Like the timeless 1979 classic The City of Death, this story is almost entirely played for laughs, adopting a similar style and tone. Justin Richards’ story had the perfect blend of kitsch, surrealism, fantasy and comedy-drama, as well as capturing the very essence of Douglas Adams’ greatest works on the show. The idea of the Vardans using the radio as a means of bringing in their invasion forces was intelligently well utilised and perfectly taps into the pop culture of that period. In the Swingin’ Sixties, DJ’s, pop music, pirate stations and radio were among the most radical and popular elements of that period, and to see those devices turned on their heads was brilliantly handled.
The comedy was also superbly executed; whilst it’s almost expected for Tom Baker to get the most laughs (unsurprisingly), Lalla Ward gets plenty of comedic moments, particularly involving Romana’s distaste for handbag and shoe shopping. Definitely not something that would appeal to a well-educated Time-Lady! The Vardans are hardly iconic returning monsters; in The Invasion of Time, they were set up to be intriguing baddies only for them to turn out to be lackeys for the Sontarans. At least here, they have the chance to be solid enemies in their own right without devolving into mere stooges, and with their ability to travel across any waveform, they do become an effective menace in conjunction with the story.
Once again, Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are absolutely charming as ever, and they perfectly embody the characters as if they never left them. Baker is wonderfully eccentric as always, and Ward perfectly channels Romana’s haughty and sardonic wit. Karl Theobald and Phil Mulryne give solid support, whilst Alix Wilton Regan (best known for her roles in numerous Bioware games) gives a wonderfully wicked performance.
As a piece of light entertainment, Wave of Destruction succeeds with flying colours, offering laughs, thrills and in-jokes in equal succession. Justin Richards’ script sparkles throughout, and the cast is on top form, particularly Baker and Ward, who are once again at the height of their power.
THE FOURTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES 5.1: WAVE OF DESTRUCTION (DOCTOR WHO) / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / AUTHOR: JUSTIN RICHARDS / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LALLA WARD, JOHN LEESON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW