The Famished Lands

Posted in Audio by - August 15, 2019
The Famished Lands

Released August 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Whether intended or not, war has countless consequences on both very grand and very intimate scales, and Time War 3 continues its look at the actions of individuals suffering from a cosmic battle they cannot hope to comprehend in Lisa McMullin’s ‘The Famished Land.’ Arriving in the Vale of Iptheus where the Time War is literally starving populations out of existence, the local inhabitants have taken matters into their own hands, and the Doctor and Bliss soon find that survival in this location comes at an unspeakable cost.

McMullin crafts a haunting and evocative setting populated by people who have become little more than walking skeletons, but their seeming contentedness adds an auspicious degree of surrealism that only begins to hint at the true terrors confronting this civilisation that has been completely cut off from its trading partners. Only rumours about the likes of Gallifrey and Skaro have reached Iptheus, and the people here can only assume that they have unwittingly become the targets of the tremendous armies featuring in the stories. Faced with a limited food supply, Iptheus naturally turned to trying to create a synthetic substitute to feed the masses, and upon drawing attention to themselves with their nourished physiques and flippant remarks, the Doctor and Bliss soon discover that the grey gloop offered can also alter moods and sensations to create a sense of wonder and happiness by seeming to take on the appearance and taste of whatever food may be desired.

However, this miracle unsurprisingly comes with a darker secret, and the continued malnourishment of the masses despite the continued ingestion of this food supply and resulting happiness provides a stark contrast to the fit stature of a select few who have apportioned the food supplies to ensure their own survival. With the Doctor’s inquisitive nature leading him to his presumed death as secrets remain paramount- resulting in a prolonged and jarring hallucinatory sequence in the process- and with Bliss realising what may happen now that she, too, has ingested this food source, the fate of this world quickly takes on a very personal note. However, as the hungry are taken to cells and the story appears to be following in the footsteps of something akin to Soylent Green, McMullin offers a narrative swerve that is equally terrifying as mere fragments of information dictate policy and the horror of war spurs the exploitation of an accidental finding to fortify defenses at the expense of the very essence of humanity. The timeline of the resulting acceleration of starvation doesn’t completely mesh with the progression of these events, but the implications of just how profoundly war can change even those not involved who are simply caught in the crossfires are nonetheless harrowing, and Natalie Gumede as Aeronwen expertly captures the bravado and self-assuredness to drive Iptheus’s people forward as well as the strength to accept her own wrongdoing when shown the incomprehensible truth to make the plights of this world wholly developed in their own right.

‘The Famished Lands’ does suffer from a few pacing issues throughout that also make the odd insertion of forced comedic moments more glaring, but the story at its heart is one of the most unsettling that this saga has yet brought forth. Still, Paul McGann and Rakhee Thakrar give sterling performances that only grow stronger as the truth becomes more apparent, and the subversion of expectations both from a narrative standpoint and in terms of what survival can truly mean to those facing impending death because of unknown forces ensure an engrossing journey from beginning to end. With the Doctor owing Tamasan and the Time Lords a favour after asking them to help Iptheus correct course, the stage is likewise set for what is sure to be a fascinating second half to this set.

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