Released June 2011
With new companions Raine Creevy in tow, the Doctor and Ace land at Margrave University in 2001 and quickly find themselves entrenched in the mysteries surrounding the alien creatures in the science lab and the hidden motives of the student Scobie and his followers. Teaming up with Brigadier Bambera and the rest of UNIT, the Doctor soon finds himself an unknowing pawn in a plan he has yet to put into motion as the lost season twenty-seven confidently continues its trek onward.
Strangely, ‘Animal’ is something of a disjointed tale, a story of two halves that independently work quite well but that together don’t quite cohesively mesh. The story quite interestingly starts out as the leads slowly discover the truth of the sentient and carnivorous plantlike beings being housed in the university as Raine and Ace go undercover as students at Margrave to thwart a bombing attempt at the science facilities being carried out in the name of animal rights. However, even if the infiltration of the terrorist group occurs rather too easily, this claustrophobic setting is somewhat abandoned at the end of the second episode as an alien spaceship appears overhead and the story changes trajectory as the Numlocks make their presence known. Like the Metatraxi from the ‘Crime of the Century,’ the Numlocks are another race with a distinctive style of speech, but the slower and softer tones as each member of the species makes itself known don’t quite work as successfully as intended even if the politeness is an obvious screen for the race’s more nefarious plans with their own animalian ties.
In a story featuring strong ideas that aren’t always perfectly executed, the performances are consistently excellent throughout. Ace and Raine mesh perfectly and blend in so well with the focal students that it’s easy to see how well this new duo could successfully work together in future stories. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t reveal too much information or too many new aspects of characterization for Raine because of the expanded character roster and many plot threads, but Beth Chalmers again proves to be charismatic and confident as her new companion experiences her first trip to the future. Strangely, the story brings up a rather important fact regarding Raine’s father at the end, but it’s a missed opportunity to use this fact throughout ‘Animal’ to add some further emotional weight to the current affairs. Still, this does lead to a truly superb speech from McCoy about the perception of the flow of time, a true standout for the Doctor in a story full of strong scenes for him that exemplify the dynamic nature of this incarnation. Notably, ‘Animal’ also brings back Angela Bruce as Brigadier Bambera first introduced in ‘Battlefield,’ lending to the authenticity of the era and providing a very authoritative foil for the Doctor who must confront the consequences of his free-wheeling nature.
As a whole, ‘Animal’ is the closest of the three stories released so far to recapture the tone and energy of the later televised McCoy era. However, a very linear plot with a fairly predicatble ending even as the narrative dramatically changes midway makes this story a far cry from the superb narrative stylings of Andrew Cartmel in The New Adventures novel range. Nonetheless, the performances are uniformly excellent and continue to demonstrate how strong the new TARDIS trio can be, and ‘Animal’ is at the very least entertaining from beginning to end even if it refuses to do anything revolutionary.