Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 1/18/18 5:47 pm
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The TARDIS lands in 16th century Italy under the paranoid rule of the Medici family. As the TARDIS team of the First Doctor, Steven, and Vicki encounter various historical figures including the famed Niccolò Machiavelli, they are split up and forced into an assassination plot to kill the Duke of Florence who just so happens to be the brother of the current Pope, Pope Leo X. However things get more complicated when it's revealed that the Pope himself is visiting Florence and so the Doctor must not only try to rescue his companions from the clutches of history but also work to prevent more bloodshed in this already very unstable city. As you can tell, 'Ravelli' is a pure historical done in every sense of the word which is the kind of story that Doctor Who and the First Doctor in particular used to be so good at but fell out of favor over time. Being a huge fan of Florence and Italy especially within this time period, this was an absolute treat for me and thankfully the story holds up extremely well. Alternatively narrated by Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien with miscellaneous voices in the other roles, this is one that I'm sure sounds extremely dry on paper to the casual listener but it all ends up being very fascinating listening to all of these character interact in a "Game of Thrones" kind of way. There's also a surprising hilarious undertone throughout the whole thing that really surprises you as you listen with more jokes, upbeat musical flourishes, and comic conversational clashes than I was expecting. The fact that it also stays a pure historical with no real sci-fi or alien plots and threats behind it works very much to the audio's advantage and you even manage to learn a thing or two. It does sometimes get a little bit confusing at times especially if you don't know the time period or the history but the narration works very well as connecting tissue in case you happen to get lost. In terms of the cast, Peter Purves is good as the First Doctor and his main character of Steven even if his age does show a little bit in his voice. His Hartnell also sounds almost too grandfatherly and too comical with his voice a bit more high pitched and none of the edge behind it than is usual in a good Hartnell imitation like David Bradley can do. Maureen O'Brien is much better as Vicki and in her narration as she works to gain the confidence of the Pope himself and becomes a piece in the plot herself. The highlight for me is actually the side cast for a change which is not something I say often. Mark Frost as Machiavelli is BRILLIANT with a cold and calculating wit but not necessarily presented as evil or a villain by any means. The performance fits the historical context and the long history of his political career beautifully (especially in his publication of "The Prince") and his moments with the Doctor are the highlight of the story by far. Robert Hands is also good as Pope Leo with a realistic holy attitude but with still a voice of reason behind him and Ballard is also good as the darker Guiliano de Medici. There are also many superfluous characters that only add to the humor on display and make even the smaller moments in this story enjoyable. It doesn't stray too far from the standard Hartnell historical formula so there aren't too many surprises here but it's done so well and it's so engrossing that you honestly don't really care. I think there needs to be more pure historicals like this as 'Ravelli' is a great example of the quality these kinds of stories can bring to our ears. Despite some weaker characterizations and a bit of a bar to really get into it, it's a great audio for historical buffs as well as First Doctor fans and a new favorite of mine of the era.