Day of the Vashta Nerada

Posted in Audio by - July 30, 2017
Day of the Vashta Nerada

Released July 2017

Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume Two closes out with Matt Fitton’s ‘Day of the Vashta Nerada,’ continuing with the Eighth Doctor in the midst of the Time War threads introduced in the box set’s first instalment featuring the Fourth Doctor and firmly proving once more how superbly the Tennant-era creations can transition to the audio medium. As the Doctor arrives on Synthesis Station, he soon finds that Cardinal Ollistra and the Time Lords have sponsored research into the weaponization of the deadly Vastha Nerada, the subjects themselves holding a disastrous history with humanoid contact that soon puts everyone in mortal danger.

The Vashta Nerada as presented in their debut two-parter, ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead,’ instantly became one of the most chilling and dangerous foes the Doctor had ever encountered. Normally peaceful beings content to feed on whatever creatures their natural forests provided, the swarm encountered had turned to more savage measures of survival when they found their habitat suddenly destroyed for other purposes, making any shadow potentially fatal. That same premise was repeated on Funworld in ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada,’ the learned aggression and vengeance of an unknowingly mistreated swarm wreaking havoc despite the Doctor’s best attempts at mitigating further damage and setting events in motion for this indirect sequel that finds a swarm with ties to those vengeful Vashta Nerada the subject of a weaponization experiment for the Time Lords to take the fight back to the Daleks in new and horrific ways.

Even without the notion of revenge, the Vashta Nerada are one of the few creatures that innately lend themselves to a tone of overt tension and horror, and that intrinsic nature is played up to marvelous effect within the claustrophobic confines of the dark space station as containment of the experiment is quickly lost. Yet as satisfying as this hunt would be on its own terms, Fitton has managed to take the base nature of these created foes and completely invert it by introducing the concept of the negative Nerada Vashta and ensuring that absolutely no place aboard the ship is completely safe. Finding the horror in even the seemingly most insignificant of minutiae, Fitton has crafted a masterfully atmospheric tale that shows the Vashta Nerada at their most dangerous, proving every bit as strategic as the people they find themselves up against.

Aside from the inherent menace, however, it’s quite satisfying to further see the earlier days of the Time War fleshed out prior to the events featuring the War Doctor, knowing that the Time Lords’ attempts here are doomed but suggesting the extent to which they were at one time willing to go to defeat their eternal foes. The comparisons between the exploitation of the Vashta Nerada by the humans and of the humans by the Time Lords is quite nicely incorporated as well, showing that war can bring out the lowest common denominator in all races no matter how civilized each may claim to be.

Of course, a horror is only as strong as the actors anchoring the events, and the small cast is exemplary in fueling the tension of the surroundings and threats. Paul McGann, as always is superb as his compassionate incarnation refuses to join his people in their search for conquest against the Daleks and instead stays focused on salvaging this one situation with as little of the inevitable loss of innocent life as possible. Together with Jacqueline Pearce, Jan Ravens, Himesh Patel, and Tim Wallers, a nearly perfect balance between hope and despair, inevitability and possibility, is attained that keeps the pace rolling from beginning to very poignant end when the weight of these events comes crashing squarely down on the Doctor’s shoulders. With excellent direction and chilling sound design, ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ is the poster child for this meshing of eras and again proves how well a mostly silent menace can fuel an audio release in the proper hands.

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