Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 4/16/18 4:33 am
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How to Make a Killing in Time Travel, the second story of Ravenous 1, sees the Doctor (Paul McGann) and Liv Chenka (Nicola Walker) setting off from 20th century Earth to find their missing friend, Helen. But a temporal, “hiccup”, as the Doctor calls it, forces the duo off course, and causes them to land on Scapegrace, a space station. Investigating the, “hiccup”, the Doctor and Liv soon find themselves encountering a brilliant young woman, Stralla Cushing (Judith Roddy) who is working on dangerous temporal experiments. As the Doctor and Liv seek to put a stop to these experiments, events soon spiral out of control, as the agendas of a wide variety of people all clash together. With everything around them in danger of being destroyed, is there anything either of them can do to stop things? How to Make a Killing in Time Travel is a riotously funny story from the mind of John Dorney, that pits some fantastic acting by a wide-ranging cast against a hilarious, script. Paul McGann and Liv Chenka are at their most comedic in this story. The guest cast is filled with excellent performances, anchored by the fantastic leading performance of Judith Roddy, but also featuring delightful turns from Roger May, Sarah Lambie, Jane Booker, and Christopher Ryan. Dorney crafts a script that’s rather light on the truly dramatic or meaningful, and instead leans heavily into a hilarious, borderline slapstick plot of escalating errors leading to the destruction of the world, with the Doctor and Liv stuck in the middle of it all. It’s surely one of the lighter Eighth Doctor stories that Big Finish has done, but it hits all the beats rather well, and ends up being another enjoyable entry into Ravenous.
Paul McGann and Nicola Walker once again reprise their roles as the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka for the story. McGann and Walker both delight, and have a variety of great scenes between the two of them; their quick lies as they interrogate Stralla is fantastic chemistry, while I got a hearty chuckle out of Liv’s line, telling Christopher Ryan’s Macy to do what she does and, “limit [himself] to a few cynical asides”, and the Eighth Doctor’s bumbling helpfulness while Stralla tries to get him to run away from a ticking bomb. But it’s really the guest cast of this story that shines throughout the story. It’s rare that a guest cast for the story all stands out; usually, there’s one or two guest stars that deserve recognition in some respect, but here, every single cast member has an important part to play, and is worthy of praise. Leading that cast is Judith Roddy as Stralla Cushing, She’s a delightfully engaging guest star as the timid, ever unlucky scientist seeking to cover up her murder of her boss, and she lays the timid nature of her character on well throughout, making her murdering her boss shocking, while also making her incompetence as she seeks to cover it up so entertaining to hear. Sarah Lambie and Jane Booker delight as blackmailing duo Gorl and Dron; Lambie is a delight as the sarcastic leading member of the duo, while Booker gets a lot of laughs out of her poorly translated lines and their cheery delivery. Booker also delights, alongside Roger May, as Yetana and Verdarn, Cat-Eye siblings vying for the throne, and May is the boss everyone loves to hate as Cornelius Morningstar. Rounding out the guest cast is the cheery Christopher Ryan as Macy, the head of security who gives a strong, comedic performance, especially in his confrontation, alongside Nicola Walker, with the Cat-Eye siblings.
John Dorney finishes his work on Ravenous 1 with a strong tale of the competing interests of a variety of scoundrels clashing in hilarious ways. Dorney does a really great job bringing a more comedic tone to the Eighth Doctor than we’ve had in a good long while. A lot of Eight’s adventures tend to be darker adventures, which tends to clash well against Eight’s more romantic, idealistic personality. That’s not to say that those stories are inherently bad, because they absolutely aren’t. It’s just to say that a comedic story every once in a while works well. The greatest strength of this story lies in the way it allows the entire cast, but especially Paul McGann and Nicola Walker, to show off their comedic chops a bit. The guest cast is wildly funny, and a lot of their roles outside of Big Finish reflect their comedic backgrounds. But it’s really interesting and nice to hear McGann and Walker, normally not known for their comedic chops, be given the chance to show them off. Walker usually is able to get in (as she puts it), “a few cynical asides” in nearly every story, but despite those, she’s more of a dramatic actor. But with this story, she absolutely shows off just how riotously funny she is, with her incredibly quick and dry wit. Same with McGann; he’s able to showcase his remarkably polite, if terribly inconvenient, borderline slapstick comedy throughout the story. Most of the actors are able to harness this incredibly comedic script well, but those two deserve special praise for it, as it’s outside their normal areas of acting.
The highlight of Dorney’s work on the story lies in his excellently crafted story, a rare, non-dramatic story that showcases some of the best aspects of Dorney’s work. The story is a case of escalation; it starts with Cornelius Morningstar bullying his employee, Stralla Cushing, and ends with the Scapegrace station about to fall into a dimensional fissure. But it’s the journey along that, and the way that Dorney bounces the multitude of plots off of one another that makes the story work so damn well. In the confines of this hour-long story, there’s the attempts by Stralla to conceal the fact that she murdered her boss, the machinations of Gorl and Dron to blackmail Stralla with their knowledge of this fact to get the temporal machine to give to their boss, Verdarn, and the conflict between Verdarn and Yetana over the throne. Not to mention the plot with the Doctor and Liv trying to escape the station to find their friend. It’s a varied, scatterbrained plot, but Dorney is able to take all the elements and combine them to tease out a deeply fun story. I particularly enjoyed the way that he incorporated various elements from each story into one another, and the way that the story just built and built into the end result of the Space Station plummeting into a complicated space-time event. The story is without dramatic elements, by and large, in service to this hilarious, complicated plot, but those elements don’t feel like they’re missed whatsoever. Instead, what results is a genuinely satisfying, hilarious story, and a great final contribution for the set from John Dorney.
Overall, How to Make a Killing in Time Travel is a rather hilarious tale that, while light on the dramatic, nonetheless manages to deliver a deeply satisfying story. Paul McGann and Nicola Walker return as the Eighth Doctor and Liv Chenka, and both deliver strong, leading performances as their respective characters. However, it’s the guest cast that helps to truly make this story so memorable; Judith Roddy leads the guest cast, but is also joined by excellent guest turns from Roger May, Sarah Lambie, Jane Booker, and Christopher Ryan. John Dorney makes his last contribution to the set with this story, an absolutely hilarious tale of the escalation in the schemes and plots of a group of scoundrels, with the Doctor and Liv at the eye of the storm. The strength of this story comes from his well-crafted and excellently executed plot, as well as his fantastically funny dialogue throughout the story. Overall, the tone of this story may be somewhat atypical for an Eighth Doctor adventure, but How to Make a Killing in Time Travel nonetheless delivers an exceptional story, guided by the able hand of John Dorney, and realized by the rest of the cast and crew.