With 2017 finally here, it means one thing, the Fourth Doctor is back in Big Finish! The sixth series kicks off with the Doctor and Romana joining Jago and Litefoot from The Talons of Weng-Chiang for a new adventure. Let’s skip the pleasantries and just see if it’s any good, shall we?
A stunning new star act is wowing the audiences of the New Regency Theatre. The modern mechanical marvel of canny canine charisma – the automated dog that can answer any question – the incomparable – the unbeatable – K9!
The Doctor and Romana have returned to Victorian London and been reunited with their old friends Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago. However this is not merely a social visit. A terrifying crime spree is sweeping the capital, and the burglaries of ‘The Knave’ defy all logic.
Something impossibly dangerous is taking place amid the fog. Only the time travellers and their friends can stop it… but can they be sure they’re all on the same side?
I know for a fact that having Jago and Litefoot in a story will make some of you squeal with joy, especially if you’re Ben Lett from TheHostProductions on YouTube. It could be argued then, that The Beast of Kravenos is a sequel to The Talons of Weng-Chiang, which is certainly a corker of an episode to follow. We begin in the New Regency Theatre where K9 is performing at Henry Gordon Jago’s show; and the audience are absolutely loving his act of, well, his basic functions.
It’s not long at all before we learn that K9’s performance isn’t the reason that the Doctor and Romana have visited their pals Jago and Litefoot either, as it seems that we, the listener, are joining the action midway through; and that the Doctor, Romana, Jago and Litefoot are all investigating something as well.
One thing I love about having Jago and Litefoot involved is that it tends to mean that the story involves some unexplained, and usually gruesome murders. Victorian settings and gothic themes really do go hand in hand, don’t they? Of course, with the Doctor being involved, this murder can’t be straightforward; there’s always something that puts a spanner in the works.
For me, the Fourth Doctor’s era can be split into two very distinct feels, there’s the whole comedic type of Fourth Doctor story, and there’s the gothic, dark style. Luckily, Justin Richards has managed to write a story, that, whilst dark at it’s core, is able to silly at the right moments, mainly using K9 as a compare and creating some outlandish sounding acts.
The conclusion to the first episode of The Beast of Kravenos is a real twist, the TARDIS being stolen is the least of the Doctor’s worries, but he doesn’t realise that yet…
The second episode starts with a nice little recap of the climax of the last episode, and K9 quickly becomes more than comic relief; I’m surprised we’ve not had a K9 spin off series to be honest. Come on Big Finish, make it happen!
One thing that I noticed whilst listening to the very early moments of the second episode is that it shifts in motive somewhat; whereas the first episode was more of a whodunnit style story, the second episode appears to be more of a game of cat and mouse, which, for me, is a fun way of continuing the story, whilst letting it feel fresh.
It’s not until the second episode that we learn just exactly what the beast of Kravenos actually is, and it’s a fairly familiar trope of science fiction and fantasy, albeit with a slightly Doctor Who twist. Then we learn of a potential drug involvement. Even I didn’t see that coming. Who knew K9 had a nose for opium? He’d be a great sniffer dog.
I must admit that I found the conclusion somewhat lacklustre and calm, considering the events of the episode, and I personally didn’t find any sense of peril or consequence at all.
Overall, The Beast of Kravenos is an okay story, but I don’t think it helps that I’ve never particularly gelled with the characters of Jago and Litefoot. The premise behind the story is simple and arguably a classic scenario, and Justin Richards did a fine job of adding some humour and obscurity that fits the Fourth Doctor’s era. Is it my favourite story from Big Finish or Justin Richards? I can’t say it is; however, I know that there are some fans of Jago and Litefoot who will probably adore this story, and if you’re a Jago and Litefoot fan, I recommend you listen to it anyway.
Should you want to purchase The Beast of Kravenos, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.