And so here we are, Big Finish has finally come full circle. After over a decade of producing amazing adventures for Doctors five to eight, the company has finally enlisted the talents of Tom Baker to reprise his role as the Fourth Doctor and start 2012 off with the biggest bang they possibly can.
Destination: Nerva shines. It’s really that simple. The story is a direct continuation from 1977’s The Talons of Weng Chiang and it feels like there’s been no gap at all. As soon as the Doctor and Leela walk into the TARDIS console room musing about Jago and Litefoot you’re sold. This team feel like they’ve never left the show behind and in many ways, they haven’t. Jameson has been playing Leela in various Big Finish plays for many years now and Baker recently recorded three series of Fourth Doctor adventures for AudioGo so it is of no surprise that the two are able to fall effortlessly back into the ‘77 team up.
Nicholas Briggs’ season opener hits the ground running with such energy that you barely have time to keep up. There are no lengthily scenes of dialogue to be found here, no tedious exposition and no wobbly sets. Instead we’re offered a new take on an old scenario and it does not disappoint. Destination:Nerva is a solid mix of classic Who merged with the fresh ideas from the think tank at Big Finish. Old fans can delight, new fans can come on board and all will be welcomed by the authoritative and booming tones of Tom Baker.
As the two leads find themselves on the Nerva beacon in its early stages and before events in the Fourth Doctor story The Ark in Space, a nasty infection is being spread across the ship, one that is proving extremely problematic for the crew and extremely gruesome. It’s funny to think that a new crew will have similar problems in the future aboard the same station, maybe the company that designed it cut back on a few essentials like an efficient security system or decontamination unit. Whatever the reason, it really doesn’t matter because you’ll find yourself enjoying this adventure too much to care.
At 77, Baker is now the oldest of the official Doctors and also the oldest to reprise his role. Does this reflect in his performance or his voice? Not one bit. Baker’s mad enthusiasm, deadpan delivery and idiosyncrasies still shine in the character of the Fourth Doctor. In a bad situation he still has his razor sharp wit, in a conversation he still has his natural charm and when he’s angry he still spits his lines out through gritted teeth and with the same venom that he had back in the day.
Destination: Nerva not only signals a new chapter in the life of Big Finish Productions but it also sees the glorious return of Tom Baker, the wonderful chemistry of the fourth Doctor and Leela and the start of a whole new line of stories that are mesmerising.
It’s Saturday night teatime in 1977 all over again but this time everyone can be there for the occasion.
Destination: Nerva is available on CD and via download from this month at www.bigfinish.com.