THIS EPISODE TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
AND "MASTER", AS
WELL AS DURING THE
BIG FINISH SPECIAL#V
238-8) RELEASED IN
No one could ever
know. We had to
erase the past.
But even though it’s
been centuries now,
In our hearts, none
of us feels truly…
I think, even if our
people were to sur-
vive until the end
of time itself, we
would still fear…
The return of the
CONTEMPORANEOUS (DALEK EMPIRE)
To kick off, I shall have to confess that I have next to no knowledge of Nicholas Briggs’ Dalek Empire series. It’s been one of those things that I’ve always wanted to get into, but sadly haven’t been able to find the time. I have expanded my Big Finish horizons lately with the absolutely astonishing I, Davros mini-series, however, and after listening to this superb sixty-minute episode the chances are that I will now make the time for Dalek Empire in the very near future.
In the Dalek Empire timeline, I have no clue when this is set. Prequel? Sequel? No idea. My first impressions of Kalendorf (Gareth Thomas) and Susan Mendes (Sarah Mowat) are that they are two fascinating individuals, particularly the latter. At first - as intended, I am sure - I completely hated her. Traitor, sell out, collaborator... I could go on. However, over the course of this story that girl goes through hell. She is even tortured quite brutally; Big Finish’s new head honcho is certainly pushing the envelope as far as he can with this one. By the end of the play, I had a lot of respect for Suz. I did like Karl too - a Knight of Velyshaa - although I found him a little too dry at times.
The soundscape of the story is breathtaking. Daleks and Ogrons; the Dalek Empire. This is a world alive with Briggs’ distinctive style, and for me, having never heard a Dalek Empire play before, it was wonderful to hear about all the planets out there that the Doctor has not saved from the Daleks. The Dalek Empire must be massive, but in Doctor Who we never really see the full extent of it. The Doctor’s battles with them have always been on the outer rim of their territories or on Earth; to be able to see right into the heart of their domain is intriguing in itself.
But get this: Return of the Daleks, as bland a title as a fan could hope for, actually fits the story like a glove. The whole plot is centred around the return of the Daleks... to Spiridon! Listening to the play, I couldn’t believe that it had not been done sooner. The biggest Dalek army ever, simply left buried in the Ice Volcanoes? As if! The Daleks wouldn’t write them off that easily. The Spiridons may have become much more wily opponents for them - changing their species name and the name of their planet, not to mention becoming visible - but these are Daleks we are talking about, after all. They never give up.
What really impressed me though is how the story gradually unfolded. Having seen Planet
of the Daleks countless times, as the narrative moved forward the truth about Zalaria being Spiridon gradually began to dawn on me. However, even if I hadn’t seen or couldn’t clearly remember Planet of the Daleks, I certainly wouldn’t have got lost. Compared to Big Finish’s last Dalek release - the continuity-riddled (but nonetheless brilliant) Terror Firma - this one
is child’s play to follow.
The Spiridons themselves are represented in the story by Skerril (Christine Brennan). It is she who beautifully narrates the story (more akin to Anthony Head in Excelis Dawns than any of the Doctors’ previous stabs at narration), lending the piece a real sense of scale.
For the Doctor, this story takes place over many long, miserable, subjective years. For the first half hour he is kept just off stage, pulling the strings, moving the pawns - but this time the piece that he has to sacrifice to get his opponents in check is himself. There is a beautiful twist at the end that almost spells the end for him - an end that, arguably, would have been a much more fitting and noble end for the seventh Doctor than being gunned down in the TV Movie. Sylvester McCoy’s maudlin soliloquy at the end is touching, and perhaps even a little revealing. He mentions Mel, Ace and Hex as if they were parts of his past, long since gone, and there is something about the way he says Hex’s name that does not bode well for the fate of that young man...
In summary, this is definitely the best Big Finish subscriber bonus CD to date by far. If Big Finish produced Return of the Daleks to (a) make me subscribe for another six months (as opposed to getting my CDs slightly cheaper from another online retailer); and / or (b) make me seriously think about investing in Dalek Empire, then they have certainly succeeded on both fronts! I can see this one changing hands for some big money on eBay in the lead up
to its eventual commercial release.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This play’s blurb offers little guidance as to when it takes place and there is no conventional production code to assist us. All we know is that when the story begins, the Doctor is travelling alone “some time” before the end of his seventh life, and that his travels with Mel, Ace and Hex appear to be in his past.
For our own - admittedly capricious – reasons, we believe that Return of the Daleks should be the seventh Doctor’s penultimate adventure. It seems fitting that the Doctor’s seventh life should draw to a close with a brace of dark and contemplative ‘event’ stories, starting with the Daleks and culminating in a final, poignant clash with the Master…
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