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Subj: Big Finish:Doctor Who - Destination Nerva
Posted: Tue May 05, 2020 at 06:02:51 pm GMT (Viewed 110 times)

Doctor Who - Destination Nerva.
Released January 2012
Written by Nicholas Briggs
Starring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson.

You are Big Finish. After two decades of hoping, patiently waiting, the great man has finally capitulated to your hopes and you have just gained the services of Tom Baker, the Legendary Fourth Doctor. Indeed, in many peoples eyes -THE Doctor. The pinnacle of Doctor Who Royalty.

How to exploit this opportunity, how do you honour the great man and reward the people who will flock to purchase and support this grand return of the Fourth Doctor, all-new ongoing adventures for the most iconic Doctor of them all - what is to be your strategy...? Some careful thought and preparation must be taken before any decisions are made.

Hmm. Let's phone up Justin Richards, Alan Barnes, Nicholas Briggs and the usual cheap and easy crew, they're fast, they're all your mates, and they can all churn out material quickly, and with minimal editing required!
And so, rejecting any imagination or ambition, Big Finish produced series 1 of their new Fourth Doctor Adventures, and the Great man made do with whatever writers and best mates the company could would scrape together at short notice.

It would be of some interest to learn whether the fixtures for this debut season for the Fourth Doctor were set early on, or whether Big Finish rejigged the running order once recording had finished and an evaluation made based on the material that resulted. Because when all is said and done the choice in debut story they did select here is a very hard thing to explain when you have subsequent stories like Justin Richards' The Renaissance Man offering a good original idea and something like a worthy problem for this particular Doctor - it is no easy task to devise worthy problems and opponents for the Fourth Doctor, but Richards devised a plot that challenged the Doctor's own intellectual might and did so in a suspenseful and gripping way.
With Destination Nerva though the choice in allowing this to be the launch-story of this long anticipated return of the Fourth Doctor is a difficult to fathom move, the story is written by Nicholas Briggs and those two words - "Nicholas" and "Briggs" - are words that never fill me with any optimism personally as experience of the mans work has taught me that you cannot expect much in the way of story originality, and nothing much in the way of gripping plot situations and genuinely novel concepts.

And so Destination Nerva, a return to the popular and striking space station seen in Tom Baker's very first season on television back in 1974, a clear attempt at appealing to nostalgia yes, but the station itself is a terrific concept and its confined and isolated nature make it capable of naturally generating good stories with suspense built in. But it is contingent on how you as a writer approach the location, and you using it to its best advantage. Which alas does not occur here, the only reason the Nerva Beacon is here is for the name value it has and the striking cover image. Otherwise it could be any station in space, any abandoned spaceship, or even a cargo holder.

Failing to exploit his chosen central location isn't the only problem with Destination Nerva however. With what is effectively a free opportunity to revive the Fourth Doctor free of baggage and with an open future Nick Briggs makes it very explicit in the opening scenes that this is a story set immediately after 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang, the Doctor and Leela spending this story still dressed in that same extravagant dress they wore for that adventure. With the Tardis receiving a distress call that hails from just four years in the future and just a matter of miles from where they had departed London and left Jago and Litefoot behind. And so the two arrive at a country estate at night, to find a manor in darkness and the aftermath of some carnage that involves dead humans and some alien creature that delivers a cryptic warning. Before the Doctor can draw any conclusions he is forced to flee as the estate is annihilated by a departing starship and so he follows, only to arrive in the far future at the late building stages of the Nerva Beacon, stationed out near Jupiter....
What ensues is a muddled production that is filled with appallingly done cod-regional accents from earth, an ill-defined shapeless parasitic organism that is overtaking the crew, and the strange prescence of a Lord Jack, who we learn has somehow arrived here from 1895 where the Doctor and Leela were investigating the distress call, and all leading to the arrival of an alien race called Drellerans…

Spread over two thirty minute episodes It might sound rather exciting when written down like this, a lean tight action packed race for survival of the kind Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes served up so very well. But the reality is this is Nicholas Briggs, not Robert Holmes or Hinchcliffe, and what we get is muddled plodding mess that would never have gained even five minutes of the attentions of either of those two great television producers back in the day.
It has to be said no one can fault Tom Baker and Louise Jameson here, both are amazingly dedicated to their parts and both deliver fine dedicated performances that are almost indistinguishable to their performances back in the 1970s, when they were on the television series. Tom Baker is virtually enthusiasm personified(!) And given the mediocrity of Destination Nerva as a script and story his and Louise Jameson's precense is without a doubt the single biggest asset that Big Finish have to sell this product, that a fine cover design that is.

In the end Destination Nerva is below the standard in my view. For either a launch story, or a piece worthy of Tom Baker's time. With its mix of hackneyed colonialist condescension from Nicholas Briggs, to its suspense-free attempts to convince that the survivors on Nerva trying to keep ahead of the Drelleran mutation are ever in any danger at all... it all falls flat. It is coca cola, that has gone flat....

So why WAS it allowed to be the very first story of this launch? You do have to wonder. Was it those two words - "Nicholas" and "Briggs" - again? Is this the name that should be on the script of such an anticipated and important new launch story?


Fortunately. the next story is a far more worthy and engaging effort... \(yes\)