Doctor Who, War Against The Laan. Big Finish Audio Play, 2.03. Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Tom Baker, Mary Tamm, David Warner, Hayley Atwell, Jane Slavin, Toby Hadoke, Hugh Fraser, Nicholas Biggs, John Dorney, Beth Chalmers.

With The Lann about to destroy Earth as billions of the species mistake the planet as their own personal birthing pool, the second part of the two part story by Nicholas Briggs takes on one of those great sidesteps and gives fans something else to chew over and digest. Rather than the thought of interplanetary war between two species, the subtext offers something different, something not implemented in the Doctor Who world for a long while.

Whilst the conflict itself uses perhaps the weakest species on offer, they seem to lack real substance in an otherwise engaging story; the real action takes place between the two Timelords and their Human cohorts. It is this element, which really grabs the attention and makes the two-part story a superb listen.

The beauty of War Against The Laan is the allusion to the gender politics of the 1960s and 70s, the War of the Sexes that dominated much art, whether on television, radio or in day to day advertising. With Mary Tamm being an equal to the wandering Timelord, something that hasn’t been touched upon in the television series since it returned in 2005. Whilst there have been undoubtedly very strong women characters since it returned, Donna Noble and Amy Pond being two very strong contenders that could hold their own against the Doctor, there hasn’t been anyone who can rise above him, to bring him down to Earth in much the same way that both Mary Tamm and Lala Ward were able to do.

This also reflects in the way that two very superb characters in the C.E.O. Cuthbert and Earth President Sheridan Moorkurk, portrayed by the timeless legend David Warner and the dynamic Hayley Atwell respectively, bring their gender differences to the audio play. C.E.O. Cuthbert is quite happy to take on an entire species to protect his great experiments; the allure of ever greater power and control over humanity is ever at the back of his mind and is captured with every nuance and dramatic sentence the superb Mr. Warner delivers.

The dichotomy, the polar opposite of this is Hayley Atwell, who by now can be seen as a huge boon to the Big Finish Universe after portraying some excellent characters since she first went into the recording studio, as she struggles with the emergency on Earth and also her own fears and doubts at the job she has undertaken. Both actors, for very different reasons echo the main characters of The Doctor and Romana, however it can be seen the great leveller sees The Doctor more in tune with Hayley Atwell and the strong confidence and near superior intellect that Romana displays would feature well against Cuthbert, it is a twist that, whilst not fully explored is strongly hinted at, especially with The Doctor referencing Romana’s lack of imagination or as someone too scientific and analytical.

The questions are there for all to take in, who exactly is Cuthbert? What is the fate of President Moorkurk and how will these two influential people battle it out. It is a story that deserves to be told. The question of how to continue using Hayley Atwell in the realms of Doctor Who should also be addressed as this vibrant and talented actor should be signed up in some form to be in the television series at some point. She has already proved an asset to the Big Finish range but she could be an even bigger one to the overall concept.

War Against The Laan continues the fine work set out in the first of the two part story, a gigantic positive after the slow start.

War Against The Laan is available to buy from Worlds Apart on Lime Street, Liverpool.

Ian D. Hall