Released May 2014
The TARDIS lands aboard a vast pyramid floating in space, the final resting place of the God-King of the Arrit, an advanced civilization long since extinct. Fretting not only ages-old traps lining the dark corridors, the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa soon find themselves crossing paths with a zealous family of tomb raiders and courting death itself at every corner.
Big Finish’s main range has been mired in something of a prolonged slump recently with the occasional great tale interspersed, and ‘Tomb Ship’ is likely not going to be seen as one that sets the precedent for breaking that overall trend, its material doing little to challenge either of its leads and portraying both rather flatly. Still, the main premise is certainly intriguing, the God King protected by genetically-engineered servants and sitting on his throne in funereal robes as he awaits his ship and all of his wealth aboard it to reach the end of its journey to explode and turn him into a God Star.
Unfortunately, like ‘Moonflesh’ before it, ‘Tomb Ship’ is a highly visual story where the dialogue and sound design don’t quite bring the visuals to life as well as they could. Another rather straightforward adventure story certainly isn’t by itself a death sentence, but this is also the second story in a row where the guest characters are completely dimensionless and offer little in terms of surprise. Even the matriarch, Virna, is so overly psychotic and selfish that the fact that she considers her children completely expendable in the quest for treasure is not only obvious from the start but also robs any potential drama from one of the cliffhangers. There’s something to be said for subtlety, and writing Virna as someone approaching psychosis but who still held her family in high regard would have offered a much more entrancing storyline that one that was spelled out from the outset. With an ending that channels bits of the televised story ‘Enlightenment’ and for some reason decides to bring back Hannah Bartholomew as a linking presence between this and the previous stories, the ultimate explanation for what is going on similarly falls rather flat.
It’s hard to understand how this release can feel so absolutely average at best given the thrilling setting and the good pacing and tension on display throughout, even if the story does suffer from some rather egregious padding. All of the elements are there for something much more substantial with some minor tweaking and editing, beginning with more fully fleshing out all of the characters to showcase their individuality and nuance. As it is, ‘Tomb Ship’ is a rather direct action adventure that does nothing new, relying on the action sequences to carry the release above all else. While this story may be entertaining enough in its own right, it also fails to showcase the high quality and innovation that the main range has exemplified for so long, and even the stalwart pairing of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton seem to be growing tired of these strictly average affairs.