It’s that time of the year again, when classic Doctors find themselves about New-Who monsters. In this second set, we’re joined by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth incarnations of our favourite Time Lord in a slew of new stories. Today, I’ll be reviewing the second story in the set, Empire of The Racnoss, starring the Fifth Doctor.
When a distress call rips the TARDIS from the Vortex, dragging it back through time, it arrives in the midst of a conflict between Gallifrey and an ancient foe.
The Doctor, as ever, wants to help, but in returning a wounded combatant home, he becomes further and further entangled in a web of deceit and recrimination. A web spun by an eight-legged Empress and her minions…
The Empire of the Racnoss is at war, and wherever he stands, the Doctor is on the wrong side.
The Fifth Doctor is in trouble. Straight away; he’s in danger. Even when he’s in danger though, the Doctor is sworn to help all those he can. Even if the species needing help is the Racnoss.
What Scott Handcock does within the opening minutes of the story is make you ask a lot of questions; namely exactly when in the timeline of the Doctor Who universe does this story take place? Normally in the Doctor’s timeline, it’s somewhat easy to establish what events are going on; but on this occasion, you have to wonder what’s going on in the universe around the Fifth Doctor.
One of the most interesting aspects of Doctor Who is that on occasion, doing the right thing will mean that the Doctor will be punished more than he would have been than if he’d done the wrong. I love it when any story does this; showing that even though people may have good intentions, they’re not always guaranteed the reward.
The Doctor is torn between being suspected of criminal acts from the Racnoss who are keeping him prisoner and being suspected of treason from the Time Lords who are also being held prisoner by the Racnoss. No matter what, it seems as if the Doctor is going to be on the wrong side.
I have to admit that the aspect of the story that interested me most was the lore of the Racnoss that Scott Handcock has expanded upon in this story; the relationship between the monarchy of the Racnoss is really interesting; and is something I definitely feel should be revisited.
It’s strange to think that at it’s core, Empire of The Racnoss is essentially a story that could have taken place on Jeremy Kyle. (For those who don’t know what Jeremy Kyle is, it’s a bit like Jerry Springer; for those who don’t know what Jerry Springer is, google it and despair.) Space Jeremy Kyle. There’s an idea, Big Finish.
Empire of The Racnoss has so many double crossings and triple crossings and even quadruple crossings that this story needs a dedicated Lollypop Person (I’m sorry for that analogy (I’m not really)), but it really makes sense in the confines of the story. Neither Time Lords nor the Racnoss are simple creatures, and their morals are both corruptible. It’s rather a political story by the end; something that I feel fans of the Gallifrey series will enjoy.
The conclusion of Empire of The Racnoss is one of the most intense in recent memory in my opinion; it’s rather Shakespearean in it’s delivery too, which is something that I enjoyed thoroughly. Even at the bitter end, the Doctor gets his moment of bravery and Doctorishness. It seems too as if the end of Empire of The Racnoss may be the beginning of another Racnoss story that will take place in the future…
Personally, I think that when Doctor Who tries to do a love story, in any form, it never quite hits the mark; just look at the likes of Hide, which was, in essence, a love story that was misinterpreted by the Doctor and the viewer for the majority of the episode. Love isn’t simple. Scott Handcock has managed to write a really good story that involves relationships and “love” without it being a love story. To me, that’s the sign of a great writer. I joked earlier about Empire of The Racnoss being a space Jeremy Kyle episode, and whilst that’s true to an extent, it’s so much more clever than that. I know I’ve said it before, but there are some genuine Shakespearean moments of high theatre which worked really well.
Overall, Empire of The Racnoss is continuing the trend of the stories in this box set being of extremely high quality; on paper, this story might not seem to be the kind of story that you’d be interested in, honestly, it didn’t look like it for me. But just listen. Please. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it, and Scott Handcock rarely disappoints.
Should you want to purchase Classic Doctors, New Monsters: Volume Two, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.