River Song’s fifth boxset continues with the second story, Roy Gill’s Animal Instinct. This time River must deal with the Geoffrey Beevers incarnation of the Master, the earliest version encountered in this set. It’s implied this may well be the first incarnation to meet River, but as we all know, memories can be deceptive, so who knows about the future!?
Summary: it’s another cracking story, and well worth a more detail examination…
The product page highlights a key aspect of River’s relationship with the Master, already touched on in The Bekdel Test:
On a world where vicious beasts stalk ancient ruins, Professor Song teaches a student the finer points of archaeology.
But then she meets an incarnation of the Master who is desperate to survive.
And if they are going to escape this place alive, they all must work together.
Finding the charred form of the Master during a dig, River is very much the pragmatist and takes little convincing to team up with him regardless of the many crimes he’s (or she’s) committed. To be fair to writer Roy Gill, this part of River’s character is well explored in the story and one of the other characters makes precisely that point. River also has a proto-companion in the form of archaeology student Luke, played by Timothy Blore; from this performance I predict we may well hear Timothy in future Big Finish releases. There’s plenty of poignant character interplay as an ancient monument is explored and more than one type of trap. It’s a well-painted world and show’s great skill in its creation.
There’s the inevitable power struggles and deceptions along the way to a satisfying conclusion with enough ambiguity to satisfy those wanting stories to be less black and white. Sound and music are strong as is Ken Bentley’s direction.