The Devouring

Posted in Audio by - November 03, 2023
The Devouring

Released November 2023


Without question, the addition of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor to Big Finish’s roster remains the most consequential and dramatic moment in the company’s stories history, loudly proclaiming to the world that Doctor Who would continue to remain an evolving and dynamic franchise telling completely new stories with completely new characters at a time when its return to television was anything but a certainty. While the Eighth Doctor has increasingly been defined with his time around and within the Time War, Audacity touches on a much earlier time in his life as he crosses paths with Lady Audacity Montague in Regency England just as she discovers that the stars she is so keen to gaze at have also been staring back at her.

Lisa McMullin is tasked with introducing and developing this new companion for the Eighth Doctor in ‘The Devouring.’ Voiced extremely confidently by Jaye Griffiths, Audacity is a woman with very modern sentiments who is increasingly frustrated by the constant abuses of power from the few that comprise the ruling elite and who genuinely does not care what others think about her. While the Doctor astutely points out that the bravado she shows is more of a veneer than genuine, nobody can doubt her confidence and boldness while she continues to look to the stars and to dream of a better and more just world and what she can do to make it so. She implicitly knows that she can be too much for some, but she is always true to herself and willing to speak her mind.

These are, of course, admirable traits that set a strong foundation for the character that is bolstered all the more effectively by her willingness to sacrifice herself to save everyone around when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a strange alien who has dedicated itself to consuming her, but the characterization throughout nonetheless features some oddities and inconsistencies that keep her from becoming a truly sympathetic individual by the time she must leave her own time and life to escape The Devouring and its endless pursuit of her. Though not overly consequential, the inconsistencies begin with Audacity’s dialogue and mannerisms that often switch between more aristocratic and more modern and colloquial tones without warning. This may be an attempt to mirror her obvious disdain for titles- even the one she bears- and the nature of society as currently set up in her time, but she is written more like a companion from modern times who simply lacks any concept of space and time travel and has been transplanted to Regency times rather than originating from Regency times. Seeming to hold her colleagues at gunpoint at her own party in order to take their riches to help the poor, although inspiring on the one hand, also does not make much sense narratively given the obvious consequences that in most other stories would come to feature, speaking to the brash and sometimes overbearing tendencies of this woman. Much more questionable, however, is the manner by which she decides to leave her husband behind to join the Doctor on his travels. No great explanation is given for why Ignatius cannot join Audacity when the Doctor gives her the opportunity to leave her own time to escape The Devouring, and so the man who she freely admits gave up the chance to have a better life with another woman whom he was promised to in order to save Audacity from destitution as he followed his own heart is left alone to pick up the pieces of his broken life. While he will assuredly be fine from a societal standpoint given his own wealth and circumstances, Ignatius is obviously devoutly in love with Audacity and deserves much more than to be discarded so easily. Audacity does at least claim that she is glad she was not forced to choose between traveling with the Doctor and staying on Earth with Ignatius, but the unexplored possibility of Ignatius joining them notwithstanding, it never seems like this would have presented any true sort of conflict for Audacity given just how much she has been looking to escape this version of reality. While there is a comparison of sorts to be made to Rose leaving Mickey to join the Doctor in the 2005 revival’s premiere, Ignatius’s sacrifices for Audacity as he pursued a love that could never be truly reciprocated make him a far more tragic figure and Audacity all the more unempathetic in the process. Regardless, Jospeh Millson provides a stellar performance as Ignatius, and the grace with which he lets Audacity go as he proclaims that he has always known that he and the world would never be enough for his wife caps a truly emotional arc that adds an incredible amount of resonance and nuance to Audacity’s introductory tale.

The metaphor-laden story itself is almost a secondary entity in service of Audacity’s introduction, and while the disappearance of those associated with Audacity does make for great drama as she comes to confront who she is as a person and within this world, The Devouring itself fails to truly come to life beyond being some vast and unknowable entity that obviously possesses immense power. This creature is frightening as a concept, but its inability to work around the Doctor’s physiognomy or to follow Audacity in any location or time other than the one it has locked eyes with her in instantly limits its seemingly boundless threat as long as the TARDIS remains in operation. Nonetheless, Paul McGann is more than able to sell the power of this creature to raise the overall tension, and he instantly develops a strong rapport with Griffiths as his Doctor shows his incisive, charismatic, and compassionate nature. Even before the Doctor explains the scope of the universe beyond Earth and the immense potential within it, Audacity proves to be shrewd and intelligent, willing to challenge the Doctor at any point, and it certainly seems as though this dynamic and characterization will work incredibly well as the two continue their travels. Still, it’s telling that the man left behind is far more sympathetic than the woman who could never be content where she was, and that will be an intriguing dynamic to explore whether it remains in place or begins to change over time.

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