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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Sands of Life


Starring: Tom Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 055 8
Available 28 February 2013

Sheridan Moorkurk has just been elected president of Earth... but the harsh realities of who really runs the planet are just beginning to dawn on her. And what’s more, she’s starting to hear voices. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Romana encounter a mass of aliens heading towards Earth – aliens who have already made the mistake of upsetting the infamous Cuthbert, the all-powerful CEO of the Conglomerate, by inadvertently destroying one of his space platforms. Will the Doctor and Romana be able to avert an inter-species war that could destroy all life on Earth...?

In previous reviews of the Fourth Doctor’s audio escapades, I have bemoaned the brevity of the stories. Tom Baker’s television tenure largely comprised four-part serials, with a few six-parters thrown in for good measure, whereas most of his audio adventures with Big Finish have been single-disc two-parters. The Sands of Life, together with the following month’s War Against the Laan, help to compensate for this by giving us a single story spread over two discs. In fact, you might even say that writer / director Nicholas Briggs has over-compensated, because this tale is a five-parter, a very rare duration for Doctor Who! Three episodes of the story are squeezed on to this CD, with two more on the War Against the Laan disc.

This allows plenty of time for character interaction, such as Romana’s (Mary Tamm) telepathic rapport with the manatee-like (because we’ve had enough space whales already) Laan (Jane Slavin) and the Doctor’s outrage against the unethical policies of business tycoon Cuthbert (David Warner, getting a heck of a lot more to do than he did in the recent Ice Warrior episode Cold War). However, there is also a healthy dose of action, courtesy of temporal disturbances on board the TARDIS and on Earth, and gung-ho military men.

BBC budgets notwithstanding, it’s easy to imagine this story taking place during Tamm’s time on the television show. The Doctor’s ethical rants remind me of his confrontation with the Pirate Captain in The Pirate Planet, while giant creatures exploding into lots of little ones are reminiscent of The Power of Kroll. Moreover, the story is based on an idea by Tom Baker himself, as Briggs reveals in his sleeve notes.

Sound designer Martin Montague conjures up some suitably Seventies bleeps and whooshes, while Briggs strives for a Dudley Simpson style with his incidental music – though sometimes this ends up sounding like Simpson’s earlier work, on First Doctor stories such as The Crusade or his electronic experimentation during the Third Doctor’s era.

I recommend that you hold off (as I did) until you have both The Sands of Life and War Against the Laan, before listening to the whole thing as one big conglomerate, rather than having to wait for the sands of time to elapse between the two instalments.


Richard McGinlay

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