The Hunting Ground

Posted in Audio by - December 13, 2018
The Hunting Ground

Released December 2018

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The Sixth Doctor and detective drama have a long and successful history together, showcasing the shrewdness of this incarnation while also highlighting the strengths and pitfalls of his bombast and pride when anyone and everyone is a suspect for the inexplicable events that so often surround him. With the Doctor landing in present day Iceland and quickly finding himself on the wrong side of Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir’s murder enquiry in ‘The Hunting Ground,’ writer AK Benedict puts her natural crime and detective writing talents on display as a dark conspiracy reaching far into Yrsa’s past gradually comes to light.

Beginning with the increasingly popular Nordic noir style of hyper-realistic storytelling that even featured recently in the televised series with ‘It Takes You Away,’ Benedict does a superb job with setting up the mystery and giving it a very personal edge as Yrsa continues to look into the unsolved circumstances behind her father’s disappearance so long ago that she is convinced was due to murder. In many ways, this character follows in the footsteps of the incredibly successful DI Patricia Menzies as a strong woman who must slowly open her eyes to the impossible possibilities that the Doctor presents her and adapt her entire mindset accordingly, and Amy Beth Hayes gives an emotion-fueled performance that ensures the Doctor and the audience are always invested in Yrsa’s determined search for the truth that proves that nothing is quite as it seems.

Equally effective are the introductions of a mysterious development company and an environmental minister who seems to appear at the most inopportune times, further developing the warranted sense of unease Yrsa carries with her as secrets of her past come closer to the surface and adding to the gritty realism of this setting, the outdoor components of which are brought to life particularly vividly by strong sound design. Strangely, however, although Doctor Who has a long history of marrying science fiction concepts with more current realities, it’s with the introduction of the Great Hunter that ‘The Hunting Ground’ falters. Tying this dangerous figure into the local mythology is a strong concept that always yields dividends, but the character is far too pretentious and smug to be a genuinely engaging threat, mirroring a strange mixture of tones that pervades the story with elements like a singing printer that creates a disjointed experience overall. Still, the idea of the Hunter capturing his prey’s most precious memories is another strong idea in a story filled with them, but despite his importance tot he all-encompassing enigma of Yrsa’s life, the time actually dedicated to him amounts to little more than a time-filling runaround.

Without question, the Doctor certainly shows off his intellectual prowess as he pursues and tries to stay one step ahead of this alien being while ending up on another world in the process, but even the hunt is played a little more light-heartedly than might be expected as he comes across an inter-argumentative two-headed being who belongs to the company setting up these hunting ventures and who is perhaps too dedicated to proper order and officiousness. None of this is to fault the performances which are uniformly excellent; it’s simply that the tones between Yrsa’s investigations that reveal unexpected friends and foes and the more overtly extraterrestrial elements are too jarring despite a genuinely strong personal component and central mystery fueling the narrative. ‘The Hunting Ground’ is something of an odd beat to end 2018’s main range releases, then, definitely capturing the grand essence of the Sixth Doctor while perfectly exploiting the detective and noir genres but not managing to seamlessly integrate all of its components into a cohesive and lasting whole.

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