Tom Baker joining Big Finish - it really is something rather special! Big Finish itself is something special. They display a deep affection, and a deep respect, for Doctor Who. A brilliant company to do business with. At their heart, you see, they love stories. And I love listening to stories, storytelling positively warms my heart. Me and Big Finish - it's a mindbogglingly perfect match!
I always hoped that Tom Baker would eventually join the brilliance of Big Finish. That too seemed like the most wonderful, perfect match to me. Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann, continue to add the most beautifull of tales to their eras of the show. Expanding and transcending them even. Tom Baker was the only Doctor from the classic era that was missing. And that was a crying shame. Despite having spent SEVEN whole years on television, with the Fourth Doctor there is always a new adventure to tell. And audio is a whole new angle in which to convey it. Latterly, though, I had started to fear that that new angle might never happen for Tom's Doctor. Something I'd have accepted, grudgingly (there are more important things in life), but it would still have been tinged with the utmost sadness.
How delighted I am then, that it finally, truly, has happened! I'm happy and grinning, from ear to ear (a toothy grin, you might well ask?!). It's better late than never, (and I'm late to this particular party!). I have joined the ride of the Fourth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish, and what a great ride it is! Laughs, thrills, genuine scares ... Destination: Nerva has all of these, and more! It's Philip Hinchcliffe Doctor Who in bucketloads, with (dare I say it?!) a little Graham Williams too, and something touchingly modern. It's the Fourth Doctor's era. A transcendental arena for storytelling. How splendid to lie back and pretend that you're back in that era. You really can time travel with Doctor Who, and it is as much about your own memories, and experiences, and who you are, than it is about the show itself and which year or Doctor you're hearing (or watching). I try not to list my favourites in Doctor Who, because I honestly love something along every point of Doctor Who's 50 year journey, but Tom Baker's era is definitely is one of my favourites. Hinchcliffe, Williams, the epilogue by JNT, and now Big Finish. What a glorious Doctor Tom Baker is. Thank you so much Big Finish, for giving us even more adventures with him, to experience and cherish!
Destination: Nerva is a special story. I wasn't sure what to make of it all at first, but following the cliffhanger, and well into 'Part Two', I was hooked. In many ways, Nerva was the perfect place to go, the perfect place to begin. It takes us right back to the start of the Fourth Doctor's era, while also taking us somewhere new. I went through so many emotions. I grinned as I felt a connection to a memory from childhood, I laughed at a funny piece of witticism, I developed a lump in my throat in one particular scene in 'Part Two' (shh ... spoilers!!) and I was genuinely touched, and moved, by the final scene, and speech, from the Doctor. Following on from The Talons of Weng-Chiang is just perfect.
I have always been intrigued by the dynamic that exists between Leela and the Fourth Doctor, the young savage and the wise teacher. It's comparable to the roles of 'Henry Higgins' and 'Eliza Doolittle' in Pygmalion. And I love Pygmalion. It's my favourite play; it has been since I read and studied it at school. I love that it's being referenced here. Of all the attributes about Leela and the Doctor, I love their Pygmalion style relationship. In many ways, it's the same idea that they used much later on in Doctor Who, with the Seventh Doctor and Ace - the professor and the student. Without spoiling any of the key speeches, or any of the key scenes, it is conspicuous and at the forefront of the storytelling here. In the original analysis, I always felt that Leela's character reached her peak in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and was then more or less wasted in Season 15. Which was a crying shame. It's a dynamic that offers so much drama - seeing how the instinctive person, and then the learned person, reacts to events and bounces off each other. So, to return to that original concept of Leela, and her relationship with the Fourth Doctor, is a definite plus point for me, and one which I'm looking forward to following through the rest of the series. They are quite my favourite pairing (well, one of them at least!), done great justice by the script, which affords them plenty opportunities to display Leela's more savage and tribal instincts, alongside the Fourth Doctor's calmer and wiser musings. It is helped by Tom Baker (almost as though he has never been away!) and Louise Jameson (slipping straight back into her character!) both being on fine acting form. Proper drama comes out of character, and Nerva does that for me. It's a small scale story (of bigger implications to imagine), with a small cast of characters. Characters that I can relate to. The heroes, and the innocents, who I care about, due to the little details that make them human, family, and friends, and workmates. In the villians, with their egos, and their power, and their ultimate corruption (the dark side of humanity), I feel revulsion at. Yet, and this is a powerful accomplishment in drama, I still feel some pity for them. They are currupted humans, but they are still humans.
This story could only be told by Doctor Who. What other series could take you from an historical and alien mystery in Victorian London ( think The War of the Worlds), through a journey into space and the space opera of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and on to a final confrontation of horrors reminiscent of Alien? That is Doctor Who, and it is fully encapsulated in Destination: Nerva.
For so many fans "it's Saturday teatime in 1977 all over again" really will be what this is. And that is such a wonderful, heartwarming thing for people; to capture the feeling of when you were young. For me, listening to this story has evoked a different time, but one with no less meaning. For me, "it's Sunday afternoon in 1994 all over again", when I rushed to the television to watch and enjoy Tom Baker in Pyramids of Mars, and that was a very innocent, relaxing and enjoyable time in my life. It was a somewhat poignant moment, to close my eyes on a Sunday, to lie back and listen, and to really feel like I was back in 1994 once more. It is a memory unique to me, but then, all our reminiscences are unique to ourselves. I will say this - enjoy your childhood as much as you can; those days are some of the best of your life, and if you are given an opportunity to relive them, GRAB it! I am more than happy, to be able to travel back in time to those days, while not forgetting to look forwards too. The Fourth Doctor Adventures are nostalgic, in certain ways, but they are also ruthlessly modern, pointing the way to the future and a brave new world. We're all a part of that - the past, the present, and the future: it's our lives.
Doctor Who has always been about beginnings, and endings. Final endings and new beginnings. It's about jumping on points. It's one big adventure. You can join at the start and work forwards. Join at the end and work backwards. Or join in the middle (like I did!) and work back and forth. You can journey with the Doctor in order or out of order. It doesn't matter. Make the adventure your own! There are so many possible jumping on points - especially since Doctor Who reinvents itself all the time. There's An Unearthly Child, Spearhead from Space, The TV Movie, Rose, The Eleventh Doctor and, more recently, The Snowmen. There are many other ways to jump into the fun - with a Target novelization, a Virgin New Adventure or a BBC Book, or (and this is a good one!) a Big Finish audio. There are plenty of stories to jump in, with Big Finish - The Sirens of Time, Storm Warning, Blood of the Daleks and now, to add to that list, Destination: Nerva. Don't just take my word for it (well, actually, please do!), head here and find out for yourself - Destination: Nerva. Remember to check out the rest of the Big Finish site too, while you're there, there's a lot of great audios to find! Discover one and jump right in - anywhere you like, anytime you like, that's the great thing about it: it's your adventure. I jumped in to Big Finish at the end of 1999, and the beginning of 2000, and it's very much taken me back to my childhood (if I ever grew up, and away, from it in the first place!!). It's an amazing ride, and you'll never regret it!
"Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable."