle Dowler and Anthony Howell and, although Ravenous 2 might have given us our back door, this is how you do a proper series pilot.
The Sentient by Robert Whitelock
The Company has helped the lives of Kaldor’s many citizens for many, many years. And now, they’re hoping their next endeavour will be their greatest success. They want you to meet Vissey. She’s the perfect, loving daughter you always wanted. And the best part, she’s artificial. Part clone, part AI. She’s ready to embrace the people of Kaldor and all their interests and desires… whatever they may be… After all, she wants to know about everything…
After flexing his acting chops in the previous story, Whitelock takes the authors pen for this one in an interesting look into the ideas, ethics, plans, and potential horrors of AI. Whilst it is a concept that Sci-Fi has seen many times, we never tire of it, especially when done in a unique way. Looking into seeing AI as a child needing to be taught, but balanced on the precipice of telling it what to be wary of and leaving it to find out for itself. Whilst real life may not go down this drastic of a route, the story still presents us with a lot to consider. As for the guest cast, Jaye Griffiths and Daniel Goode perform well in their roles and introduce us to today’s concept to consider. But it has to be Venice Van Someren as Vissey that steals the episode, switching with ease, and most times without knowing, from inquisitive to concerning, and then downright threatening. One can only hope we see more from this up and coming talent…
Love Me Not by John Dorney
Volar Crick is a broken man. His love, his anchor, his soulmate, Jasdar, is gone, lost on an operating table. As he tries to pick his life back up without her, help comes in the most unexpected of places. After all, SV57 is here to serve, and here to help. It’s what she was designed for… The only problem is… she’s about to become much, much more…
Closing the set, the master of mental menagerie, John Dorney, pens our finale and whilst the title of the set is The Robots, this one is focused very much on examining the humans. As the story progresses, you realise that Dorney has not made it an easy listen, and that is precisely the point. It’s designed to be uncomfortable as it tells you the truth of what mental health, when treated in the wrong way, can do to a person, and why sometimes, what they want is not what is best for them.
In this, the Robots are merely an eyepiece into the true horror we can sometimes experience. Many of the supporting cast return to take what they did previously and knock it completely out of the park. Annabelle Dowler has an expanded role as Crick’s psyche is delved into deeper and deeper. Plus, that final reveal only makes you wish it was June already so we can clamp our ears onto Volume Two.
Leading Ladies and Revolutionary Robots
The standouts of this set however, are our two sets of leads. Firstly, Nicola Walker as Liv Chenka and Claire Rushbrook as Tula Chenka, both expanding their characters beyond what we had heard about them prior and furthering the bridge building heard in Escape From Kaldor. Plus it would be rude to over look Rushbook, Whitelock, Jon Culshaw and Tracey Wiles as the titular Kaldorian Robots. Like Dorney and Toby Hadoke before, the robotic cast give a performance that not only evokes but adds to the tone and style originally conceived by Robert Holmes, Chris Boucher, Gregory de Polnay and Miles Fothergill all those years ago. It’s hard to find a set of foes or recurring characters that have a faultless run of appearances, but these homages to Asimov’s ideology have certainly earned that run, being a perfect way of introducing and reintroducing these concepts and ideas.
Many people sometimes wonder why others think all of these spin-offs are necessary. However, by thinking that way, they are missing the point of their existence. They don’t have to be made, but the fact that they are, and treated with a great level of respect and care, from the writers, cast, Ken Bentley’s unfaltering direction, Joe Kraemer and Josh Arakelian’s pitch perfect music and sound design, Dorney and Moore’s expert would building, means that they earn their right to be made and heard. The Robots have arrived, and for the next year and a half, they are going nowhere.
The Robots: Volume One, is available for purchase now on CD and Download from the Big Finish Website, and will be available from other stockists early next year.
During the events of Doctor Who – Ravenous 2, Liv Chenka left the Doctor and the TARDIS behind. Just for one year. A year during which she would live on Kaldor, and get to know her sister Tula all over again.
But Kaldor is going through a period of tumultuous change. Technology is changing at an advanced rate – the robots are evolving, artificial intelligence is adapting, and with these changes so politics is altering too. Dangerously.
Can Liv and Tula make a difference during the most turbulent time in the world’s history?
1.1 The Robots of Life by Roland Moore
Settling into life back on Kaldor, Liv investigates a medical centre where the patients are dying.
1.2 The Sentient by Robert Whitelock
Vissey is a young child – the sort of perfect young girl any parents would want to adopt. She is also artificial, and she sees the world in a very different way to humans.
1.3 Love Me Not by John Dorney
A widower goes to extreme lengths to keep the memories of his dead wife alive.
- Nicola Walker (Liv Chenka)
- Claire Rushbrook (Tula)
- Eric Carte (Arak Varren)
- Jon Culshaw (SV90 / V88 / V19)
- Annabelle Dowler (Jasdar Crick)
- Daniel Goode (Kelov)
- Jaye Griffiths (Til Rork)
- Anthony Howell (Volar Crick)
- Venice Van Someren (Vissey)
- Robert Whitelock (Skellen / V48 / SV66)
- Tracy Wiles (V98 / V7)
- Cover Artist: Ryan Aplin
- Director: Ken Bentley
- Executive Producers: Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
- Music: Joe Kraemer
- Producer: David Richardson
- Script Editor: John Dorney and Roland Moore
- Sound Design: Joe Kraemer and Josh Arakelian
- Written by Roland Moore, John Dorney and Robert Whitelock
- Based on characters created by Chris Boucher