Destination: Nerva

Posted in Audio by - January 11, 2017
Destination: Nerva

Released January 2012

As great as Big Finish has been at bringing classic Doctor Who eras to life, there has always been a conspicuous hole in their catalogue in the shape of Tom Baker. While the company has gotten around his noticeable absence and told stories set within his tenure just as they have with the first three incarnations of the Doctor, Baker’s reluctance to reprise his iconic role has never allowed a full-cast interpretation of his era to manifest as has been the case with his classic series successors. ‘Destination: Nerva,’ though, marks the start of The Fourth Doctor Adventures range for Big Finish, bringing Tom Baker and all of his bombastic glory into the audio fold and finally allowing that unfortunate gap to begin filling with an ongoing series.

It’s quite understandable that Tom Baker has not fully recaptured his Doctor’s presence for this first release, the cadence and over-enunciation just a bit off compared to his original tenure, but the eclectic mix of bohemian and determined fortitude is just as present as always. The Doctor’s impatience with Leela’s inexperience and innocence as she experiences a spacewalk for the first time is a nice touch perfectly in line with the Fourth Doctor’s characterization, and Louise Jameson is able to effortlessly bring a sense of wonder and indomitable loyalty and bravery to Leela once more. Age may be setting in like with all of the audio adventures, but the chemistry these two retain after so long apart makes for an incredibly enjoyable outing while setting a strong precedent for the stories yet to come.

Surprisingly, though, the story of ‘Destination: Nerva’ itself is a rather pedestrian affair with little sense of pomp or circumstance. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but bringing back the beloved Fourth Doctor seems like it would have been met with a little more fanfare than is presented here. As the Doctor and Leela follow a distress call to Kent in 1895, they witnesses an alien spacecraft being stolen and end up on Space Dock Nerva- the same Nerva to later feature in ‘The Ark in Space’ and ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’- after giving chase to the unknown foes. Leela does at least get to show off the physical prowess of her character during the resulting alien invasion, but the Doctor is surprisingly rather unessential to the majority of the tale and gets to show off very little of the eccentricities that make him so beloved. It’s quite easy to see this story unfolding on 1970s television screens, and it certainly hearkens back to the more horror-laden stories of this time period, but it’s unfortunate that something that highlights these two beloved characters more substantially isn’t in place for a highly-anticipated opening act.

Still, ‘Destination: Nerva’ ends up being a solid- if ultimately somewhat pedestrian and straightforward- Doctor Who adventure that already shows the promise of what this range can become with a little more time. With sound effects and elements of the score that fit in seamlessly with those used during the 1970s and with the excellent Tom Baker and Louise Jameson finally side by side once again, those looking for a slice of nostalgia full of good intentions will certainly be satisfied.

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