Welcome to DoWntime’s new, not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles, alongside guest contributor Enigma (’cause y’know, discussing a series largely about women and feminism while we’re all dudes wouldn’t have been the best thing), tackle the return of Liv Chenka, Helen Sinclair, the Eleven and the Eighth Doctor in the first installment of the new four-boxsets-epic, Ravenous. Say Kandyman five times in front of a mirror, sit comfortably (maybe with a sorbet), and enjoy. Oh, and obviously, beware the spoilers after the “read more” tag.
TIBERE: It’s an interesting beginning for a new major arc, really. It’s very different from the big, brash, epic beginnings of Doom Coalition and even Dark Eyes before it. It’s very slow and deliberate, mostly doing a lot of set-up for future sets and adventures. Scribbles told me that the finale of this set felt, in many respects, like it was this series’ equivalent to “The Eleven”, and I agree with him. It’s a prologue above everything else: and I guess that it can understand why some would feel a bit frustrated by being asked to pay twenty-five bucks for the prelude to a larger story. On the other hand, it’s not without certain advantages – there’s a real charm in having something a little smaller in scale, some fun, consequence-free adventures. It’s not really something McGann has gone since … 2011 and the last EDA series, I think? Gives the character some breathing room, deals with the loose ends, all that good stuff. It’s nice and efficient, but I think Ravenous mostly leaves you hungry for more. Ah ah.
SCRIBBLES: This set is different, really. Doom Coalition had a rigid structure of giving each box set one little piece of the arc. There’s ways that worked, and ways that didn’t. Probably the biggest complaints about Doom Coalition were lobbed at the second set, which introduced new elements but didn’t do much in the way of revealing new information, culminating in a finale that had a fun use of River but seemed not to deliver big moments fans were hoping for. This set feels pitched to sort of balance that out, I think. It’s a very slow beginning, and half the set feels like a journey to get to Ravenous as an arc, with mixed results. But when the elements did start to hit, I quite liked what they became. This set feels like a conscious deflation and move away from the epics of Dark Eyes and Doom Coalition, which is a welcome change of pace, but I must also admit to impatience to just finally get on with more Helen Sinclair. This set just feels kind of hard to judge right now. It’s all standalone pieces, yes, but knowing there’s more still feels like that’s what will determine how this goes down. The one thing I can say, there’s no highs like “The Red Lady” offered as a hook, but on the flip side, there’s nothing that misfires in quite the way “The Galileo Trap” did. It’s a safe, comfortable prologue to what’s to come.
ENIGMA: Um, well, stuff happened. Crap, I never really thought about it as a whole. I mean, for the most part each part was their own thing kind of tangentially related in plot. Good overall, I thought. Feels more like the New Who style than it has in the past two sets. And, um, no I don’t got a long paragraph for this section. I mean, it’s a nice break from the general doom and gloom I’ve been getting out of the Eighth Doctor Adventures books so far. Just nice to get through an Eighth Doctor story without any genocide. And also the nineties-ness.
TIBERE: I just finished reading “Alien Bodies” and … Yeah, there’s a bit of a tone whiplash! Still, I really like the way this series feels – they’re continuing the brand they’ve crafted for themselves in Doom Coalition, this mix of New Who style and plot with Classic ideas and characters.
ENIGMA: Yeah, I do like the box set styles. Nice mix of the Classic Style with the New to created an original format for Big Finish.
TIBERE: Really, I think there’s a larger pattern at work here – Doom Coalition kind of felt into a creative eruption, as far as Big Finish and the EU in general is concerned. The same timeframe that gave us the complex politics of the new UNIT, Gallifrey – “Enemy Lines“, Class … The politics of the Moffat era safely integrated and a gap year the show took, leaving room for other media to take the spotlight. Now, the context is very different. We’re all kind of waiting for the next big wave, which is going to be whatever Chibnall and Jodie bring to the table. And a lot of what Big Finish puts out feels that way, like it was biding its time. Gallifrey: Time War? Set-up. This? Set-up. Even the latest UNIT set has a lot of teases and build-up to major, future events. It’s not quite as good or ubiquitous as Doom Coalition, but I don’t think it’s trying to be, and I’m not worried.