Wave of Destruction

Posted in Audio by - February 06, 2016
Wave of Destruction

Series five of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures kicks off with ‘Wave of Destruction,’ easily recapturing the eccentricity and aura of season 17 as Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, and John Leeson reprise their roles. Writer Justin Richards admits in the extras that he was striving to write something in the same vein as ‘City of Death,’ realising that to emulate it would be folly. In terms of providing an intriguing and credible threat while managing to keep the tone fairly light and surreal with plenty of humour, ‘Wave of Destruction’ succeeds admirably.

Returning in the villainous role are the Vardans, an enemy that audio has been much kinder to than the televised series ever was. Conceptually, they have a lot to offer, and their ability to travel across waveforms is aptly explored in this story, making them much more than the placeholder understudies as presented in ‘The Invasion of Time.’ Set in the 1960s when popular music and pirate radio stations were all the rage, this story provides the audio and waveform-based Vardans with a very susceptible Earth. However, and it is perhaps a deliberate scripting choice in sticking with the overall tone of the story, it is a bit jarring to hear them get so excited and almost gleeful at the prospect of so many humans meeting their demise. There is almost a Slitheen personality to them, something that had not been as apparent in previous Vardan encounters. Still, as the death count increases, their menace grows and quickly prove the cope of their intent.

The Doctor of course emerges victorious, albeit with a more elaborate and specific plan than usual, but the paths taken by the different Time Lords offer plenty of great character moments and visuals. Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor is, as always, effortlessly brimming with wit and whimsy, but he is also afforded the chance to remorselessly deliver a speech to the Vardans that disparages their actions and offers no second chances. Lalla Ward as the Second Romana again puts on full display her trademark haughtiness but is taken out of her comfort zone as events see her shopping for shoes and handbags in one scene and performing radio station DJ duties in another. The discomfort is palpable and a testament to the quality of voice acting. Unfortunately, K-9, having just returned from his circuitous TARDIS journey to keep the Black Guardian off their trail, ends up being more of a background character in this tale. Still, the interactions between the leads when the script allows are superb and truly evoke the feeling that this TARDIS crew has never been apart after all of these years.

Featuring some neat continuity connections to both the audio story ‘The Auntie Matter’ with the Doctor and Romana at the house in Baker Street and to the post-2005 television series with the mention of Magpie electronics, ‘Wave of Destruction’ ably reintroduces the season 17 TARDIS crew and overall feel while also giving the Vardans a credible villainous presence. It’s a fairly straightforward tale offering little in the way of plot twists, and the Vardans are perhaps portrayed a bit too comically at times, but overall this is a good start to the new series that manages to balance the comedic and dramatic aspects fairly well.

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