Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Destination: Nerva


Starring: Tom Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 607 2
Available 31 January 2012

After saying their goodbyes to Professor Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago following their battle with Magnus Greel, the Doctor and Leela are alerted to an interstellar distress signal emanating from an English manor house in the nearby year of 1895. It is the beginning of a journey that will take them a millennium into the future, to the newly constructed Space Dock Nerva, where a long overdue homecoming is expected - a homecoming that could bring about the end of the human race...

I’ve been listening to Big Finish’s output since its very beginning with the Bernice Summerfield series in 1998. It’s been an enjoyable experience overall, though I have no hesitation in pinpointing the four key moments in the company’s publishing history that have excited me the most.

The first came in 1999, when The Sirens of Time launched an ongoing range of new audio adventures featuring the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. At a time when it seemed unlikely that Doctor Who would ever return to our screens, these full-cast productions were a godsend, even though their use of a 1970s mix of the main theme wasn’t entirely authentic. What a pity they couldn’t get Paul McGann on board as well... That happened in 2001, when the first Eighth Doctor audio drama, Storm Warning, was released. At last, we had a new series featuring the then current Doctor! Different theme music though... Then 2005 saw the return of another favourite show of mine: Sapphire & Steel. Oh, the bliss of hearing that much-missed signature tune!

Now, in 2012, my listening pleasure has peaked again. After years of resisting, Tom Baker is finally starring in a series of original full-cast dramas for Big Finish, starting with Destination: Nerva. As with McGann’s debut more than a decade ago, this is a real casting coup, and many a fanboy’s wet dream. As with Sapphire & Steel, I am delighted by the authenticity of the sound: the ’70s theme tune that had seemed somewhat out of place in The Sirens of Time is completely at home here. Adding to the period effect is Jamie Robertson’s incidental music, a splendid pastiche of Dudley Simpson circa 1977. It’s not often that I listen to an audio play with a silly grin on my face, but I did while listening to this one. It’s possible that the musical mimicry will give way to more modern compositions as the series continues, as was the case with the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors’ audio adventures, but for now I say bring on the nostalgia!

Inevitably, Baker sounds older (more jowly) nowadays, but otherwise he and Louise Jameson completely re-inhabit their roles. Leela may seem a bit too space-savvy for a savage, but I suppose she has some experience behind her by this point, especially if you factor in Chris Boucher’s Fourth Doctor novels for BBC Books. The cliffhanger that marks the halfway point of this two-part story would have felt more in keeping with the television era being evoked (the three years produced by Philip Hinchcliffe) if it had ended just before the Doctor shouts “Run”, which seems to me more akin to the lighter Tom Baker adventures released by AudioGO.

Of course, a four-part serial would have been a more authentic story structure, but writer Nicholas Briggs reminds us that the Fourth Doctor did once appear in a two-parter on television, The Sontaran Experiment, by taking us back to Nerva, the space-station setting of two stories from Season 12, The Ark in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. At first I wondered whether I had inserted the wrong CD, as the action kicks off not in the future but in the 1890s. However, the scene soon shifts to Nerva. Briggs could be accused of doing Doctor Who by numbers, by threatening the space station with a contaminating menace that is not dissimilar in terms of body horror to the Wirrn grub in The Ark in Space and the Krynoid in The Seeds of Doom - but for now, once again, I say bring on the nostalgia.

Eighteen minutes of extras at the end of the disc include an exciting trailer whose slogan encapsulates the appeal of this release: it’s Saturday teatime in 1977 all over again.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£8.35 (
£10.75 (
£7.19 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.