Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 7/31/17 11:24 am
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In the final story of Classic Doctors, New Monsters, Volume 02, the Time War rages on and on. The Time Lords are looking for new ways to defeat the Daleks, and have drafted the Synthesis Station, hoping to use their research on the Vashta Nerada to turn the tides of war. Meanwhile, the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) arrives, and he's appalled by what he sees and attempts to put a stop to it. But when the station is sabotages, the Vashta Nerada break free. Their thirst for revenge lives on, and the hunters of the shadows are on the prowl; will the Doctor be able to escape their hunt intact? Day of the Vashta Nerada acts as a sequel to the first story of the set. Unlike the first story however, it distinguishes itself by eschewing the source material, opting instead to marry the themes of previous Vashta Nerada stories with material from the Time War. In this way, Matt Fitton's script is another solid entry into the Eighth Doctor's body of work. Combined with some solid work from the cast, especially McGann and Jacqueline Pearce as Cardinal Ollistra, the story ends up being a solid closer for the latest Classic Doctors, New Monsters set.
Paul McGann once again stars as the Eighth Doctor. The version from this story is the world weary, nearly broken Time War version of Eight, which McGann plays so well in these stories. McGann nails the weariness in his voice, of a man tired of fighting and running around the universe. But even in the midst of a Vashta Nerada outbreak, he still finds time to be the same old Doctor he always was. I loved the moment in the story where, upon encountering a giant Vashta Nerada, the Doctor is in awe of it, finding it to be beautiful. It's the little moments like that that keep me coming back to the Eighth Doctor. Joining McGann is Jacqueline Pearce, playing the slippery Cardinal Ollistra, reprising her role from the War Doctor audios among others. Pearce was consistently a highlight of the War Doctor series, as she sold the hell out of her amoral manipulator, and here is no exception. Pearce is as slippery as ever here, perhaps even more so. I like her chemistry with the Eighth Doctor a bit ore, as there's that sort of uneven relationship, where the actor portraying the Doctor is younger than her, and so it changes their relationship a little bit. Whereas the War Doctor and Ollistra had a mutual, if rocky respect for one another, Eight and Ollistra have a decidedly sour relationship, which allows for more interesting interactions. Pearce seems particularly disgusted by the Doctor being a conscientious objector to the Time War, in an excellent bit of acting.
Matt Fitton is once again tasked with writing the final story in the box set. Unlike other stories, where he tends to have difficulty wrapping up the entire arc, Fitton is given a more or less clean slate to work with here, which allows him room to breathe and work on his own story. And the story that he wrote is an excellent one, crafting the second creepy Vashta Nerada story. But where the previous one failed, this one succeeded largely because it discarded the source material, which Night of the Vashta Nerada didn't do. It did it's own thing and married the subjects of the Time War with the Vashta Nerada. It's a story we've seen a few times so far with Big Finish; the Time Lords send someone to investigate a new avenue of attack against the Daleks, and the Doctor finds himself wrapped up in it, as everything quickly goes wrong. In this case, the deal goes wrong because a saboteur is on board, hoping to make a quick buck off some young Vashta Nerada. While the story itself is hardly original, I think that the claustrophobic nature of the story lent itself well to distinguishing everything. The story felt very rushed and filled with tension, making a sort of horrific type of story.
However, I did note two issues with the story. The first was a glaring issue I noticed from the moment I downloaded the story; this final story is just under 49 minutes long. Normally, I don't mind if a story is a few minutes short, but when it's more than 5 minutes short, I start taking notice. For the story to be 11 minutes shorter than what was promised is always an annoyance. Sure, the difference is made up in the second and third stories as well as in the behind-the-scenes features, but I'm always a little miffed when Big Finish advertises that each story is an hour long, only to find the story's over 10 minutes short. My second issue is with the introduction of the genetically engineered Nerada Vashta, the opposite of the Vashta Nerada. Where the Vashta Nerada hunt in the dark, the Nerada Vashta hunt in the light, terrified of the dark. It's such a clichÃ© to introduce the exact opposite of a villain in a story, and talk about how horrifying it is and how nobody is safe. It's a rather lazy bit of writing, but more than that, they literally just flipped the names. I get that in universe it's a bit of a joke, but don't introduce a potentially deadly cousin to the Vashta Nerada and then joke about it.
Overall though, Day of the Vashta Nerada was a solid ending to Classic Doctors, New Monsters, Volume 02. It was well acted by the cast, especially Paul McGann and Jacqueline Pearce, who shared an interesting chemistry with one another throughout the story. And writer Matt Fitton did a great job making a creepy, claustrophobic story featuring the hunters of the shadows. However, the release was over ten minutes shorter than expected, and I felt that it had some issues when it introduced the Nerada Vashta, the light-dwelling cousins of the Vashta Nerada. But that didn't count too much against the release in my opinion, with this final story ending the box set on a strong note.