14 January 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: AK Benedict

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: December 2018

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The Doctor arrives in present day Iceland and receives a frosty reception from Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir when he becomes the chief suspect in a murder enquiry. But the Doctor knows that the real killer is of extraterrestrial origin.

Joining forces with Yrsa, the Doctor goes in pursuit of a ruthless alien that is hunting humans for sport. Yrsa unearths a dark conspiracy which reaches back into her own past.

Determined to expose the truth and prevent further deaths, the Doctor and Yrsa soon find themselves running for their lives, prey on the hunting ground."

2018 ends in the snow for Big Finish. The wolves are running, but it’s Colin Baker and not Patrick Troughton taking centre stage for this tale of hunting, police procedure and cover-ups. Plus aliens and robots, because what's Doctor Who without a nasty monster waiting in the wings every so often? Dull, that’s what.

Things get off to a pleasingly disorientating start with a child’s bedtime story interrupted by screaming and pleading and roaring, all before the theme tune kicks in. We’re soon introduced to Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir and placed in the middle of a murder investigation that smells of Forbrydelsen, to the point where I kept expecting Sarah Lund to turn up in one of her trademark cosy jumpers. Again, it’s a pleasingly Doctor Who thing where you have something so familiar interrupted by the Doctor and alien activity and that’s exactly what we get. Chuck in a singing printer and unusual wolves, and you have an entertaining start to the adventure.

Despite all this good work though, the play throughout feels like it lacks a certain something. The ingredients for something wonderful are all there and the story continues to throw such things at us, from hidden spaceships to bickering bureaucrats, to car crashes to traitors, but the glue holding all these things together is web-thin. Doctor Who meeting Scandinavian crime drama is a nice idea, in theory, but there is a notable disconnect between these elements in The Hunting Ground, to the extent that it feels like the two genres are fighting for the spotlight and as a result they both feel a tad undercooked.

It’s a shame as, as noted above, there is much to praise in AK Benedict’s script. I enjoyed her crack at the Eleventh Doctor in The Calendar Man, and there is a similar blend of fairytale with normality here, too. Unlike there though, again these two things sometimes work against one another.

I really like the approach taken towards what is often dismissed as supernatural and ‘other’ in this play. People speak of elves and trolls with a shrug, as if they’re nothing out of the ordinary, which is at once unusual and refreshing. It feels like a nice and respectful blend of traditional Icelandic folklore and the show’s existing mythology, but this lack of wonder at the ‘other’ sadly bleeds over to elsewhere.

I can understand the natural extension of the police accepting magic folk so therefore not finding it a great stretch to accept that the Doctor is an alien and that alien activity may be involved with the murder case. I see, too, why this may have crossed the mind of Yrsa Kristjansdottir before, seeing as her father died in similarly unusual circumstances. However, she is then almost roundly unimpressed and surprised as time travel, alien hunters and robots all announce themselves and as such it’s a bit hard for the listener to be enthused or excited.

And then we have the very ending which hints that Yrsa may be about to become a new companion of the Sixth Doctor. I actually let out a small groan at this point as it just feels so ordinary and expected and, again, underwhelming. They’ve tried to pull off the ‘Sixth Doctor and an unexpected companion!’ trick once already in 2018, in the truly terrible release The Lure Of The Nomad, so by now it’s like a bad joke. Whether Yrsa does make it aboard the TARDIS or not seems unclear for now, but the door is open so I suspect it will be but time. I can’t say I am counting down the days.

The Hunting Ground, then...  It’s a strange story with much to praise and celebrate, but it’s also one that feels disjointed and lacking. It’s a bit of a damp end to 2018’s monthly releases from Big Finish, but perhaps you can exaggerate the peaks and troughs here to make a good symbol for how the main range has been this year: some terrific highs and some perilous lows.

I hope that 2019 provides us with a bit more consistency. More monsters and fewer people shrugging off the wonderful. A bit less of the predictable and a bit more of the surprising. We shall see. For now, let’s look at the good here and hope it’s built upon After all, what is a new year if not a chance to reflect upon the good and bad and vow to do better?


+ The Hunting Ground is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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