So, here it is. It’s the start of something huge. Yes, Big Finish has had the rights to New-Who stuff for a while; but I’m sure that this is the series that a lot of people have been waiting for. The Tenth Doctor is on Big Finish! Now, I know that this will be the jumping on point for a lot of people getting into Doctor Who related audio; but will the second release in this series, Time Reaver, have been worth the wait?
Calibris. The spaceport planet where anything goes. Where anyone who doesn’t want to be found can be lost, and where everything has its price. Where betentacled gangster Gully holds sway at the smugglers’ tavern, Vagabond’s Reach.
The alien Vacintians are trying to impose some order on the chaos. Soon the Doctor and Donna discover why. An illegal weapon is loose on the streets. A weapon that destroys lives… Slowly and agonisingly.
The Time Reaver.
I’m going to be frank, (well, I’m still going to be Daniel, but you know what I mean) before even listening to Time Reaver I know how it ends; not because I’m in it (although, Big Finish, if you need a Yorkshire voice, get in touch) or because I managed to find a copy of the script, but because I read writer Jenny Colgan’s latest book In The Blood. In The Blood follows on from the events of Time Reaver; meaning that if Jenny writes a televised episode (please, please, please) set after the events of In The Blood, she’ll be the first person in Who history to have written a trilogy that spans three different mediums (as far as I’m aware).
The pre-titles reminded me of a cross between The Magician’s Apprentice and Harry Potter when he accidentally ends up in Knockturn Alley in The Chamber of Secrets. We’re almost immediately introduced to the big bad of the story, Gully, the strange octopus like creature that adorns the cover. My initial criticism of Gully is that John Banks’ (who plays the part of Gully) voice is slightly over-edited, making it somewhat difficult to understand what he’s saying all the time. Hopefully this will be one of those situations where you’ll grow accustomed to the voice.
One thing that I have to commend Jenny for is the brilliant knack she has for writing great dialogue between characters; especially between the Doctor and Donna. The scene in which we’re reintroduced to the TARDIS duo is so brilliantly written and brilliantly performed by Tennant and Tate. I also really love the idea that Donna is insistent on going to the Planet of The Boys. I know a fair few people who’d like to go to the Planet of The Boys too.
David Tennant’s performance when the Doctor and Donna arrive on Calibris instantly takes me back to his time on the show; his boyishness passion that he exudes and his response when Donna cuts him back down to size are so perfectly written in my eyes (or should that be ears?) that I’m baffled that Jenny has yet to write for the televised version of the show.
Dan Starkey’s appearance of the annoying busker, Dorn reminded me of what it’s like going through my local city centre in the spring, where it seems like every corner has a busker aDorning it (see what I did there?), playing either good songs badly or bad songs terribly. If you’re a fan of Wonderwall though, you’d be in for a treat.
Once the Doctor finds his mechanic buddy, Soren, I was reminded about why Donna is arguably the best companion in Doctor Who ever; not only does she get somewhat annoyed that she’s being kept in the dark about the Doctor and Soren’s past (mis)adventures, but she has the urge to try and understand what they’re talking about so she can be more involved in the conversation. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all a bit like Donna Noble.
The concept behind the Time Reaver itself is utterly terrifying, and it seems like a device that wouldn’t feel out of place in the deepest, darkest points in the Time War (if the Time Reaver popped up in The War Doctor stories, I think it would be a great addition). It’s a weapon of excessive and unnecessary pain and despair that has absolutely no redeeming factors. You can understand why the Doctor doesn’t like it.
Whilst the majority of this story is rather bleak and mechanical, it doesn’t mean that Jenny Colgan doesn’t have the time to add in some comic relief. Just listen out for scones. It’ll make sense, trust me.
Time Reaver is arguably the most star-studded cast in these three Tenth Doctor releases; not only do we have the magnificent David Tennant and Catherine Tate reprising their roles, but we also have the aforementioned Dan Starkey who most Whovian’s will recognise as Strax, and Terry Molloy who played Davros in the Classic Era. All of the cast absolutely shines in this story, and there’s not one performance that feels anything but stellar.
All of Time Reaver has a fairly piratical feel to it (and I’ve just discovered that piratical is an actual word, so listening to this has provided me with a bit of education), especially in Vagabonds’ Reach, the Mos Eisley Cantina of Calibris. When the Doctor and Gully have their somewhat inevitable fisticuffs, the Doctor attempts to get the upper hand in a very Doctor-ish way. A way that plays with stereotypes and is very amusing, especially if you feel the same way as me in regards to sporting events.
As much as I love the boyish geeky passion that the Tenth Doctor was famous for, I can’t help but love the Tenth Doctor even more when he’s angry. Up until writing this review I never really thought about how different Doctor’s portray their anger differently, but they really do. The fury of a Time Lord apparently has many guises; and I have a soft spot for Ten’s the most.
Now, I’ve read and heard pretty much everything that Jenny has produced in regards to Doctor Who, and I’ve slowly begun to understand more and more they way she writes a narrative and whereabouts in a story she likes to surprise and shock the audience; I must admit, however, that the revelation involving Cora and Rone seemingly came out of nowhere and yet made perfect sense. Well done Jenny, you got me.
Jenny is absolutely perfect at putting references in her work that help you understand where in the timeline it’s set. Little, tiny, seemingly insignificant lines can fill you with dread as you realise what’s yet to come for the characters that you know and love. Someone asks Donna about the thing on her back and I froze because I knew what that meant. Turn Left hasn’t happened for the Doctor and Donna yet; but you know what pain our favourite Temp from Chiswick is going to go through. Thanks a lot for making me have a serious case of what I believe is called ‘the feels’.
During Time Reaver, Jenny Colgan manages to cram in every single emotion that a story should make you feel; you feel happiness, loss, anger, confusion, remorse, and so much more. The characters are all so three-dimensional, nobody is purely good or purely evil, everyone has their flaws. Calibris seems to be the perfect place to show the best and the worst of people.
Overall, Time Reaver is an absolutely great story, filled with darkness and sci-fi, humour and scones. I have to commend every single person involved for creating such a multi-layered and enjoyable tale. Jenny Colgan is definitely proving herself to be one of the greatest writers that Doctor Who has in its arsenal at the moment.
Should you want to purchase Time Reaver, it’s currently available as a single release from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or an £8.99 download which you can purchase here.
Alternatively, you could buy The Tenth Doctor Adventures Limited Edition Box Set featuring all three stories for £30.00 on CD or £25 on download which you can purchase here.