THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
ANTHOLOGY "THE TIDES
OF TIME" AND THE BIG
"RETURN TO THE WEB
FROM A STORY BY
BIG FINISH CD#93
RELEASED IN MARCH
A random landing in
London and a trip to
the Savoy Hotel yield
for the Doctor. Tea,
scones, an American
general who knows
far too much, and the
threat of a Dalek
invasion of Earth.
Nyssa is in Rhodes
during the time of the
Crusades, where her
position proves to be
It seems the Doctor's
deadliest foes have
woven a tangled web
indeed. And in order
to defeat them, he
must cross the
forbidden barriers of
time and walk into
the very centre of
their latest, most
outlandish scheme of
of the Daleks
When Big Finish announced the details for their first batch of 2007 releases, my interest was piqued by this four-parter. The word ‘Dalek’ in any story’s title is always a great attention-grabber, but it was more the name Christopher H Bidmead that really made me raise an eyebrow. To the best of my knowledge, “Renaissance of the Daleks” marks the first involvement of Doctor Who’s former script editor with Big Finish productions, and I certainly hope it is not the last.
Curiously though, the cover reads ‘From a story by’ Christopher H Bidmead rather than the usual ‘by.’ The CD booklet only serves to fuel the intrigue further by saying that “Chris felt
that changes made during the script editing process meant that he could not lay claim to being its sole writer,” yet nowhere on the packaging does it mention who actually wrote the script! It really made me wonder if we are dealing with another ‘Robin Bland’ situation?
On listening to the play, the whole four episodes have Nicholas Briggs written all over them, but I would not be surprised if Jason Haigh-Ellery and Sharon Gosling had also contributed their two penneth. However, ‘From a story by’ certainly rings true as the plot of “Renaissance of the Daleks” is textbook Bidmead. In fact, this serial borrows a little bit of something from all at least two of the television serials that Bidmead penned, if not all three. The theory of Block Transfer Computation is integral to the plot, as is Gary Russell’s ‘continuity catch-all’ concept of the ‘multiverse.’
When the Doctor visits Earth in 2158, he is surprised to find out that the Daleks have not invaded. Somehow the TARDIS has crossed a time track and ended up in a reality where the Daleks did not invade; at least, they have not invaded yet. However, this is not strictly speaking a ‘parallel’ world as it converges with our own.
“An Island of Time, carved out of the Dimensional Nullity.”
It is in Parts Three and Four that Bidmead’s presence is felt the most. In this extra-dimensional nullity outside of time and space the Daleks are preparing to invade Earth. The script describes a city, literally in the middle of nowhere, built entirely from Daleks, stacked one on top of the other higher than one can see. It is certainly an imposing image, and doubly impressive on audio.
“What am I thinking? Well I’ve got a TARDIS full of strangers and, er,
yes the TARDIS has been locked on course to an undisclosed destination
by a couple of toy Daleks. That’s what I’m thinking, Nyssa.”
The Daleks’ plan, however, borders on the absurd. I say ‘borders on’ because although it is outlandish, it does have merit. Many people will scoff at the idea of ‘Nanodaleks’ (essentially, just animated Toy Daleks) but they do have that same kind of creepy edge to them that the infamous Troll Doll in “Terror of the Autons” had, for example. Bidmead (if indeed he came up with this part of the plot) is playing with the same sort of idea that Rob Shearman tapped into with “Jubilee.” If the Daleks are debased, belittled and dismissed as mere ‘toys’, then when they inevitably emerge as their true Machiavellian selves they are twice as fearsome.
The Gralish is also a remarkable creation – a Dalek who does not realise that he is a Dalek. The spearhead of the whole Dalek scheme, and yet he sees himself as ‘impartial,’ neither
on the side of the Doctor or the Daleks.
“Your are an outsider, meddling in the shape of the Time Tracks.”
To me though, the most interesting aspect of the whole story is the Doctor’s attitude towards the ‘proper’ timeline. As early as in Part One, General Tillington realises that the Doctor is going to want to restore what he perceives to be the ‘correct’ course of history even if it sees the Earth occupied by the Daleks. The Gralish makes an excellent point in that were it not for the Doctor’s interference, the Dalek occupation of Earth may never have been thwarted, and so who is to say that the Doctor’s version of history is the correct one? After all, the Doctor wields his Time Lord powers not only recklessly, but with such alarming frequency that he has incurred the wrath of his own people on multiple occasions. As such, is what the Doctor perceives to be the ‘proper’ timeline necessarily the right one?
In the end the Doctor manages to convince the Gralish to sacrifice himself to save the day, and in doing so the Doctor’s ‘proper’ timeline is restored. Tillington knew that this would happen and, deep down, I am sure that the Doctor did too. In the long run the ‘proper’ timeline is worse for the Daleks, but in the short term it is immediately obvious that a lot of people who were alive and well are now dead or enslaved as Wilton – General Tillington’s spy on board the TARDIS – suddenly vanishes from the console room. History resets itself and the Doctor and Nyssa move on. This is Doctor Who at its best – no easy answers.
Having recently heard Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton performing together so wonderfully
in “Circular Time”, in this four-parter the two leads seem to pick up precisely where they left off and once again give stellar performances. William Hope is also worthy of mention in his much-hyped role of General Tillington, and Richie Campbell as Floyd also impressed me. Sadly, I could barely stand to listen to Regina Reagan as Alice; it was just painful. I am talking Becky Lee in “Minuet In Hell” painful.
“Renaissance of the Daleks” also marks a renaissance of sorts for Big Finish, being the first monthly release to feature their new cover design. Unfortunately, on this occasion Alex Mallinson’s cover art is decidedly bland. Until I actually held the CD in my hand, I did not even realise that the cover design boasted any Daleks – they were too small to see on the thumbnail pictures online. That said, I cannot argue that overall the new design is definitely much more pleasing to the eye, and that the CD booklets are certainly much improved – it is amazing what difference a dash of colour and a bit of modernisation makes. What is more, as with last month’s “Nocturne” and the eighth Doctor BBC7 CDs, we are again treated to CD Extras that look like they are going to become a regular feature. I know that a lot of Big Finish subscribers (myself included) have long been lobbying for such ‘special features’, and I for one am pleased with both the quality and quantity of the extras now included on the
In summary “Renaissance of the Daleks” is good, but not as fantastic as I thought it would be. Perhaps I was expecting another great classic from Bidmead, or perhaps I am just a
little too hard on stories that I get overly excited about pre-release and thus never really live up to my lofty expectations. Stories like “The Time of the Daleks” that I have frowned on in
the past have now grown on me a fair bit, and so it is likely that my opinion of this story will improve with repeated listening. For now though, I will just say this:
It's no “Logopolis”!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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