We’re back, with another Doctor Who audio drama review! Today we’re continuing our look at the Audio Visuals series, with the second entry, The Time Ravagers. Written by Nicholas Briggs (under the pseudonym Arthur Wallis), this story was released in 1985, and features Briggs in his debut appearance as the Doctor, Richard Marson as Greg Holmes, and Sally Baggs as Nadia. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama! For a spoiler-free review, scroll down to the next picture.
Part One: A repeating buoy broadcasts its beacon into space a light year from the Temperon research station, in the Temperos system. On an approaching supply ship, Captain Stride sends his engineer, Harlan, back to his post, before musing on military discipline. He tries to summon his science officer, Okkerby, but she belligerently refuses to come up before landing, and returns to the music to which she was listening. Harlan shortly joins her in her quarters, and discusses her professional affection for time travel—which, as it turns out, is what Temperon station is supposed to be researching. Harlan’s grandfather was alive at the building of the station, and Harlan finds it fascinating, though Okkerby has given up on any breakthroughs. The captain summons Okkerby again; all the ship’s chronometers have gone dead at relative 01:56. More, something is out there—in space.
On the TARDIS, Greg and Nadia are impatient for the Doctor’s return; he has been gone for hours. They see a vision of a brain in the time rotor, and hear the Doctor’s voice, before both vanish. An old man appears in the TARDIS, looking as though he has been wearing his clothes for a century. They realize it is the Doctor, now aged and unhealthy—and before their eyes, he dies.
No other malfunctions seem apparent, so Stride tells Harlan to follow the buoy signal in. However, the signal is gone; the buoy is dead. Harlan prepares a spacesuit for Stride to use in investigating the buoy, and takes the ship close to it; but he superstitiously warns that this is the work of the “Temperon”.
Nadia and Greg muse over what to do without the Doctor. They return to the control room to move his body.
Stride lectures Harlan again, then heads out to examine the buoy.
Greg and Nadia find the Doctor gone—and a new man in his place. They believe he is another time traveler, having killed the Doctor; but they are interrupted as the man tells them the TARDIS is tipping into a time abyss, something he previously thought impossible. He claims to be the Doctor, though it defies belief; but he pilots the TARDIS through a time distortion.
Stride reports to Okkerby as he examines the beacon, where he can find nothing wrong—but no signal either. He investigates further, and find the battery corroded—and strangely, it seems aged far beyond its projected 50,000 year lifespan.
The alleged Doctor brings them safely out of the distortion and to safety. They have a brief argument about regeneration; in the midst of it, Nadia again asserts that she wants to forget about Homeworld. The Doctor overrides their objections, and explains that there is some sort of time-creature—the thing that apparently aged him prior to regeneration—which seems to be in need of help. Greg accepts his story, but Nadia refuses. However, they are interrupted by an alert from the TARDIS; the ship’s power cells are decaying beyond their practically-infinite lifespan. The Doctor realizes the creature is taking them toward the end of time.
Okkerby is not receiving a signal from Temperon station, either; and the ship’s engines are experiencing fluctuations. Stride orders Harlan to make an emergency landing; but the base is nowhere to be seen. Stride orders Harlan to land where the base should be. Okkerby sees that the Temperon sun is going dark.
The TARDIS lands, but the Doctor doesn’t know where. At least there is a breathable atmosphere, so they head out to explore. They find a darkened landscape under a dying sun, with ancient ruins nearby. The whole world seems to be near the end of its life cycle. The trio goes to investigate the ruins, which prove to be millions of years old—though it was quite advanced in its day. As they head inside, a strange voice can be heard growling the Doctor’s name, and asking for help.
The ruin shows evidence of both violence and rapid aging. The Doctor speaks briefly with Greg about Nadia’s distrust of them, before the odd voice is heard again—and apparently only the Doctor can hear it.
As the ship comes in for a landing, its power continues to weaken; Okkerby notices the same ruin as the TARDIS crew, at the coordinates the station should occupy.
The ruin’s power cells have also been rapidly aged, and the Doctor begins to make a connection between this and his own situation. They see the ship coming in. Aboard ship, the crew struggles to get the ship down, with only three minutes of emergency power left. The ship lands hard, near the ruins, but everyone survives. Stride arms the three of them from the ship’s armory, over Okkerby’s objections.
The Doctor notes that the ship is suffering the same degradation, but he is unable to focus as he hears the voice again. Greg and Nadia notice that he is unwell, just before the Doctor passes out.
Stride sends Harlan to scout ahead, against his objections. Greg and Nadia see him coming, and try to wake the Doctor; they also note that Stride and Okkerby have found the TARDIS. Okkerby doesn’t know what it is, but determines it at least won’t blow up. Greg and Nadia carry the Doctor behind a bit of cover and try to hide from Harlan. Harlan tells Stride he hasn’t found anything. Meanwhile, Okkerby concludes that the ruins are the Temperon station, though millions of years aged. The Doctor cries out, giving away their position to the others. Time begins to reverse around them, and the base begins to rebuild as the TARDIS disappears. Suddenly the situation reverses again, and the base disappears—but the TARDIS disappears fully as well.
Stride’s crew finds Nadia and Greg, and Stride tells Harlan to shoot them. The duo run; Stride insists they are saboteurs. The Doctor awakens to overhear this, and Stride demands answers from him. Nadia and Greg manage to hide; in the course of it, Nadia lets it slip that she is beginning to accept that this Doctor is the real Doctor.
The Doctor agrees to try to help, but insists he may not be much help because of his recent metabolic change. Stride places Okkerby to watch the Doctor, and takes Harlan to go hunt down the companions. The Doctor introduces himself to Okkerby, who doesn’t think the situation is the result of sabotage. Conferring, they each learn that the same circumstance brought them there. She tells them they are on Temperos, the legendary home of the beast called the Temperon. The station crew was there to research time travel, which is connected with the Temperon. Meanwhile, Stride and Harlan lose track of the companions. Harlan explains what his grandfather told him about the Temperon, which is consistent with what has happened to them; Stride calls it rubbish. The Doctor examines the damaged chronometers, and concludes they were damaged by the sudden onrush of time.
Greg and Nadia think they may be safe for the moment, and muse on the apparent approaching death of the world and its star. They realize that if the planet aged naturally, the atmosphere would have dissipated. They are interrupted by more weapons fire, as Stride and Harlan find them, and they run again.
The Doctor theorizes that they are heading toward the end of time. A huge brain materializes; the Doctor concludes it is the Temperon. It speaks in the strange voice from before, and calls the Doctor friend. It warns the Doctor of danger that must be resisted. Stride and Harlan return with their captives, and Stride makes Harlan fire on the Temperon, which vanishes. The Doctor berates him as a fool. Harlan is seen to be aged; the Temperon struck in self-defense, it seems. The Doctor insists it is not their enemy, but has been dragging others here to help it defeat the force that is using it. Another time distortion begins, and the Doctor tells Stride to throw down his gun and apologize to the Temperon. However, it is not the creature that appears, but a band of Daleks.
Part Two: The Daleks don’t know the Doctor’s new face. The Doctor stalls them as far as knowing which person is the Doctor, prompting the Daleks to capture them all, which knocks them out briefly. They awaken on a Dalek ship, with no Daleks in sight—but they won’t be gone long. Stride knows the Daleks, but insists they long ago surrendered in their war with the humans. The Doctor laughs at the thought, and insists that they must deal with the situation in front of them. Why do the Daleks want them? Unknown to them, the Daleks are monitoring them, and determine from the confrontation which one is the Doctor. The lead Dalek instructs the others to bring the Doctor to him, and kill the others. The Doctor surmises that this is the case, and plans to bargain with them—after all, the Daleks need him for their work with time travel, and that constitutes a powerful bargaining chip. Still, the Daleks are not to be trusted.
A Dalek come for the Doctor, and Stride’s crew opens fire on them. Okkerby is wounded. The Doctor helps them kill the Dalek, though it sounds the alarm before it dies. The group escapes, though Okkerby slows them down. Okkerby realizes that they are not in a Dalek ship at all, but in the Temperon station, now fully restored. They are interrupted by the arrival of more Daleks, and run. They meet the Temperon again, with another time distortion in place; the Doctor urges the others into the distortion for their safety, but stays behind himself. Nadia stays with him, over his objections, and they are quickly captured by the Daleks. The Daleks try to restrain the Temperon, but fail, and it retreats to the time period from which the group was abducted by the Daleks. It tells Greg that the Daleks had imprisoned it, and then it departs, possibly pulled away by the Daleks. It has, in fact, been restrained to a time cell in the Daleks’ version of the base. The Daleks threaten Nadia as a motivation for the Doctor to help them.
Stride still refuses to believe that they have time traveled, despite Okkerby’s words. Meanwhile, the Daleks bring in the TARDIS and the Temperon, and insist that the Doctor will experiment on the beast—to isolate and extract its time travel abilities. They put the Doctor and Nadia under guard, and leave the room. The Doctor insists they must get answers from the Temperon, though that will be hard with the Dalek guard watching them. He takes Nadia into the TARDIS, reminding them that it’s incapable of travel at the moment; but here they can speak freely, and they may be able to meet the Temperon at the time rotor again. He reroutes power from the environmental controls to the time rotor, to draw the creature in. He muses that the Temperon has given them all a sort of dimensional cocoon, protecting them from the effects of time dislocation. They activate the power, generating a time field to attract the Temperon.
The Daleks send a squad to recapture the humans. Stride tells the others to run for his ship; the group makes it safely inside, where there are greater armaments—though it is doubtful that any of it can stop the Daleks. The Daleks issue an ultimatum to them; if they do not surrender in one minute, the Daleks will attack the ship.
The Doctor manages to make contact with the Temperon, and is not aged this time; he learns what the Daleks want.
Harlan sets up a cannon at a porthole to attack the Daleks, but worries over the possibility of not getting them all. Harlan fires on them from the porthole, and the crew escapes through an escape hatch in the confusion. Okkerby uses grenades to clear the Daleks pursuing them, and the group escapes into the mountains. The remaining Daleks call for transolar disks with which to make an aerial patrol. Their leader orders the death of the “squad leader”, or Stride.
The Doctor has yet to come up with a solution to their predicament. He and Nadia exit the TARDIS to meet a Dalek demanding a report. He hedges as long as possible, making the Dalek angry. He says that he has communicated with the Temperon, which says it will give the information they want if they turn off its time cell. He argues with the Dalek, insisting they don’t have the right to interfere with time this way—that is, by taking its DNA into themselves to gain the Temperon’s abilities. The Dalek departs, and the Doctor begins to get an idea of how to proceed.
Daleks on transolar disks patrol the skies, in search of the humans, who see them coming.
The Doctor and Nadia quietly reroute power so that the Daleks’ next use of the restraint equipment will destroy the Temperon’s time cage.
The Daleks send more of their numbers to reclaim the escapees. They also prepare for genetic engineering. The Doctor says that they have the DNA information the Daleks want. Short on time, he calls out to the Temperon; the Daleks announce that they will kill Nadia if he communicates with it again. They fire up the restraint system, and the Doctor and Nadia duck into the TARDIS as the time cage collapses, freeing the Temperon. It turns on the Daleks, before reappearing in the TARDIS and replenishing its power. The TARDIS escapes—but the Daleks are thrilled to see that the genetic data has been left behind. They order their patrols to exterminate the humans on sight.
The Temperon is in control of the TARDIS, and is too busy to talk to the Doctor. The Doctor tries anyway, attempting to get it to take them to the others. The TARDIS materializes there just as the Daleks approach, and Greg leads the humans toward the TARDIS as Stride provides cover fire. Stride is killed by the Daleks just as the others enter the TARDIS. The Temperon flies the ship away.
The Doctor has insisted that the genetic data he gave the Daleks was junk…but suddenly he’s not so sure. After all, the knowledge came to him very easily. He suspects he may have subconsciously given them the real information, quite unintentionally. Suddenly the TARDIS stops—in space—and the Doctor and the Temperon vanish. Daleks begin appearing out of nowhere, apparently charged with the Doctor’s data. However, the Doctor reappears and reassures the humans that the Daleks are harmless, because they overlooked something: while they can travel in time, they are not protected from aging accordingly. These are therefore greatly aged; and before the crew’s eyes, the Daleks die and fade away. With the Temperon’s help, the plan has been thwarted; but of course the Daleks will be back, as always.
The power cells are recharged, but the Temperon has locked them into a course for one of the humans’ relay stations, where Okkerby and Harlan can be dropped off safely. As for the Doctor…he feels like his life has only just begun—again.
Where The Space Wail was strictly a pilot episode for the series, The Time Ravagers wastes no time in jumping into more complex stories. This story is a tale of strange temporal phenomena, time skipping, and TARDIS oddities; and in that sense, I can’t help but be reminded of Big Finish’s first Doctor Who audio, The Sirens of Time. While this story isn’t a multi-Doctor story as Sirens was, it shares some common elements with that story, and it’s easy to imagine that Briggs’ experience here helped shape that later story. As well, this is a Dalek story—perhaps that’s a spoiler, as it’s not obvious at the outset, but it’s not much of one, as the cover and promotional blurb mention the Daleks. As Dalek stories go, this one is at least middle-of-the-road, and I would even say it’s one of the better stories. We have the Daleks attempting to incorporate the power of time travel into themselves, making them temporal beings—a step beyond their previous forays into time travel. As often happens, the Doctor is manipulated into helping them; and as always happens, it doesn’t go as planned. One would think they would learn by now.
We open with what is possibly the most underplayed regeneration since the First Doctor’s. The Doctor is offscreen when we arrive, having gone to pursue another mysterious time traveler—the beast called the Temperon, as it turns out. When he returns, he is severely aged, and dying. His companions don’t witness his regeneration, and have to have it explained to them; but other than some ongoing bits about Nadia’s distrust of the new Doctor, that’s it. The Doctor does present a small amount of regeneration fatigue; he has a little trouble pulling himself together; but he overcomes it quickly. Without visuals, it’s a little difficult to picture this new Doctor, who is different in demeanor from any classic incarnation; I don’t recall seeing much video or many pictures of Nick Briggs, so I lack a face to attach to this character. The impression I get is perhaps closest to the Ninth Doctor; though I would qualify that by saying that he is more laid back and less angry than the Ninth Doctor—perhaps a view of what that incarnation would have been like without the Time War. Of course, it would be two more decades of real time before that incarnation would be created; at the time of this production, Christopher Eccleston was only twenty-one, and still four years from his professional stage debut.
The official site’s production notes for this story explain that it was a nightmare to record, mostly due to problems with the cast. Between cast changes and conflicting schedules, three recording sessions were required. The third session was strictly to record the Dalek voices (oddly, given future history, NOT provided by Nick Briggs). Due to delays in obtaining the modulator used to modify the voices, regular cast members couldn’t be used; producer Bill Baggs was ultimately able to get Michael Wisher (of Davros fame) and David Sax to record the parts. While present, Wisher also recorded his cameo for The Space Wail (as the Homeworld judge) and the recorded space buoy for this story. As a coda to this difficult production, some master tapes were stolen a few years later in 1987, The Time Ravagers being one of them; therefore the version available on download is technically a remix, with some additional music.
The secondary story here is that of a supply ship crew caught in the events of the main story. It’s a format we’ve seen a few times before: a leader who is utterly unreasonable and power-mad, accompanied by a few more reasonable subordinates who end up helping the Doctor. The leader, Stride, gets his comeuppance, as is customary; surprisingly, his is the only non-Dalek death in this story. The voice acting of the secondary characters is decent; for the primary characters, not so much. Briggs does as well as usual, but Richard Marson’s performance sounds phoned in (and being the eighties, perhaps it literally was), and Sally Baggs’ heart is clearly not in her performance. (Sally, incidentally, is the reason for the second recording session, as she was completely unavailable for the first session; her lines were dubbed in during editing.)
We do have a few continuity references here, mostly pertaining to the Daleks. The Doctor implies that they have more traditional time-travel (“[Time travel] was only ever crude in your hands”), placing this story sometime after The Chase from the perspective of the Daleks. The Daleks use transolar discs to fly; these were first seen in a very early and obscure short story (told on cards issued with candy cigarettes, no less!) called Doctor Who and the Daleks. The devices have featured in various stories, but never on television as yet (according to the TARDIS wiki anyway—I feel I’ve seen them, but I could be wrong), but seem to have disappeared sometime during the Time War, when flight technology became widely incorporated into the Dalek casings. (It’s only loosely relevant, but some more interesting facts about Doctor Who and the Daleks: This 1964 release is, allegedly, the first prose story to feature the Doctor in the history of the franchise, and possibly—though not definitively—the first prose work of any type in Doctor Who. If you own the DVD release of The Keys of Marinus, you can find a rendering of this story among its extras. It is also the first to picture the Dalek Emperor in any medium.)
Overall: I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It’s a good introduction for Briggs’ Doctor, despite being a little weak as a regeneration story, and picks up the pace and the action over the previous entry. At about eighty minutes, and two episodes, it’s almost exactly double the length; from the previews I’ve seen, this seems to set the template for most of the upcoming stories. Check it out!
Next time: We’ll continue with the third entry of this first season, Connection 13, which takes us back to Earth and—possibly—to UNIT. See you there!
The Audio Visuals may be downloaded legally and for free here. Please be cautious; the hosting site is prone to unsafe links.
Audio Visuals official site (does not include download links)