Night of the Vashta Nerada

Posted in Audio, Website by - July 28, 2017
Night of the Vashta Nerada

Released July 2017

With so many foes originating from the classic era of Doctor Who continuing to return to the modern incarnation of the series, it was only a matter of time until Big Finish inverted that formula and had foes of the modern series cross paths with classic regenerations of the Doctor. Met with unfettered acclaim last year, the first collection of Classic, Doctors, New Monsters proved what a resounding success the format could be as the likes of the Weeping Angels, Judoon, Sycorax, and newer Sontarans each appeared earlier in the Doctor’s timeline that previously known. To kick off the second box set, the Fourth Doctor happens upon the Vashta Nerada on Funworld, a proposed planet of joy where the construction and intended opening have been marred by mysterious reports of a predator and a complete termination of communications.

‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ unavoidably shares several moments of similarity with ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead,’ but the reintroduction of the eponymous foe and their means of hunting and survival when their native forests is handled so well that it hardly matters. The fact that these minute piranha-like beings are normally passive creatures content to live off of insects and small forest creatures provides a stark contrast to the brutal hunters bent on revenge and expansion of dominion portrayed in this tale, and the familiar motifs of multiple shadows and the potential danger that any shadow may hold transfer expertly to the audio medium despite being intrinsically very visual in nature. With the Doctor confronting the creatures for the first time just as they have developed a taste for bigger prey, there is a genuine sense of danger and the unknown created as the Doctor tries to evacuate the amusement park reconnaissance crew and prevent territory expansion with as little collateral damage as possible.

Just as the interpersonal relations in the Library’s group of explorers helped to drive the emotional narrative in the Tenth Doctor Vashta Nerada two-parter, so, too, do the varying relationships on display here. Even with the limited time available in a standalone story, writer John Dorney manages to exemplify the best and worst of humanity in his small ensemble, often overlapping with moral shades of grey as the true extent of the danger before them manifests and becomes known. At the same time, Tom Baker is at his strongest in ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada,’ the lack of a companion amplifying his character’s alien nature even as he effortlessly tries to insert himself into a position of authority to mitigate any further loss of life. Even though the moral compass of the Doctor always points in the direction of what is right, there is a certain air of mystery regarding just how far he will go, and it’s rewarding- if ultimately heartbreaking- to once more witness an occasion when this intrepid hero’s best efforts simply cannot save everyone and innocent lives are again lost to ensure victory.

‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ features a few very clever twists that keep what could have been a straightforward tale engaging in its own right. However, by creating an immense atmosphere, crafting a fantastic revisitation and reintroduction of the terrifying Vashta Nerada, and featuring wonderful direction and sound design, this becomes an altogether more enjoyable tale that effortlessly flies by from beginning to end without once losing its sense of pace and intrigue. With another Vashta Nerada tale still in store to close out this set and the return of the Racnoss and the Carrionites in the interim, ‘Night of the Vashta Nerada’ is a strong opening instalment that reiterates the wealth of immense stories this era-meshing concept can yield.

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