The Eighth Doctor is back with Liv Chenka and Helen Sinclair, after the events of the Doom Coalition saga. Now, the TARDIS team are facing the Kandyman in Ravenous 1. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first episode, Their Finest Hour by John Dorney.
In the early days of the Second World War a strange and elusive craft attacks British targets. Could it be a German superweapon? Churchill calls for the Doctor’s assistance and with the help of a squadron of Polish fighter pilots the TARDIS crew take to the skies to investigate.
Well here we are again. One of my favourite times of the year. A new Eighth Doctor box set. If you’ve been around on the site for a while, you’ll know I love me some McGann action, especially when he’s in my ears. I can’t wait to meet him at Vworp later this year in Manchester, just so I can shake his hand and thank him. (Mr. McGann, if you’re reading this, ask Big Finish to get us in touch, I’ll send you a GallifreyArchive shirt to wear on the day!)
Anyway, on with the review.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we? This takes place after the events of Stop The Clock, and the Doctor and Liv are away from Helen and the Eleven, and we start with World War II. Something strange is afoot in the airs of the world, and the British pilots (I wonder if they’ll meet with the women of ATA Girl?) are dumbfounded by some mysterious camouflaging vehicle.
I have to give it to Dorney, it’s incredibly brave to have the entire pre-title sequence of a new saga release like this be without the Doctor, his companions, or any recognisable voices, but it does the job and transports you back to the era. Nobody is safe, technology is advancing, and, at this point in history, either side could be victorious. It’s also slightly poetic that Ravenous 1 is starting in the skies of World War II whilst Dark Eyes, the release that started these Eighth Doctor four box set sagas, began in the trenches in World War I. It’s almost like the Eighth Doctor is intrinsically linked to war and battle…
After the titles, we’re back with the Doctor and Liv, who are on the trail for their missing comrade, when the TARDIS gets a phone call from an old friend. And it’s not the person the Doctor was expecting. Ringo will have to wait, the Doctor has been recruited by Winston Churchill to aid him.
I adore the fact that Liv has no idea, nor is enamoured by, Churchill whatsoever. Whereas Amy Pond was somewhat in awe of meeting the most famous politician in British history to date, Liv is more concerned that the Doctor is focussing his efforts on this man, instead of finding Helen. I can’t say I blame her.
Once the Doctor understands the events that’s going on, he decides that he needs to speak to Polish pilots for some help. I love it when Big Finish are able to shine some light on those areas of history that are important, but yet under-taught in schools and not portrayed as often within the media. Their Finest Hour is in no way a pure historical, like The Peterloo Massacre, but it’s nice to be taught a little bit of information about the past, which can lead to your own research. I sense a lot of Big Finish listeners will be going down this rabbit hole in the near future.
The two Polish pilots, Wilhelm Rozycki and Jan Ostowicz are both brilliantly written characters. The Doctor is in a plane with Jan, whilst Wilhelm has the honour of flying for Liv Chenka. Jan and the Doctor have an absolutely stellar chemistry, and their rapport is off the chart. It’s clear that Paul McGann and Gyuri Sarossy are having a ball recording, and it makes for the best audio experience I’ve had in a long time.
Around the halfway mark, Dorney manages to pull the rug from under us, allowing us to hear the Eighth Doctor in an emotional state that we’ve not heard him in for a while. The scene that immediately follows between the Doc and Churchill is incredibly written and performed. You can tell that John Dorney wrote Absent Friends, he knows how to do raw emotion and do it well.
It’s not too long before Liv gets to the bottom of the camouflaging item in the sky, and hearing her on her own, without Helen or the Doctor around, really shows how Liv has grown as a person and as a companion during her time with the Doctor. My only hope for Miss Chenka is that she doesn’t become too cocky and self-sure like Clara did, with it resulting in an untimely demise. I love Liv. Long live Liv!
The final act of Their Finest Hour is like an audio version of a great war film, there’s lots of action, lots of plane engines whirring and bullets being fired. People are scared but keeping a brave face, and there’s a giant invisible alien spaceship wanting to obliterate London. Wait, what?
The conclusion of Their Finest Hour is rather absurd, in a brilliant way. The way the Doctor, Liv, Jan and Wilhelm save the day is not what you’d expect at all. I love being surprised by absurdity. John Dorney is a genius at balancing the emotion and the humour within a short period of time.
At the last few moments, Dorney does it again. I’m not crying, you are. Damn you Dorney. It’s amazing how invested you can be within such a short space of time. By the end of Their Finest Hour, you’re left mourning the loss of someone that never actually existed. That is the sign of a true wordsmith.
Overall, I think that after listening to Their Finest Hour, I understand what was meant by these four Ravenous box sets not being the same as Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition, in that all the stories aren’t so intrinsically linked. This release feels as if it’s not going to be part of a larger story, but it was a great way of reintroducing the Doctor and Liv, letting them interact with Ian McNeice’s Winston Churchill, and shine a light on some unsung heroes of World War II. At the same time though, it was funny and lighthearted one moment, yet sombre and reflective the next; a trait which is quickly becoming the trademark of a John Dorney story. How To Make A Killing In Time Travel certainly has a lot to live up to…
Should you want to purchase Ravenous 1, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.