Big Finish, CD Â£10.99, download Â£8.99,
Reviewed by Chris Limb
“Sorry, Doctor but it seems I donâ€™t need you after all!â€
Cuthbert, ruthless CEO of the ubiquitous Corporation, is determined to find out what the swarm of alien Laan are doing on Earth and whether he can make use of them â€“ not to mention getting revenge on them for wrecking one of his precious experimentsâ€¦ Even allying themselves with Earth President Moorkurk is no guarantee that the Doctor and Romana will be able to stop him â€“ Cuthbert has fingers in many important pies and is unafraid to do whatever it takes to succeed. Unfortunately if he does it may wipe out billions of innocent Laan â€“ and spell the end of all life on Earthâ€¦
War Against the Laan continues directly on from the preceding story in the series, The Sands of Life, wasting no time in moving the story along from the cliff-hanger at the end of the latter and raising the stakes. There is a palpable sense of relief when the TARDIS crew gain the trust of President Moorkurk, a relief that is short-lived when it becomes clear just how little control she really has over the errant Cuthbert and his lackeys.
Hayley Atwellâ€™s President is given more of a spotlight here than in the previous story and she gives a credible performance as the newly elected Head of State â€“ vulnerable and unsure but intelligent and thoughtful, willing to make tough decisions when the situation demands it (even if they may sometimes be the wrong ones). David Warnerâ€™s Cuthbert is as magnificently callous as he was in the previous instalment â€“ and the hints dropped that this isnâ€™t the last weâ€™ve seen of the character are welcome. Mention should also be made of his obsequious sidekick Mr Dorrick who is skilfully portrayed by Toby Hadoke.
The regular cast also get their moments to shine â€“ Tom Baker does what he does best taking his Fourth Doctor from humour to seriousness and then on to convincingly righteous fury in a heartsbeat, whilst Mary Tammâ€™s Romana is as calm and collected in a crisis as she ever was on screen, despite the wringer her character is put through in the story when she experiences the pain of a member of the Laan being experimented upon.
War Against the Laan does what Doctor Who often does best; using an alien protagonist (or in this case protagonists â€“Romana is from Gallifrey too) to illustrate that aside from being indomitable, Homo sapiens is often capable of giving the monsters a run for their money in the villainy stakes.
As with the previous story, the sound design and music is first class; strongly evoking the atmosphere of the TV show in 1979.