Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures # 1.2
Written by: Jenny T. Colgan
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Sabrina Bartlett, Terry Molloy & Dan Starkey
Duration: 60 mins approx
Chronology Placement: Set during “Season Four” and after “Technophobia”
Synopsis: 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.
The second adventure in the Tenth Doctor Adventures trilogy moves away from the contemporary London setting seen in “Technophobia” and transports the Doctor and Donna to the futuristic space-port planet of Calibris. Jenny T. Colgan’s script is magnificently effective at describing the pirate-ridden transport hub, conjuring up visions of seedy bars and dark uninviting alleyways within the listener’s mind. As this is a Big Finish adventure, the sound production is absolutely flawless and Howard Carter’s background music really helps emphasise the ‘pirates in space’ tone of Colgan’s script. It’s such a vivid and wonderfully realised location that it is a shame that it wasn’t able to be brought to life on-screen by the BBC’s amazing set-designers.
The titular Time Reaver is an illegal weapon being sold on Calibris’ black market, and when fired upon a victim – it creates a time dilation that means every second feels like hours. It’s a brilliant concept that feels totally at home in the Doctor Who universe and offers plenty of potential for drama – the sequences where we hear the internal thoughts of the victims as they are frozen in time are truly haunting, and the idea of being paralysed within your own mind for months, years or even decades is a terrifying fate. Colgan’s script builds the weapons up as a credible threat to the universe, ensuring that the peril faced by our heroes is very real, whilst adding some gravitas to the swashbuckling adventure.
David Tennant and Catherine Tate continue to reprise their roles with effortless perfection, and there are some great moments to explore the depth of both characters. Tennant’s anger and rage at the reappearance of Time Reaver weaponry evokes memories of his more dramatic sequences in the television series, and while you cannot see his performance – his evocative voice and familiar vocal tics enable viewers to visualise the character’s movements and facial expression with ease. Catherine Tate also demonstrates her ability to act through just her voice, creating some tender moments towards the end of the episode that demonstrate just how much of a hero Donna Noble is. Colgan’s script is drenched in Season Four continuity, foreshadowing events in both “Turn Left” and “Silence in the Library” through little nods in the dialogue.
The villain of the piece is the tentacle gangster Gully – a character who Colgan would also reuse in her novel “In the Blood” – and while he is an effective presence in the tale, I did find the modulation used to distort his voice a tad difficult to understand at times – there were a few sentences that I was unable to fully hear, despite multiple playbacks. It’s a minor criticism, but it did take me out of the narrative at times. The rest of the supporting cast provided strong performances, particularly Cora (Sabrina Bartlett) and Officer Rone (Terry Molloy), who become more embroiled in the Time Reaver threat as the adventure develops. I also enjoyed Alex Lowe’s chirpy mechanic Soren, who happily provides the Doctor with materials for his Type-40 TARDIS, and acts an additional companion for the story.
With its strong central concept and delightfully evocative setting, “Time Reaver” works perfectly as the only future-based story in the Tenth Doctor Adventures trilogy, transporting listeners to new worlds that feel familiar and instantly recognisable. Jenny T. Colgan’s slick script allows the Doctor to ‘buckle his swash’ whilst dealing with octopod gangsters and time-dilating weaponry, whilst accurately maintaining the tone of the Russell T. Davies era of the show. The interplay and banter between the Doctor and Donna is pitch-perfect and the infectious fun that was had behind-the-scenes can be felt keenly in the final product. The Tenth Doctor Adventures are fast becoming the new benchmark for all future Big Finish audio adventures to be measured against, and deserves to be on the wish-list of every Doctor Who fan.