Empire of the Racnoss

Posted in Audio by - July 28, 2017
Empire of the Racnoss

Released July 2017

After battling the Weeping Angels in the first Classic Doctors, New Monsters box set, Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor now encounters the Racnoss in Scott Handcock’s ‘Empire of the Racnoss.’ As the TARDIS is torn from the vortex and the Doctor finds himself in the midst of an ages-old conflict involving his own people, he soon finds that his good intentions come with consequences that always find him on the wrong side.

Without question, the Fifth Doctor is often portrayed as one of the kindest and most gentlemanly of the Doctor’s many incarnations, and it makes perfect sense that he would absolve himself of any allegiance to his people and help a fallen Racnoss when afforded the opportunity. However, as old wounds run deep, he soon finds himself suspected by the Racnoss of criminal acts and by the imprisoned Time Lords of brazen treason. This and the ensuing events as he teams with rather unlikely allies result in one of the rare times when the Doctor’s strong sense of morality leads to more anguish than had he simply towed party lines and turned a blind eye, and Peter Davison is superb as he showcases a faintly beleaguered undertone to his staunch determination as events that blur peace and war continue to escalate and turn against him.

It’s fair to say that the Racnoss from the Tenth Doctor story ‘The Runaway Bride’ was one of the most ostentatious villains that modern Doctor Who has introduced, and the over-the-top speech patterns easily transition to the audio medium without missing a beat thanks to some truly superb voice acting. There is undeniably something missing without the grandiose motions to go along with them, though, and although this is no fault of Handcock or of Big Finish, that sense of disconnect does sometimes result in the Racnoss seeming to be just a bit too showy in a way that doesn’t completely befit the escalating peril. However, the development of the Racnoss hierarchical society is immense and together with the many layered schemes that continue to reveal themselves help to create a sense of familiarity- albeit not always for the best reasons- for a race that has more or less remained a mystery while staying perfectly true to what has previously been established and the undying importance of their children.

Given how many adventures the Doctor has been on through the years, it’s surprising that he has so rarely come across non-villainous Time Lords on his travels. Accordingly, ‘Empire of the Racnoss’ is afforded some extra dramatic weight by showing the Fifth Doctor as an unwilling participant in a war featuring his own people that he would just as soon avoid. Unsurprisingly, the Gallifreyans he finds himself in the company of are not strictly moral beings themselves, but it’s quite surprising after all of the talk about how much of an outsider the Doctor is how easily his heroic and pacifist influence can spread to them. Likely because of the time needed to flesh out the twisting plot, there simply isn’t enough time to fully develop the change in attitude naturally, but it nonetheless leads to a satisfying progression of the plot and a very poignant moment at the resolution that puts the harrowing events around them into a slightly more positive light.

‘Empire of the Racnoss’ is a story slightly too big for its allotted running time, but it is undeniably the perfect story to reintroduce the Racnoss and prove that there is plenty of potential for further storylines featuring the race should the desire ever arise. The superb vocal performances and moments of strong drama as deeper layers of the plot and the extent to which both the Doctor and the Racnoss are willing to go by themselves create a solid foundation, and the usual strong production and sound design only further enhance the overall experience.

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