Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Hunting Ground
Big Finish wraps up this year's Doctor Who main range with two stories in December. The Seventh Doctor teams up with Ace, Hex and Iris Wildthyme in Muse of Fire while Colin Baker returns for another solo outing in The Hunting Ground.
Baker's final tale for 2018 sees him in Iceland, where he becomes wrapped up in a Nordic murder mystery and a deadly alien hunt. Written by AK Benedict and directed by John Ainsworth, this is available to purchase on the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 31st January 2019.
Here's the synopsis for The Hunting Ground...
The Doctor arrives in present day Iceland and receives a frosty reception from Inspector Yrsa Kristjansdottir when he becomes the chief suspect in a murder enquiry. But the Doctor knows that the real killer is of extraterrestrial origin.
Joining forces with Yrsa, the Doctor goes in pursuit of a ruthless alien that is hunting humans for sport. Yrsa unearths a dark conspiracy which reaches back into her own past.
Determined to expose the truth and prevent further deaths, the Doctor and Yrsa soon find themselves running for their lives, prey on the hunting ground.
As usual, I'll be joined by my son Ben, perhaps the world's biggest Doctor Who fan, to discuss this latest release. Spoilers of course if you haven't listened yet...
Baz Greenland (aged 37)
The Hunting Ground is a wonderful piece of Doctor Who to end the year on - Nordic noir crime thriller meets dark fairytale, moral drama, absorbing sci-fi and even a dash of Douglas Adams thrown in.
The snow-covered landscapes of Iceland with its hot geysers and remote cabins makes for an evocative setting for this story; even in audio form the setting is rich with atmosphere and imaginative landscapes, with a dash of troll and fairy-tale lore thrown in to give the events a magical touch.
Amy Beth Hayes's Yrsa Kristanjansdottir fills the companion role as the no nonsense detective working with Baker's Doctor to solve a mystery of a man with a frozen face, a case that leads them to a remote cabin with robotic wolves and a mystery tied to her dead father. Writer AK Benedict juggles a lot of elements in her script and after setting up a good foundation in Yrsa and the Doctor's tempestuous relationship, follows the two linked storylines from the halls of the police records and a secret conspiracy to an alien world with fantastical characters.
Yrsa's tale to uncover a secret organisation funding alien hunts in Earth remains both gritty and fascinating, the personal nature of her father's death adding some personal drama for the detective as she uncovers corruption in the police department all the way up to powerful political figures. Benedict clearly draws from her background as a crime writer to bring this story to life and it doesn't disappoint. There is plenty to thrill too, as Yrsa literally finds herself in a cliffhanger moment fighting for her life.
The Doctor's story as he tracks a troll-like alien hunter to another world is more traditional Doctor Who and opens up plenty of moral intrigue as the Doctor faces the truth of humans hunted for sport. Michael Griffiths Hunter is a ruthless, threatening villain, more overt perhaps than some of the characters Yrsa faces, while the two-year alien Marfk (voice by Joe Jameson and Will Hislop) provides a dash of Douglas Adams-esque humour as an bickering administrator who finds himself on the run with the Doctor on another world.
There is a lot to enjoy in this story; the debate over the right to hunt, political corruption and murder all mixed with robotic wolves and fantastical aliens that add depth. It's another strong release from Big Finish, once again demonstrating how well Colin Baker's Doctor has been served in audio form.
Ben Greenland (aged 12)
The Hunting Ground is a perfect Sixth Doctor story, with a great setting, menace, and one off (although I would have no complaints if she became a regular) companion in the form of Yrsa Kristanjansdottir (yes I did have trouble pronouncing the name too). The alien hunter was a very threatening presence that immediately becomes diminished in the Doctors presence, all down to Baker's natural wit and charm he carries throughout. The Marficks are a bit of humour that lightens up a dark superb tale, aswell as the inclusion of the singing printer.
The cliff-hangers were spot on, part one's being my favourite, using cyborg alien wolves with metal teeth and claws. The setting of the tale always alternated, be it a forest, police station or ice planet from another galaxy, never losing the primary concept of what makes this story so amazing. There was also lots of double crossings and twists with guest characters, some you could guess, some genuinely surprising. Murder attempts, alien threats, and the one of a kind performance of Colin Baker, The Hunting Ground is a terrific Doctor Who story for all to experience.
There's a music suite across four tracks between parts two and three that are packed with eerie, otherworldly tension and atmospheres, mixed with heavy, sci-fi chords. These are terrific, adding to the overall tone and feel of this story.
There is also trailer for next month's Devil in the Mist, featuring Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding's Tegan, Mark Strickson's Turlough and for the first time on Big Finish robotic companion Kamelion, voiced this time by Jon Culshaw.
Finally, there is a lovely set of interviews with the cast and crew; writer AK Benedict discusses her crime novelist background and how she applied it to a radio drama and talks with passion about hearing her words brought to life by Colin Baker's Doctor, actor Michael Griffith talks about his earliest experiencesas a child watching the very beginning of Doctor Who as he starts his first work on Big Finish .
There's even a delightful and insightful moment with Baker as he talks about communicating with the robotic wolves in the story and how he would love to communicate with his own dog. The joy of these interviews are getting into the minds of the actors, writer and director and the behind the scenes snippets from The Hunting Ground do not disappoint.