Doctor Who: Destination: Nerva. Audio Book Review

DESTINATION: NERVA by Nicholas Briggs

Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99,

Reviewed by Chris Limb

“Well I Nerva!”

En route from Victorian London, the Doctor and Leela receive an interstellar distress signal – fromKentin 1895.  Landing outside a manor house during a midnight thunderstorm they discover the aftermath of a pitched battle between Lord Jack’s troops and the peaceful alien Drellerans, the last survivor of whom warns them of the dire consequences should the humans escape with the alien star ship.  The chase takes them 400 million miles into space and 1000 years into the future where the newly built Space Dock Nerva in orbit around Jupiter is about to come under attack from an unexpected foe, an attack which if successful could spell the end of life on Earth…

For a long time the absence of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) from Big Finish’s roster was a bit of a disappointment; for many he was the definitive Doctor.  It did seem as if this gap would never be plugged, but when it comes to Big Finish you should never say never… Following on from his reprisal of the part in the Hornet’s Nest series of enhanced audiobooks for the BBC, Tom Baker agreed to once more don the scarf and hat for Big Finish’s on-going full cast audio dramas.

There would be a temptation to make the return of the prodigal Doctor to his defining role an epic overblown affair. Briggs has gone the other way and produced a tale that is short and straightforward, fitting perfectly into the atmosphere of the 1977 season in which it’s set. It also features some of the trademark tropes of the show at the time including the humans being the real monsters, possession and body horror…

The Fourth Doctor here sounds far more like he did on television than the eccentric Little Britain persona he displayed during the readings of Hornet’s Nest.  Furthermore Leela (Louise Jameson) sounds as if she has never been away and puts in an excellent performance as the savage girl despite it being 33 years since leaving the role on TV.  The interaction between the two leads is warmer than it was on television; perhaps more suited to the Pygmalion-like relationship with the Doctor intended for the character when she was first introduced.

The bulk of the story being set on Nerva – a location which Tom Baker’s Doctor had already visited at two different time periods on television – is a nice touch although unnecessary as it adds nothing to the story that any other space going facility wouldn’t have been able to.

The rest of the cast are convincing and professional. Dr Alison Foster (Raquel Cassidy) is a first-rate “near companion” character and the odious Henry McMullan (Sam Graham) a charming and sinister villain.

A good start to the Fourth Doctor’s tenure although it is to be hoped that some stories longer than two parts are planned at some point, as it would be good to give the “definitive Doctor” a meatier plot to get his teeth into.