‘The Sands of Life’/’War Against The Laan’ (Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Earth Adventure with the Laan



I loved listening to ‘The Sands of Life’. This is the first instalment of the Laan story spread across 2 discs with the Fourth Doctor and Romana with K9. I can’t understand why they couldn’t make ‘The Sands of Life’ and ‘War Against The Laan’ tale as a 2-disc set instead of two separate CD releases.

This is notable for being the first five-part adventure in the Tom Baker era of ‘Doctor Who’. ‘The Sands of Life’ contains the first three episodes (which is odd as usually a Fourth Doctor Adventure contain two episodes on one disc) while ‘War Against The Laan’ contains the last two.

I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Sands of Life’ signed by John Leeson who voices K9 in the story and David Warner who plays Cuthbert. John Leeson signed the CD cover at the ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ event in Slough, August 2013 whilst David Warner signed the CD cover at the ‘Regenerations 2013’ convention in Swansea, September 2013. It was a thrill meeting these two.

This five-part audio adventure was written and directed by Nicholas Briggs; based on an idea by Tom Baker. Tom Baker presented his ideas to the Big Finish producers and one of them was about space whales. Nick Brigg took the idea and turned it into a fast-paced five-part adventure.

David Warner and Tom Baker in ‘The Sands of Life’.

After I enjoyed ‘The Auntie Matter’, I was excited and keen to continue listening to more audio stories with the Fourth Doctor and Romana. Following Mary Tamm’s death in 2012, it made these audio stories so precious to hear, especially in memory of the lovely lady playing Romana.

Nicholas Briggs writes well for the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9. As David Richardson rightly points out in the CD sleeve notes, these audio stories do have the feel of Season 16 about them with the Doctor, Romana and K-9. I wish that these audio stories could’ve been made for the TV.

‘The Sands of Life’ begins the Laan story with the Doctor, Romana and K-9 in the TARDIS experiencing some time distortions and a mass of alien whales approaching in the time vortex. They soon arrive on Earth somewhere in the future, as the TARDIS ends up in the Sahara Desert.

Pretty soon, the Doctor and Romana are caught up in a web of intrigue as the space whales called the Laan live in the ‘sands of life’ and a bitter reaction from the humans is aroused. This could mean the outbreak of war. Can the Doctor and Romana prevent this outbreak happening?

This is a pretty fast-paced adventure that I couldn’t help but enjoy from the beginning to the end. I’m sure that Douglas Adams would have liked this story if he commissioned it as the series’ script editor. We’ve very little time to know the characters, but that comes later on in the finale.

Tom Baker is on top form as the Doctor. I enjoyed his scenes with Romana and K-9 and when he’s confronting Cuthbert. I also enjoyed the scenes when the Doctor and Romana are interrogated by General Vincent. Tom is being so very Tom in those scenes when cutting to him.

The Doctor calls Romana ‘Leela’ and K-9 ‘Sarah Jane’ for some strange reason, and we get flashback scenes with the Doctor from previous stories. Tom’s Doctor doesn’t like what’s happening with the Laan and gets angry when Cuthbert orders Mr. Dorrick to open fire on them.

Mary Tamm as Romana is lovely. It’s hard to believe that Mary’s no longer with us. Romana gets to experience psychic contact with the Laan. They seem to want to talk to her rather than the Doctor. She manages to stop the Laan from dragging her downwards in the Sahara Desert sands.

Romana gets interrogated rather forcefully by General Vincent and is also separated from the Doctor when she’s taken to use as a communicator with the Laan. I liked how Romana and the Doctor work things out and unravel what these Laan creatures are about as the events progress.

Tom Baker and John Leeson in ‘The Sands of Life’.

It was great to hear K-9 with the Fourth Doctor and Romana. I love K-9, wonderfully voiced by John Leeson. K-9 gets cooped up in the TARDIS for most of the story but I love his scenes with ‘the master’ and ‘the mistress’ when finding this parrot as well as time distortions in the TARDIS.

K-9 gets to help the Doctor with looking for Romana in the sands of the Sahara desert. Unfortunately K-9 gets crushed by one of the whales at the end of ‘Part Three’. This did shock me when I heard this tale first time. I did wonder whether K9 would survive in the rest of the series.

I told John Leeson at the about this ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ event and we agreed that it was a shock when K-9 gets crushed in ‘The Sands of Life’. Sadly K-9 doesn’t appear in ‘War Against The Laan’. We will have to find out later on to learn what’s become of K-9 in ‘Phantoms of the Deep’.

Hayley Atwell guest stars as President Sheridan Moorkurk. Hayley starred in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ and in ITV’s ‘Mansfield Park’ with Billie Piper. In this audio adventure, Sheridan has telepathic contact with the Laan and she’s bullied by Cuthbert over her presidency.

David Warner guest stars as Cuthbert, who has done a number of Big Finish audios in ‘Doctor Who’. Cuthbert is in charge of the powerful business Conglomerate and he has Mr. Dorrick in his business. He seems to be world famous and he has a strong grudge against President Moorkurk.

Toby Hadoke guest stars as Mr. Dorrick, Cuthbert’s sort-of personal secretary. Toby is well-known for his stand-up comedy shows in ‘Doctor Who’. Mr. Dorrick is a mild-mannered and a slightly timid character that is afraid of his boss. Mr. Dorrick also carries out orders on Cuthbert’s behalf.

The voices for the Laan are done by Jane Slavin. The Laan are a mass of telepathic aliens who live in the Sahara Desert, as they live and breathe what they call ‘the sands of life’. They appear at first to be worm creatures in the sand before it turns out they’re actually these space whales.

‘The Sands of Life’ ends on a cliff-hanger with ‘Part Three’ having K-9 crushed by a space whale and Romana and the Doctor make contact with one of the three elders of the Laan. Pretty soon, Cuthbert orders Mr. Dorrick to open fire onto the Laan, provoking this act of violence and war…

John Leeson in ‘The Sands of Life’.

This is a great beginning to a fast-paced audio adventure with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9. It features great guest appearances by David Warner, Hayley Atwell and Toby Hadoke. I wondered what was going to happen next. I eagerly waited for the conclusion to this audio tale.

The CD extras are as follows. At the end of the disc, there’s an interview with John Leeson and Tom Baker talking about K-9’s appearance in this story and also in the series in general. Both John and Tom share nostalgic memories of working on the TV series which I enjoyed listening to. There’s also a trailer as the story continues for the Doctor and Romana in ‘War Against the Laan’.


Here is the second segment of the five-part Tom Baker ‘Doctor Who’ story with the Laan.

‘War Against The Laan’ is a great follow-up to the previous CD release, ‘The Sands of Life’, with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Mary Tamm as Romana. It contains the last two episodes of this story – ‘Parts Four and Five’. How will this tale end? Will there be more to discover later on?!

The second instalment isn’t fast-paced as the first three episodes of this Laan story. But it’s very exciting. The second instalment resolves lots of things that were happening in ‘The Sands of Life’ that weren’t fully explored. There’d be character development and motivations explored in this.

I’ve had the CD cover of ‘War Against The Laan’ signed by David Warner who plays Cuthbert. David Fisher signed the CD cover at the ‘Regenerations 2013’ convention in Swansea, September 2013. I’ve met David at a number of conventions and he’s genuinely friendly indeed.

Tom Baker and Hayley Atwell in ‘War Against The Laan’.

‘War Against The Laan’ catches up with the Fourth Doctor and Romana witnessing the massacre of the Laan space-whale creatures by Cuthbert and his men. One of the Laan gets captured and is taken away back to Cuthbert’s science labs at the Conglomerate. What will happen to it then?

The Doctor and Romana try to reassure the remaining Laan but they intend to recover their sister, even it means provoking a war. The Doctor and Romana need to find a way to stop Cuthbert from causing more trouble. Can they do this with President Sheridan Moorkurk’s help?

Now if you’re wondering what’s become of K-9 from the previous instalment, the Doctor has managed to recover him in the TARDIS. But it’s going to take a while for the Doctor to get K-9 gets fully repaired and recovered from his previous ordeal. Let us hope it won’t be long here. 😀

The last two episodes of this Laan story take us away from the Sahara Desert to some of the urban cities of the world. The action takes place in urban cities including London and Africa. The atmosphere is tenser in the Earth’s Presidency as well as the Conglomerate’s platform and labs.

The episodes also take on a moral stance regarding Cuthbert’s actions against the Laan and the desperate strive to prevent an outbreak of war with the Laan. It also focuses on President Sheridan Moorkurk’s journey, since she develops from a reluctant leader to make her decisions.

I enjoyed how the Doctor and Romana meet up with President Sheridan Moorkurk. Sheridan wants to know what the Doctor and Romana have experienced with the Laan. The Doctor and Romana know that Sheridan isn’t a typical Earth President. She’s so inexperienced with her role.

The Doctor and Romana gently help Sheridan with making the right decisions and how to stop the war breaking out between the humans and the Laan. I really enjoyed the relationship between Sheridan, the Doctor and Romana. Hayley Atwell is also a good actress in ‘Doctor Who’.

Hugh Fraser and Tom Baker in ‘War Against The Laan’.

We get to see what goes in the Conglomerate and what dodgy dealings Cuthbert has been up to. ‘War Against The Laan’ introduces us to a new character. This is Hugh Fraser as Professor Harold Tallister. Hugh Fraser is well-known for playing Captain Hastings in the ITV series, ‘Poriot’.

Tallister is a nervous scientist under orders from Cuthbert to do experiments on the Laan creature. Tallister is reluctant to do these experiments, but Cuthbert forces it upon him. Tallister inadvertently kills the Laan during these experiments. Of course, it angers the Doctor very much.

The guest star worth talking about is David Warner. I really like how David plays Cuthbert, since he is full of electricity and sharp edge. He’s good in scenes with Tom Baker’s Doctor and Mary Tamm’s Romana. They spark off tremendously especially with the dialogue and their interaction.

Cuthbert is a pretty ruthless character who’s all powerful; full of business intentions and wants to provoke a war with the Laan. He’s hiding a secret since Romana’s curious as to what he’s up to. “Mind your own ‘bleedin’ business, dear”, he says. I do wonder what he’s hiding behind this.

There’s a shocking moment in ‘Part Four’ when it ends on a cliff-hanger with the Laan getting killed and the Doctor, Romana and Sheridan are horrified as there seems to be no chance of winning around the Laan now. We also get to learn some interesting revelations about the Laan.

The Laan have this ability to produce their young in ‘the sands of life’ within the Sahara Desert. But it causes temporal explosions and it’s what has caused hostilities from humans. But it turns out that these Laan were sent to the wrong planet, as another world has ‘sands of life’ for them.

I really enjoyed how Romana develops her telepathic communication with the Laan in this. She’s a stronger character in protesting against Cuthbert and she develops a friendship with Sheridan. This also gives Mary Tamm plenty to do and making her Romana sounding more like the Doctor.

The Doctor is on top form too, as Tom Baker’s enthusiastic as the Doctor for these audios. He seems to really enjoy doing these audios and explore new aspects of the Fourth Doctor. It is good for us ‘Doctor Who’ fans to experience and to enjoy more of Tom’s Doctor in these stories.

The final showdown has the Doctor, Romana and Sheridan trying to reason with the Laan and explain why they’re on the Earth by mistake. The Laan don’t understand at first, but they soon come around to the Doctor and Romana’s arguments as they soon head off into the time vortex.

In the end, the Doctor and Romana return to the Sahara Desert for the TARDIS. Sheridan wishes them a fond farewell. Cuthbert is still alive and needs to be dealt with. The Doctor gives Sheridan a jelly baby and she gives him some hard boiled eggs as he heads off in time and space.

David Warner, Toby Hadoke and Tom Baker in ‘War Against The Laan’.

‘The Sands of Life’/’War Against The Laan’ has been great five-part adventure. Tom and Mary are great as the Doctor and Romana as well as David Warner as the villainous Cuthbert. I was keen to find out what would happen to Cuthbert later for ‘The Dalek Contract’/’The Final Phase’.

The CD extras are as follows. At the end of the disc, there are some behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. These include with writer/director Nicholas Briggs; Tom Baker; David Warner; Toby Hadoke; Hayley Atwell; Hugh Frazer and Jane Slavin. There’s also a trailer for the next story with the Fourth Doctor and Romana called ‘The Justice of Jalxar’.

‘The Sands of Life’/’War Against The Laan’ rating – 9/10

The previous story

For the Fourth Doctor was

For Romana was

For K-9 Mk II was

The next story

For the Fourth Doctor is

For Romana is

For K-9 Mk II was

Return to The Fourth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Romana’s Timeline
Return to The Timelines of K-9
Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index
Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index
Return to Doctor Who Timelines
Return to Doctor Who
Return to Sci-Fi

2 thoughts on “‘The Sands of Life’/’War Against The Laan’ (Audio)

  1. Timelord 007

    Brilliantly reviewed Tim, i loved this 5 parter it delivered a interesting storyline & touches upon some moral themes & featured memorable characters (David Warner on scene stealing form as Cuthbert) & Tom & Mary sharing such a warm chemistry it’s like they never stopped playing these roles.

    Hayley Atwell guest stars in this excellent audio drama who i have a huge crush on & Hugh Fraser features (I’m a huge fan of Poirot), Nicholas Briggs as a writer deserves far more credit, he consistently delivers excellent stories & intriguing concepts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Thanks Timelord Simon.

      Very pleased you enjoyed my review on ‘The Sands of Life’/’War Against The Laan’.

      Glad you love this five parter and I’m very pleased with how engaging it is with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm, John Leeson, David Warner and Toby Hadoke in it. I love David Warner’s performance as Cuthbert in these stories. I had a nice time chatting to him last weekend in Folkestone.

      I’m very pleased Tom and Mary got to work together as the Doctor and Romana for these audios. I wish they did more as they work so well together. I was gutted about Mary Tamm’s death after she made these audios.

      Very pleased you enjoyed Hayley Atwell and Hugh Fraser in these stories. Yeah I recall you having a crush on Hayley Atwell. 😀 Really? I had no idea you’re a huge fan of ‘Poriot’. I’ll have to review that series sometime.

      Yeah Nick Briggs is a great ‘Doctor Who’ writer and director for Big Finish. I’m surprised he hasn’t contributed a story for the TV series.

      Thanks for your comments, Simon.

      Tim. 🙂



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.