The Revenants

Posted in Audio by - June 03, 2019
The Revenants

Released May 2012

Originally released as a free download for those who purchased Doctor Who Magazine issue 448 and then later as part of the limited edition of Big Finish’s fiftieth anniversary story ‘The Light at the End,’ ‘The Revenants’ marks an atmospheric return to the little-explored time between ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and ‘The Rescue’ in which Ian and Barbara were the sole companions aboard the TARDIS. As the Doctor tries to get his two companions home and lands in a strangely familiar locale, the ship mysteriously disappears before the Doctor can step out, leaving Ian and Barbara abandoned in a marsh that proves to be much more treacherous than they could have imagined.

Simply saying that the majority of the first episode is comprised of Ian and Barbara trying to cross the marsh without succumbing to the depths of the mud as the day’s light dwindles does the end result no justice because this episode is arguably one of the strongest and most atmospheric that Big Finish has produced for The Companion Chronicles range. The setting in many ways becomes a character in its own right, and the ominous and almost inevitable danger it poses is grippingly realised through pitch perfect narration and sound design that hit all of the right notes. There’s something quite fitting about Ian being able to recognise Earth just by its smell, and his realisation that such danger follows in his shadow even here is a nice accompaniment to his yearning desire to once more be home on Earth that leads him to declare that he will stay here regardless of the possibility of the people being his ancestors or descendants.

Fortunately, the emergence of the peat monsters from the bog is just as effective as the tension that the first portion of the story spends building. This sequence is equally unnerving and carries a genuine sense of consequence as the clock continues to count down and survival becomes increasingly unlikely. Instead, the story strangely falters more once the Doctor again enters the story simply because the fantastic atmosphere and pacing is dropped so that the characters can lengthily discuss how best to stop the creatures. It is undeniably intriguing and heartwarming to discover that the Doctor who is still so hurt by Susan’s departure has patiently been waiting for his companions to arrive for several years while assuming the mantle of Wissfornjarl, but his willingness to take a more extreme measure while still acting somewhat more erratically after all of that time is a bit circumspect. While it’s fitting that there should be a fairly simple solution that all involved initially overlook, however, these conversations simply do not match the immense visuals of fingers and limbs creeping forth from the marsh surface and the fascinating history of two self-repairing warships damaged beyond repair that now spawn unending waves of these creatures on the very cusp of life to continue an eternal battle.

As a free giveaway, ‘The Revenants’ is a strong example of everything that Big Finish and The Companion Chronicles can achieve with classic characters and eras within the audio medium. Compared to other instalments, however, it does spend a bit too much time traversing the narrative of the early televised series prior to Ian’s arrival in this setting and becomes a bit too bogged down with dialogue to the point that the pacing all but grinds to a halt at certain points. Still, William Russell is as captivating as ever in the role, and the unique framing device set at the present day Orkney Ferry helps lend an extra layer to an intriguing tale that further develops the dynamic of this most enthralling lead trio.

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