The Cuthbert Annals II – War against the Laan reviewed

The Fourth Doctor Adventures continue the story started in The Sands of Life (reviewed here in The Cuthbert Annals I) with War Against the Laan again written by Nick Briggs. So far the quality of the 4DA has been very high and I was keen to know if the standard would continue. As a quick reminder, the Laan (sentient sand-worm / manatee creatures) are on their way to breed but ended up on Earth having been diverted by the Conglomerate research satellite which was conducting an important experiment for its ruthless CEO Cuthbert. Interesting the Doctor has never heard of Cuthbert but that is a minor problem compared to the fact that the Sahara Desert is now host to billions of pregnant Laan and each birth causes a localised energy burst and therefore the future of all life on Earth is in doubt…

The Plot

The Big Finish product page tells us:

‘Just a taste of Armageddon, Romana. It’s what happens when acquisitive minds are left unencumbered by conscience.’

The Doctor, Romana and newly elected President Sheridan Moorkurk take on the all-consuming powers of business tycoon Cuthbert and his vast Conglomerate. But the situation goes beyond a struggle for political power. Cuthbert is intent on revenge on creatures he feels have attacked his interests. But when his revenge looks like leading to inter-species war, the Doctor knows the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Laan are on the move. Is it too late to prevent the destruction of all life on Earth?

The pace of this story is unyielding – we have the Doctor and Romana winning the confidence of new President Sheridan Moorcurk and setting her up against Cuthbert. The threat of the Laan is met with Cuthbert’s Conglomerate production (in remarkably short time) a pathogen capable of performing genocide on the Laan. In the end humanities destiny is a matter of trust and a willingness to communicate.

The Production

Hayley Atwell shine in this story after a limited start in The Sands of Life and that is deliberate. Her her character comes to the fore and learns how to deal with Cuthbert and his machinations. To what extent she is building up problems for the future we shall have to wait and see.

Mary Tamm’s Romana is strong here in her telepathic dealings with the Laan and I do much prefer Tom Baker in this series than in some of the first series of Fourth Doctor Adventures. Of course David Warner’s Cuthbert tends to dominate a lot of this story and Toby Hadoke’s Mr Dorrit is somewhat perfunctory (I predict great things in later stories).

Overall

I enjoyed this thought did think the ending somewhat tame in that a few conversations and an act of trust saved the day. Before that some very good tension as President Moorcurk toys with agreeing with Cuthbert and sacrificing the Laan to ensure the safety of the inhabitants of Earth.

There is unfinished business and we await June / July for the next two Cuthbert stories!

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