Right away, I will say that Shockwave is one of the TOP THREE entries in Destiny of the Doctor, only behind the likes of Death’s Deal and Vengeance of the Stones. The prose of James Swallow is beautifully detailed whilst remaining coherent, the levels of emotion & wonder are plentiful without going overboard, all the characters are three-dimensional and used prominently, and the plot is unique, refreshing and a far-cry from other escapades in the Destiny series.
For this Destiny outing, the threat is not an alien menace or an insidious scheme. Rather, it’s a supernatural disaster. In the far future, the inhabitants of Tarsus Six are desperately fleeing for their own survival. Their sun – Tarsus Ultra – has collapsed. A cataclysmic ‘Shockwave’ is now rippling through deep space, destroying all in its path. The Doctor and Ace must help Captain OhOne navigate the spaceship Obscura to safety, but is that the REAL reason why the Doctor is here at this particular point in time?
James Swallow has truly produced one of the most imaginative Doctor Who tales I’ve been subjected to. Not just out of the Destiny range, but Doctor Who audiobooks in general. Of course, the Destiny tradition of being faithful to the atmosphere of the individual Doctor’s era (along with fantastic original music & sound-effects) gives the end result such power, but the space-setting has been utilized superbly in this race for survival. There’s real tension, moments of paranoia, moral dilemmas, questions of faith, trust/betrayal and all manner of juicy sub-plots to indulge in; all managed through the perfect pace and a sufficient supply of twists-&-turns.
Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor was the most-manipulative incarnation of the Time Lord, using his vast cunning to play his enemies and even his friends. Although undeniably still a Doctor that was brave & compassionate, this particular version of the Time Lord was the most devious. Even manipulating beloved companion Ace, despite him having her best interests at heart! It’s a very grey and questionable aspect of the character, which proves perfect for Swallow’s story.
The Doctor does indeed wish to help people survive the Shockwave, but his ulterior motives are part of what he deems is for ‘the greater good’ (which becomes apparent in the ‘Destiny’ grand scheme). This creates a terrific conflict for later on, especially with Captain OhOne (greatly performed by guest Ian Brooker), whose nobility, pride & honesty make him a tremendous character to admire, and his interactions with the Doctor and Ace are one of the constant highlights of Shockwave.
Speaking of Ace, BOY does she shine here! Perhaps the most troubled companion to ever travel with the Doctor, Ace certainly merits a lot of sympathy. But despite her background and issues, Ace is a companion who’s eager to learn, with a familial
bond to the Doctor (affectionately referring to him as ‘Professor’), and plenty of courage, capabilities and kindness to her credit. Ace remains a valuable asset to the Seventh Doctor, and her own sub-plot with the mysterious NineJay is just pure gold.
Of course, it does help having Sophie Aldred reprise her role of Ace, embodying the youth and enthusiasm of the companion. As an overall narrator, Sophie stands above most as being exceptional. Her Scottish impersonation of Sylvester McCoy is very good indeed, and her enthusiasm in telling the story and interacting with Ian Brooker does James Swallow’s story absolute justice.
Like the other chapters in Destiny of the Doctor, Shockwave works perfectly as a stand-alone adventure (even with the linking ‘surprise’). But it just so happens that Shockwave is one of the most important chapters in the entire series, with a strong continuity reference to the previous six episodes, and an important plot-element that factors into the ‘big scheme’ of the entire saga. All the more reason why Part 7 just can’t be missed!
The only criticisms I have against Shockwave is that it doesn’t quite have the same impact as (say) Vengeance of the Stones or Death’s Deal, but it’s definitely in the same league. In Destiny of the Doctor, parts are either good (at worst), great (on average) or absolutely mandatory. Shockwave is one of those Destiny audiobooks that is virtually perfect. If you don’t choose to follow Destiny of the Doctor all the way through, then Doctor Who fans should at LEAST check out Shockwave. Absolutely essential from start-to-finish.