THE EVENTS OF THIS
STORY TAKE PLACE
BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "THE WHEEL IN
MARK J. THOMPSON
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES' CD 1.2
RELEASED IN JANUARY
Why has Zoe Heriot
nightmares about the
Daleks? Who is the
Doctor, a mysterious
man from her past?
When an evil scientist
hijacks her mind to
control a galaxy-
Zoe must stop him.
First, she and the
Doctor will face an
enemy they had
Fear of the Daleks
Coming to the Companion Chronicles over a year late, somewhat unimaginatively I thought it best to tackle the second release second. And the second release, on balance, I enjoyed much more than the first. Whilst I sincerely doubt that I would be able to convince anybody that Patrick Chapman’s writing is any way comparable to Marc Platt’s, in my view when looking at the merits of the overall production, Fear of the Daleks wins hands down.
A lot of this is attributable to the use of the authentic Dalek voices, gifted as usual by Nicholas Briggs. This story may only have the one ‘guest star’, but voicing all of the Daleks as he does, Big Finish certainly gets a hell of a lot of mileage out of him.
What’s more, I think that Lawrence Oakely and Robert Dunlop’s sound design and score to be a lot more effectual here than it was in Frostfire. In reality, there is probably nothing between the two productions – if anything, their work on Frostfire was probably technically better – but here what they do gels so very beautifully with Briggs’ Dalek voices and Wendy Padbury’s narration; it all feels so delightfully retro.
For Padbury’s part, I feel that she does a slightly better job than Maureen O’Brien did at nailing the voices of the various characters. Her second Doctor is not too cringeworthy, although her Jamie does have his moments. However, at the end of the day Padbury’s skill as an impressionist does not prove all that decisive because Fear of the Daleks, as I suppose a Companion Chronicle should be, is very Zoe-centric, with the Doctor and Jamie sidelined for considerable chunks of the action.
Further, much like Frostfire, this talking book attempts to veil itself as audio drama, as Zoe
is relaying her buried memories of this adventure to a psychiatrist long after she and the Doctor have parted ways. Again it is a cut-price pretext to basically have one character read a story aloud, but what can I say? It works!
The story itself though is far from riveting. It suffers from both the inevitable comparisons that will be drawn with the two incomparable Patrick Troughton Dalek serials, as well as its own distinct lack of ambition – two alien factions and a scientist collaborating with the Daleks is all a bit passé. That is not to say that the story does not have its moments though – the last few scenes are very spooky indeed, as we hear the repentant scientist’s voice speaking to us from beyond the grave… through a Dalek!
All told, I would not go so far as to say that I would recommend Fear of the Daleks, but you could certainly do far worse - it is almost worth buying just for Simon Holub’s stunning sixties cover design! That said, when I was listening to the production, for some reason I was put in mind of the old Decca LP, The Pescatons. Make of that what you will...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
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