In the time vortex, the TARDIS registers the presence of a swarm of life forms numbering into the billions; one of them telepathically contacts Romana as it passes, with its only message being “the sands of life.” The TARDIS materializes on Earth, which is the swarm’s eventual destination. Both newly-elected Earth President Sheridan Moorkurk and a ruthless industrialist named Cuthbert are already aware of the swarm’s approach, and are preparing in their own ways. The approaching swarm has already fouled one of Cuthbert’s R&D projects, so he’s keen to eliminate the creatures, whatever their intention might be, while President Moorkurk quickly learns, in her first day in office, that Cuthbert’s influence runs deep within the government she’s inherited. The Doctor and Romana are captured, and the arrival of two aliens ahead of the swarm arouses more than just a little bit of suspicion. Romana is taken into custody by the military, and General Vincent plans to make use of her ability to commune with the approaching creatures. The Doctor is handed over to Cuthbert, who wants to put the Doctor’s knowledge and intuition to use for his personal gain. And finally, the first of the Laan reaches Earth. A large, whale-like species whose domain is the time vortex, they have some to the Sahara Desert to spawn in the “sands of life.” The birth of each group of Laan pups releases an enormous amount of both kinetic and temporal energy – enough, the Doctor surmises, to do serious damage to Earth. Is Cuthbert right to want to declare war on the Laan?
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Mary Tamm (Romana), John Leeson (K-9), Hayley Atwell (President Moorkurk), David Warner (Cuthbert), Toby Hadoke (Mr. Dorrick), Jane Slavin (The Laan), Duncan Wisbey (General Vincent)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Oh, sneaky, sneaky Big Finish. Having established the single-disc, two-episode format for the fourth Doctor audio stories, The Sands Of Life sees the beginning of a five-episode adventure for the Doctor and Romana. Somewhere between the length of the story, the Dudley-Simpson-plus-Radiophonic-Workshop-style music, and the familiar combination of Baker, Mary Tamm and John Leeson (deployed sparingly as K-9), this is the most authentic fourth Doctor audio to date. I’d swear it was a cassette recording I’d mislaid somewhere of a television story that I’d forgotten.
And yet it’s bang up to date, complete with a very current (for 2013) political jab at the U.K. badger cull, random flashbacks to snippets of dialogue from Baker’s original TV episodes, and a very jaded view of the corporate world’s tendencies to tiptoe around things like regulations and decent behavior. The interplay between the Doctor and Romana fits like a comfortable old shoe; when K-9 has to be carried around because his drive system couldn’t navigate sand, the clock really does roll back to 1978. David Warner – by now a Big Finish mainstay – steps away from the formal, carefully-enunciated English for which he’s famous and makes Cuthbert a truly nasty piece of work. Too formal to do his own dirty work, Cuthbert holds both his hired thugs and his opponents with equal regard: everyone’s disposable as soon as they hold no further fascination or advantage for him.
A delightful and yet dramatic story, The Sands Of Life may be the best possible jumping-on point to date for those unsure of Tom Baker teaming up with Big Finish. This audio adventure really does make it seem like a worthwhile combination.