Sweet Salvation

Posted in Audio by - April 14, 2018
Sweet Salvation

Released April 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

With the reinvented Kandyman established as a subtly dangerous threat alongside the always-unpredictable Eleven, the Doctor must decide whether Helen is still his friend as Liv and he ally with a desperate criminal to escape Rykerzon and save an entire world from the unexpected consequences of a desire for peace in the conclusion to Ravenous 1, Matt Fitton’s ‘Sweet Salvation.’

The villainous plan itself is quite simple in intent, but it’s actually quite intricate with many moving pieces and a core that strikes at the very fabric of the Eleven’s more sentimental relationship with Helen displayed in ‘World of Damnation.’ Now on Colony 23’s prime world, the Eleven has gained prominence and high-ranking access with an impressive resume detailing his successes at Rykerzon under the Governor, forgetting to mention his true identity and the fact that the Governor is dead. With Ruzalla’s friend, Jarl, in tow, he plans to use Jarl’s innate ability to psychically influence people in conjunction with the Kandyman’s advent of the utopia-bringing silk to help this world achieve quick and lasting peace. The pursuit of peace is unquestionably a noble one, but ‘Sweet Salvation’ wisely takes the time to deliberate on what constitutes a step too far into moral depravity when free will is taken out of the equation. Nonetheless, the Chief Minister’s rabid enthusiasm for widespread incorporation of silk into the general food supply after the impressive studies and incredible popularity of sample products shows that sometimes the need and desire for a quick fix can outweigh ethical concerns that one might normally have, especially when the elite of the world have their own premium and organic food supply that will not be touched.

Unfortunately, without Ruzalla present as the soothing force she has always been for him, Jarl proves to be somewhat less controlled than would be ideal within the psychic matrix, and innocent lives are soon lost inadvertently for all of the wrong reasons. It’s within this situation that the Doctor and company are once more placed under arrest once crash landed on Prime after first using the silk to temporarily placate the Rykerzon inmates once more. Of course, the Eleven and the Kandyman realise that the Doctor’s arrival will only cause more problems, but the Eleven’s suggestion that Helen may represent a solution hints at a far darker plan in store now that he has full control over all of the population, including the leaders who so easily fell for a simple branding hoax. As expected, the reunion between Helen and the Eleven is the most emotional moment of the piece, and Hattie Morahan and Mark Bonnar once more excel as Helen insists that she saw a shred of humanity in the Eleven when he told her not to eat the Kandyman’s treats and saved her from termination but the Eleven insists she is only alive to play her bigger intended role as the core of the psychic matrix, bringing the requisite emotional range to emphasise the amount of time these two characters spent together in heightened circumstances and the very long game the Eleven has been playing all along.

Unsurprisingly, the Eleven proves to be one who should not be trusted, and the plans he put in motion to terminate his partnership with the Kandyman result in a sticky ending for both after desires for revenge strike on multiple fronts and prove that no action comes without consequences. Pippa Bennett-Warner has been superb as Ruzalla in both instalments of this two-part finale, and her determined search for Jarl after losing Crabhead is a powerful journey to witness that becomes all the more impactful when she finally discovers the truth of the situation in which her friend now finds himself. There’s no faulting the ambition of the plan to control some four billion people, especially to someone as unique as the Eleven, and the climactic resolution that focuses on the importance of the individual is impactful both for its emotional intensity and its tease of the impending arrival of the old legends known as the Ravenous from which all one can hope to do is run. While this concluding piece isn’t quite as unique or emotional as its setup instalment, ‘Sweet Salvation’ is nonetheless extremely confident and well-paced as it sends the overall narrative hurtling forward, making the most of its reuinted leads and everything that has come before it.

Overall, Ravenous 1 is an intriguing beginning to a new series of tales exploring the fallout of Doom Coalition while simultaneously heading in a boldly new direction, though it’s also one in which beginning with two standalone stories gives the overarching narrative a sense of treading water initially before truly beginning in earnest midway through and one that only truly hints at the titular force at its extreme end. Having the Eighth Doctor partake in more standalone tales is a welcome shift after so many epic sixteen-story sagas dominating his recent tenure, but it’s nonetheless a bit strange to release sixteen new stories under the Ravenous title when the mandate is to release more standalone tales that are completely independent. Regardless, the immense portrayals of Mark Bonnar’s Eleven and Nicholas Rowe’s Kandyman to kick start this narrative are absolutely worthy of the anticipation that preceded them, and Big Finish’s usual shining direction and sound design are wonderfully present to assure polished pieces that deliver plenty of immediate impact. With Helen now found, it will be interesting to see if the Doctor’s trust in her fully returns as they resume traveling along with Liv, but for now the scene has been set for a mysterious force from long ago to make its dramatic presence fully known.

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