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Listening to The Sands Of Life is an odd experience, mostly because it favours the intimate over the epic. Now while I quite often like that about Doctor Who stories, I wasn't so sure here. After all, this is the longest single CD release in the Fourth Doctor Adventures to date, but I don't feel that having an extra episode actually did this story any good. It just seemed to ramble on a lot, with a lot of episode 2 involving a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing, when all of it could have been settled more quickly. That being said, the first episode doesn't pull any punches, and launches straight into the action, with only some of the early TARDIS scenes feeling a little like a pause for breath. The story was gripping right from the opening newscast, right up until the military became involved. Then, it just started to feel like the story was treading water, waiting for the final ten minutes, which started to bring the plot together. I particularly felt that the military grunts were a complete waste of time, and simply there to show the pig-headedness of humans and how they treat every incursion with such contempt. They weren't even well sketched out characters, merely cyphers to bounce the Doctor and Romana off. The only notable character is Duncan Wisby's General Vincent, who is a completely boring character, I started to turn off from the story whenever he spoke. It didn't help that his American accent was a bit corny as well (you would have thought Big Finish would have learnt there lesson with American accents), but he was just so flat and one-dimensional, that the interrogation scenes were a real chore, despite the witty dialogue that Tom and Mary had. I did think that character was sacrificed for ideas in this episode, with those ideas in particular being very strong. The idea of a explosive pregnancy that could destroy the human race is incredible, and certain sets up War Against The Laan with the potential for some amazing moral ideas. However, while most character was sacrificed, there was one character who shined. Quite simply, Cuthbert has to be one of Nick Briggs' best creations, with his character feeling wonderfully well rounded. A lot of that is helped by an amazing performance from David Warner, who quite simply sounds fantastic as this gruff Northern businessman. Toby Hadoke is brilliant as his subordinate Dorrick, who lurks in the background a lot. I hope he gets to do something in the second half that's a little more substantial. Another character who is wasted here is Hayley Atwell's Sheridan Moorkurk, who is restricted to a couple of scenes only. It's a shame, because Atwell's performance is amazing, and I'm looking forward to see what she can do with the role. Tom Baker and Mary Tamm are given plenty to do, Tamm in particular, and I love there interaction, it just feels witty and cleverly written. John Leeson also returns in this for his first Fourth Doctor Adventure, however here he is given a limited amount to do, and is bumped off before the next episode, so I'm hoping that later episodes give him something more substantial. I though that while Briggs' direction was solid, I thought that his music was a little 'odd'. It sounded like Malcolm Clarke's work on The Sea Devils, although it did echo Dudley Simpson's work at points. I also felt the sound design was a little off too, particularly in the 'dreamscape' scenes. That didn't come off clearly at all. While The Sands Of Life has some great ideas, I think it's frankly wacky pacing and some really odd execution choices weigh it down quite heavily. However, it's not my least favourite Fourth Doctor Adventure, and I really think that it sets the plates rolling really well for War Against The Laan.