Wednesday, 30 November 2016

THE EARLY ADVENTURES 3.3 - THE RAVELLI CONSPIRACY

Ooh this is good, really good. Remember when the lost stories from the 1960’s started coming out on CD (anyone remember CD :-) ) with a bit of narration from a cast member for the action bits? Well that is what “The Ravelli Conspiracy” is like. Its so authentic that it could quite easily be a lost story from late Season 2 or early season 3 – think The Romans. The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters and you will not be too far from the feel. Its an historical, it has no “sci-fi” traits part from the main cast and the TARDIS and it features the Doctor, Steven & Vicki having a whale of a time in early 16th century Italy.
 Oh yes indeed – The Early Adventures have really hit the ground running this year, we have had space opera, shadow play and now a celebrity historical and this celebrity figure is none other than Nicolo Machiavelli. Now there is an interesting historical figure the very name Machiavelli conjures up ideas of a mad schemer, a tyrannical despot, master puppeteer pulling the strings of destiny of someone having plans. But when we meet him Machiavelli (Mark Frost) is a broken man, a man under house arrest at his own farm, a man who lives only at the good will of Pope Leo X (Robert Hands) and his brother the Captain General of Florence Guiliano de Medici (Jamie Ballard) and this is where our heroes enter the story.
 Lets step back a bit and look at the Hartnell era – this story really is rather typical but do you know, its familiarity makes it even more charming. The Doctor wants to take Vicki & Steven to the Olympics in the far future – they talk about “futuristic” sports in a very 1960’s sort of way and then due to an error arrive in Florence 1514. Then they get separated – Vicki & Steven arrested by Medici guards whilst the Doctor stays in the farmhouse to converse with Machiavelli – the TARDIS is also taken to the Pope by the Medici guards so they are all separated from their means of escape and get into all sorts of scrapes before being reunited with the TARDIS. I was a little bit critical of Order of the Daleks earlier this week for being too familiar – I wouldn’t have The Ravelli Conspiracy any other way, it works just as you expect it to work – leads separated, different plot strands to get to the same place, Vicki being wooed by Pope Leo has echoes of Nero lusting after Barbara, but with a bit of a modern twist, the Doctor making his own way to Florence and ingratiating himself with the Pope by pretending to be a cloth merchant, Steven captured and caught up in a plot to assassinate the Pope and all the Medici – and at the centre of it is the mysterious Ravelli family, a family who revolted against the Medici and are now hell bent on taking down the Pope and his administration, a family in hiding but with a lot of influence. But who is playing who? who is the real leader of the conspiracy? All this and much more is revealed throughout the four joyous episodes.
 Its such a shame that the pure historical has been dropped and is very unfashionable – there is so much scope to play about with keeping history on track with no “timey-wimey” histrionics, The Ravelli Conspiracy proves that you can be both traditional and fresh at the same time, and do you know, knowing how the story would play out did not spoil it one little bit, it was like dusting off a DVD of an old favourite like The Myth Makers…. (only joking)
 All the actors are on top form, Peter Purves gives an incredible Hartnell whilst Maureen O’Brien slips comfortable between the young Vicki & her own voice as narrator, the guest cast give a heightened performance that is reminiscent of 1960’s TV – cod Shakespearean with one foot in camp, wonderful stuff. I offer my confession that I have utterly loved this story & award it an historical 10/10.