Doctor Who: The Ravagers Boxset by Nicholas Briggs (CD review).

The return of the Ninth Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston was hotly anticipated. It’s a big responsibility, the series that reintroduced ‘Doctor Who’ in 2005, followed by the immediate announcement that the lead had departed after just one series shocked the fans. Even before we knew if it was any good there was the revelation that someone else would take over the second series, plunging everything into doubt.

The rest is history as we were treated to a stonking series with Eccleston and Billie Piper riffing off the amazing scripts and production values which were never before seen with this show.

Big Finish can allow themselves a little cheer and a pat on the back as they have tempted Eccleston back to revive and expand the role he seemed to fit so well. This three-part adventure throws the Ninth straight into the thick of the action as he seemingly has pulled off a mighty victory and saved the universe.

Sphere Of Freedom

Doctor, what the hell is going on?’

At the point of victory, all is lost and a desolate Doctor relates the tale to a mysterious old woman. Audrey (Jayne McKenna) is keen to learn just what is behind the Doctor’s actions. As he speaks of the new companion to whom he promised so much, already lost and the events in 1959 London, it becomes apparent there is much we didn’t know.

He is on a planet famous for its amazing immersive games. He met a young chef called Nova (Camilla Beeput), dissatisfied by her lot as grunt worker. He promised her freedom if she helped him break into the centre the games are coming from but that’s never going to happen now. He needs to go back to what went wrong.

As a nod to the classic series we have squaddies in 1959 London and Roman soldiers displaced in time. Lieutenant Farraday (Ben Lee) and Captain Halloran (Jamie Parker) try to parley with Marcus Aurelius Gallius (Dan Starkey), they are as confused as us at this point.


I never said I was nice’

It’s all going to hell. In London 1959, it’s not just Roman legionaries versus the British army but some high functioning robots have joined in. The Doctor is on the hunt for Nova who was swept up in a time eddy. If only just for once time was on his side. Trouble is he’s playing all the right notes but can’t quite accept they are in the wrong order.

Just to remind him there on his screen is his own personal Jiminy Cricket in the form of Audrey who seems to be tracking him through time, but why?

Despite all this there is a little space for the Doctor and Nova to bond and work their way towards the answer to the minor problem of the universe exploding.

Food Fight

‘Have I failed?’

Time moves in mysterious ways and we are reaching the end or the beginning. At this point it could all go very wrong but surely the Doctor will have the solution, that’s his job right?

So good you’ll need to listen to it twice. ‘Ravagers’ is beautifully constructed, offering us just enough to piece the story together making us as listeners feel super clever and expect the unexpected. This is a really classic, mind-bending story that showcases the best of Eccleston’s Doctor. Nova has a little hint of Rose , a soupcan of Bill, an independent minded woman who is making the best of what life has tossed at her. She is perfectly set up as the bolshie might-be companion who cannot admit to herself that she is having fun on an adventure.

She’s not the only one having fun, this is exuberant and joyful stuff with loads of energy and belief. It’s hard to believe that some of this was recorded remotely and listening to the extras brings this home. Trying to unwind the plot is something that makes this totally immersive-don’t try and do something else whilst listening. As Nick Briggs says, this is about escapism but it’s also quite deep managing to seed some thoughtful stuff regarding big corporations and how we deal with reality. This is the best kind of Science Fiction that also makes you think without hammering the point into your skull.

Speaking of the extras, the cast interviews are great but the comments by Eccleston reference some deeply moving personal events which took place during the filming of the series. It is obvious he puts a lot into his work; that intensity comes across, underlying the cheerful persona of the Ninth Doctor.

This is a great first outing for the new audio Ninth. It’s dramatic, funny and tests the listener to help unwrap the events. It’s a series of clever soundbites that reveal incrementally the solution to the Doctor’s dilemma. The pace never lets up thanks to a skilful edit with music by Howard Carter and sound design by Iain Meadows delivering a bold tick in the box of ‘epic’.

Big Finish has done six impossible things before breakfast: the signing of Paul McGann, Tom Baker, and now Chris Eccleston. They’ve made a lot of people very happy and long may it continue.

Sue Davies

June 2021

(pub: Big Finish, 2021. 4 CDs 214 minutes. CD: £ 24.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-83868-340-5. Download: £19.99 (UK). 978-1-83868-341-2)

cast: Christopher Eccleston, Camilla Beeput, Clare Corbett, Ben Lee, Anjella MacKintosh,

Jayne McKenna, Jamie Parker and Dan Starkey

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