Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions
Writer: Jenny T. Colgan
RRP: £10.99 (CD) / £8.99 (Download)
Release Date: May 2016
Reviewed by: Bedwyr Gullidge for Doctor Who Online
“Calibris. The spaceport planet where anything goes. Where anyone who doesn't want to be found can be lost, and where everything has its price. Where betentacled gangster Gully holds sway at the smugglers’ tavern, Vagabond’s Reach.
The alien Vacintians are trying to impose some order on the chaos. Soon the Doctor and Donna discover why. An illegal weapon is loose on the streets. A weapon that destroys lives… Slowly and agonisingly.
The Time Reaver."
If Technophobia was an attempt to recapture the atmosphere of 2008’s Series 4, Time Reaver steps out of the television set and into the Big Finish universe renowned for the limitless scope for storytelling. Set on a bustling intergalactic transport terminus, this story’s location would have proved tricky for a television production team to realise effectively, as would the key villain Gully and all his tentacles. Instead, through the excellent medium of audio storytelling and the assistance of a single image of the tentacled creature in question on the cover, the listener can fully immerse themselves into the fast paced action.
The plot of the story centres on the presence on the planet Calibris of a dangerous and valuable weapon, the Time Reaver. It has the ability to extend time potentially indefinitely, allowing people to savour precious moments for longer but sadly can also be used to provide agonising torture. Once again the realisation of a poor soul enduring this torment works incredibly well on audio, taking the listener into the mind of the subject and sharing the experience. It reminded me of a specific episode of American medical drama ER which guest starred Cynthia Nixon as a mother who had suffered a devastating stroke and the viewer witnessed the ‘locked in’ syndrome she was subsequently experiencing. Both are harrowing journeys and an excellent method of telling the story.
Gully is also very successful on audio, the rasping sliminess of a voice which shares similar tones to that of 1980’s villain Sil who first appeared in Vengeance on Varos, enhancing the skin-crawlingly grotesque creature. The bureaucratic Vacintians are however a bit bland and generic but Terry Molloy’s Officer Rone adds a relatable character despite those restrictions. Another triumph is Sabrina Bartlett as Cora, who sounds much younger than her years and delivers the story’s powerful emotional dimension.
Although a largely grim tale, Time Reaver’s extravagant setting helps elevate a simplistic story to the darkly atmospheric tale which tears through at a swift pace whilst taking the listener on a deeply emotional journey, feeling for the key characters affected by the Time Reaver and also those forced to endure it’s devastating power.