The Sands of Life/War Against the Laan

The Doctor, Romana and K9 are drawn into a deadly war between Earth and an apparently invading force of Laan.

The story of the Laan, pregnant creatures misplaced in time and space who need to be protected from aggressive humans subverts the idea of ‘monsters’ in a way that was more prevalent in the Pertwee era than the Fourth Doctor’s televised adventures. The real monster here is Cuthbert, who owns the Consortium. He’s cut from the same cloth as Morgus from The Caves of Androzani, and I did wonder if this Consortium was the same, or related to, Androzani’s Cirrius Consortium. Like Morgus, he also holds a lot of sway over the military.

The story manages to feel epic and globe-trotting with just a handful of characters and scenes set across the world. Hayley Atwell is great as a newly-elected president thrown in at the deep end and David Warner (recently seen on TV in Cold War) plays Cuthbert snarling and without the facade of charm you get from a lot of villains. He has corrupted every level of Government and military, and he’s completely open about it. His scenes with Tom Baker are a highlight, particularly the way Tom emphasises the ‘bert’. CuthBERT.

In the behind series material on War Against the Laan Nicholas Briggs wonders if the casting of David Warner is one of the things that helped get Tom Baker working with Big Finish. I wonder if Tom’ s old idea about a story where he’s helping whales escape Japanese whalers wasn’t an inspiration too though. One of the comparisons for the Laan to Earth animals drawn is that of whales, and it’s what they most resemble on the cover.

In the era of loads of information available before you experience a Doctor Who story, it came as a pleasant surprise to me that The Sands of Life ran to three episodes, and that it was the first instalment of a longer story. It’s great to hear a Fourth Doctor epic, with K9 back on board in a tense and engaging story which I can’t recommend enough.

Not Heard these stories yet? Order on CD from Amazon:

The Sands of Life (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)

Doctor Who: War Against the Laan (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures)

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