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 second episode, How To Make A Killing In Time Travel by John Dorney.
A disturbance in the vortex causes the TARDIS to land on the Scapegrace space station, where Cornelius Morningstar experiments in time-travel for nefarious purposes. But the Doctor’s plan to stop him winds dangerously out of control as the different agendas of criminals, murderers and alien dynasties conspire against him.
My god that opening music. What a way to set the mood. We start again, without the Doctor, Liv or Helen, but with Stralla Cushing and Cornelius Morningstar, a brilliant scientist and their financial backer, as they are attempting to create their own vortex. Stralla is the temporal scientist of her generation, yet Cornelius is being a bit of a so-and-so. An egotistical businessman with a short fuse in a position of power. Where have I heard that before..?
There’s a short moment of jubilation for Stralla before the opening credits too, which is nice. It’s not often that good people have good things happen to them so early in Doctor Who. I think it’s safe to say, it won’t stay that way for long though. Call it a hunch.
Once we’re back with the Doctor and Liv, it appears that there’s something wrong with the TARDIS (nothing new), and they’re no closer to finding Helen. There’s a hiccup in the vortex (no prizes for guessing what’s caused that), and it seems that the Doctor and Liv are now trapped on a space station. Away from Helen. Time is ticking…
We’re soon back with Morningstar and Stralla, and it’s apparent that Morningstar is a cross between Scrooge and Trump. A Scrump-like character if you will. It’s also clear that this is going to be a more lighthearted affair than Their Finest Hour, with giant scorpions, characters that are caricatures, and utter absurdity. I love the fact that Doctor Who can make these tonal shifts and yet it still feels like the same show. What’s more, when you realise that Their Finest Hour and How To Make A Killing In Time Travel are written by the same writer, you know you’ve found a talent.
Jamie Robertson’s score also helps punctuate the comedy really well. Giving Morningstar a cinematic score, normally used to highlight rousing speeches of comradeship, teamwork and motivation, whilst the character is talking about what he’s going to do for his own personal gain is a stroke of genius. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The sound designers and musicians of audio releases like this never get enough credit.
The Doctor and Morningstar has a very bumpy meeting. (You’ll appreciate my subtle pun when you listen to it.) I just hope Morningstar’s threat has a suitable pay off. There’s no real reason for me to tell you this information, I just wanted to do that pun.
It’s not too long before the story descends into a farce. Even though it’s all through audio, it really reminded me of a scene from the utterly brilliant The Play That Goes Wrong (before you ask, that is an extremely high compliment). I’m becoming more and more invested in the brilliant Stralla Cushing.
In the second act, we’re introduced to the universes best/worst security guard. I bloody love him. John Dorney really knows how to make memorable characters. His interactions with Stralla are brilliant. A spin-off with those two would be greatly appreciated.
The final act of How To Make A Killing In Time Travel descends into more of a sci-fi operatic farce, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. I don’t know if I’d call it lighthearted, but it’s more… morbidly upbeat and humorous than it’s predecessor.
Within the last ten minutes, all of the stakes are raised, especially for the Doctor, Liv and Stralla. The Doctor, especially, has an amazing arc, and some of the action he has happens without us hearing it, which is a shame, as it could have been really interesting. His relationship with Stralla though, gets a brilliant little scene, and it cements Stralla as a brilliant well-rounded character. It’s safe to say that Stralla Cushing is companion material.
The conclusion of the story ties everything up in a nice bow, and it’s a real shame that Stralla isn’t jumping aboard the TARDIS, it would have been amazing. She’s like a sci-fi Lady Christina DeSouza and I love it. I hope that she appears in a future Ravenous story, or even have her pop up in another Doctors timeline. For now though, the Doctor and Liv’s quest to find Helen continues…
Overall, How To Make A Killing In Time Travel is yet another incredibly strong John Dorney script, which is tonally different from Their Finest Hour. When you’ve listened to as many audio dramas as I have, and when you learn all the actors nuances and performance habits, you almost get a sixth sense for when the actors are enjoying themselves. It sounds like the entire cast had an absolute ball with this story. It’s another story in the Ravenous saga that doesn’t appear to be too connected to the main plot, but I get the sense that that will change with the next story, World of Damnation…
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.