Review: Doctor Who The Fourth Doctor Adventures – Destination: Nerva

destinationnervacover_cover_largeBlurb: After saying their goodbyes to Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago, the Doctor and Leela respond to an alien distress call beamed direct from Victorian England. It is the beginning of a journey that will take them to the newly built Space Dock Nerva… where a long overdue homecoming is expected.

A homecoming that could bring about the end of the human race.

Review: Destination: Nerva was the first of the range of Fourth Doctor Adventures made by Big Finish productions. Tom Baker had resisted doing the audios for many years, as he did with many other attempts to tie him back to the role with which he had such a love-hate relationship. According to the interviews Louise Jameson had finally convinced him to give Big Finish a try and record some audios. The first result were the two stories in the Fourth Doctor Box Set, but Destination: Nerva was the first story to be written for this new format. Unlike the typical length of the stories from Tom Baker’s run on TV, the Fourth Doctor Adventures are all 2-part adventures, allowing Big Finish to record more stories with the Doctor, but with the downside that these stories for the most part feel much more slight than their TV counterparts.

One of the most surprising and pleasing aspects of Destination: Nerva is how little Tom and Louise seem to have changed over the years. Both of them leap back into their roles as if the intervening 40 years hadn’t happened. It’s a great feeling to hear the Doctor expressing righteous anger when he sees injustice. Louise gives a wonderful performance as the assertive and inquisitive Leela who wants to learn everything that the Doctor can teach her. The composer helps set the mood for the story by so effectively imitating the style of Dudley Simpson who had been the composer for almost all of the stories in Tom Baker’s run. The touch of Victoriana combined with the body horror of being turned into amorphous monsters flesh also really feels like the kind of story that the Hinchcliffe era would have produced. This story was clearly written with nostalgia in mind as even the setting is a location from two of Tom Baker’s television stories, and it succeeds in creating a sense of familiarity to those who remember Tom Baker’s run on the story.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t provide much beyond that. The pacing is horrible. The first episode feels like the typical build up to a storyline in this era of the series, but the second episode just ends abruptly as if someone was writing two episodes based on a story being a four-parter and was then asked to wrap everything up in the last 5 minutes of episode 2. So many of the motivations in the story don’t make sense. Even worse, we are told of a far more interesting story that happened in the past when Victorian soldiers traveled through space conquering in the name of the Empire. That story is only used as a backdrop for what occurs here, but it sounds like a far more interesting set of events and it’s a real shame that this wasn’t allowed to be fleshed out more.

The guest cast are fine but few of them get any personality. Only Dr. Alison Foster is allowed to have any kind of a backstory and real character. Unfortunately, any thoughts that the backstory may have any real impact on the events that occur in the story are squashed by the end. The story of her child who only lived a few days is just there to give her color, which is fine, but in a story that so sorely needed something like plotting it seems like yet another wasted opportunity. Production-wise things get a little confusing in a few spots where a lot of sounds are thrown out and it’s not apparent what’s going on. It only happens in a few points and eventually you do get the exposition on what just occurred but it can be a bit of a strain trying to pay attention when it’s actually happening.

Recommendation: The Doctor and Leela are back and it’s difficult not to be happy. This story gets a higher rating than it should just because it’s such a joy to have these two fine actors back recording Doctor Who again. The production team seems to understand that and have created a story high on nostalgia and Tom and Louise perform up to expectations. The problem is that the script isn’t supporting them and what’s produced is a meandering and illogical set of events. Some production misses that make it hard to understand what’s going on in a few key scenes don’t help either. This one is definitely a mixed blessing but ought to be given the benefit of the doubt as a Freshman outing.



Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Nicholas Briggs

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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