Given the consistency of the series so far, dare I to hope that the standard so far would be maintained? Just how well can Nicola portray Matt Smith? Find out below amongst the spoilers!
The Big Finish product page gives us this set-up:
Responding to a desperate summons from the Doctor’s future self, he and Peri find themselves on a sailing ship in 1492, where the crewmen are gripped by superstitious fear.
They say the Devil walks among them, stalking and striking them down. Even though they have landed in paradise, they fear that ‘El Diablo’ himself will drag them over the edge of the world and into the depths of Hell.
When the Doctor and Peri meet the captain of the ship, they both discover that heroes can sometimes behave unheroically. Peri’s reaction leads her into deep water, and soon the Doctor fears not only for her life but also for the existence of the ship, the paradise island, and the universe itself…
Given the date it is no surprise that this is a Christopher Columbus story and this Destiny of the Doctor story starts off with an interruption from the Eleventh Doctor (wonderfully voiced by Nicola) who sends the TARDIS off to the hold of a sailing ship making its way across the Atlantic.
The Doctor and Peri have been sent in search of an Omni Paradox and find it shining like a Christmas Tree star above the TARDIS; they get captured as stowaways then treated as natives by Columbus which leads to much amusement. Peri’s knowledge of history also paints a picture of Columbus that sets our expectations for much of the rest of the story – suffice it to say he is no spotless hero.
We are then treated to a great debate / argument between Peri and the Doctor covering his attitude to time travel, meeting famous people and ignoring the little guy. This is interspersed with some sharp dialogue and leads to Peri storming off and throwing the TARDIS key to the deck. Peri makes a grand gesture at the ship’s prow (à la Kate Winslet) falls in and is feared drowned.
The Omni Paradox chooses this moment to being unravelling reality and the Doctor manages to save the ship but has revealed too much to Columbus whose reaction is to plot the Doctor’s murder out of jealousy!
We have horrific scenes when Peri gets captured on a tropical island, the reveal of who the diabolic part-glimpsed figure was in the hold and find out the truth about buffalo and the discovery of the US. It all ends with lots of paradoxes and musings on the nature of the web of time all superbly done by Nicola as the narrator, Peri and the Doctor.
This works very well not only because of the script but also because Nicola isn’t Peri; Nicola’s real voice is entirely distinct meaning the listener is never confused. With Peri being american, dropping into impressions of the Sixth and Eleventh Doctors also works. The story exposition above doesn’t do any justice to Cameron Stewart’s portrayal of Columbus as a thoroughly flawed individual nor to the narrative trick of having him also narrate through the means of his log book.
The pacing is tight and the overall style is somewhere between a tall tale and light romp through time. This works well here and the story packs in a lot for one disc. It is the lightest of the Destiny stories so far and one of the strongest (though none of them are weak).
The story contains most of the elements I don’t like: a quick history lesson setting up too much of the story; a lost race sharing the Earth with humanity in the past; a device that can destroy the universe if left unchecked and lots of paradox and an unexpected insight into the true history of the US. That all said I really liked it – the light tone assuaged most of my normal anxiety over story elements, Nicola turns in a wonderful performance (as does Cameron) and everything works.
Congratulations to everyone involved!