Showing posts with label Daleks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daleks. Show all posts

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Review - Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Fear of the Daleks
The Companion Chronicles 1.02
Written by: Patrick Chapman
Directed by: Mark J Thompson
Performed by: Wendy Padbury & Nicholas Briggs
 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-264-7
Chronology Placement: Between The Wheel in Space and The Dominators

One of Big Finish's most popular Doctor Who audio ranges is The Companion Chronicles, which focuses primarily on the adventures of the first three Doctors, as these Doctors are no longer with us. Rather than full-cast audio dramas, these adventures take the form of a two-person performance, with one of the Doctor's companions narrating an "unseen" adventure and a second supporting character taking part at times to add some variation and prevent it from becoming a monologue. They also tend to be shorter than the Big Finish's full-cast audios, typically with two half hour episodes on one CD.

I was particularly looking forward to this adventure for two reasons; firstly, it featured the return of one of my favourite companions from the classic series: Zoe Heriot. Her partnership with Jamie McCrimmon and the Second Doctor was quite possibly the best TARDIS combination I've seen yet, with all three characters working well together. The second reason was that it featured the Daleks who, despite their overuse, still manage to be one of my favourite villains from the series. The framing sequence for this audio adventure takes place in the future with an older Zoe recalling her memories of travelling with the Doctor and Jamie in the TARDIS, which were supposedly wiped away by the Time Lords at the conclusion of “The War Games” as punishment for the Doctor's escape from Gallifrey. However, it seems that all these years later, her eidetic memory has been working against their mind-wipe and fragments of her adventures are coming back to her through dreams, including her untold encounter with the Daleks whom she never met on-screen.

In terms of when the story recounted is set, it is fairly easy to place as there is some overlap with the end of “The Wheel in Space” when Zoe stows away on the TARDIS, and then this adventure seems to take place before the next televised adventure, “The Dominators”. I liked the way that the writer, Patrick Chapman, tied Zoe's encounter with the Daleks in with her first glimpse of them on the Doctor's thought projector, as well as addressing the naivety Doctor's statement at the end of “The Evil of the Daleks” where he claimed the creatures had “met their final end”. Considering how they also reappeared after the Time War, he really should learn not to brand them as extinct, as it often backfires.

Arriving on the asteroid Lavonnia, which has a city built into it underneath a “blister like dome”, the TARDIS crew discover that there are peace talks occurring between the humanoid Zantha Empire and the more amphibian Tibari Republic. The description of the marketplace and various alien creatures within it made me imagine a cross between the market in “The Rings of Akhaten” and the troll market from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. It isn't long before the TARDIS gang are noticed and become embroiled in a plot to disrupt the peace talks. The main villain of the piece, Professor Atrekar, reminds me of Mavic Chen from “The Daleks' Master Plan” in as much as he is yet another pawn in a Dalek scheme who thinks he can outsmart the deadly creatures and use them to achieve his own domination.

Despite their appearance on the cover and name in the title, the Daleks aren't the main focus of this adventure, only really making themselves known at the close of the initial episode to deliver a thrilling, but somewhat predictable “exterminate” cliff-hanger, and then as spectral pursuers during the second half. Elements of the story definitely fit into the Second Doctor's era of the show, especially the focus on Zoe and the astral projection scenes. I can almost imagine Wendy Padbury and Patrick Troughton in black and white, amidst a low-budget BBC space-station set, as they attempt to prevent the assassination of the Tibari Prime Minister. It feels very much in line with that era's “low-tech” storytelling approach, using dramatic suspense instead of showy action sequences and special effects.

In terms of performances, Wendy Padbury ably manages to return back to her “Zoe voice” and even attempts a Doctor and Jamie impression – capturing the tone of their personalities, rather than acting as an accurate recreation of their voices, which is understandable considering the difference in gender. I appreciated the effort in altering her voice when reading their dialogue to make it more distinctive and easier to follow, especially since she had the lion’s share of the narration as the story’s second narrator was Nicholas Briggs as the Daleks, bringing with him the same iconic voice that he has implemented on the characters since the series’ 2005 revival. As one of the least verbose enemies in the cosmos, this left Wendy with the majority of the air time, which she managed to command effortlessly, holding the viewer’s attention throughout. One minor nitpick was the over-the-top dramatic music that punctuated some of the scenes, which ended up removing me from Zoe's retelling of the story, however, as I became more engrossed in the tale, this seemed to subside, or feel less prominent.

Overall, this was a great Companion Chronicle, and as the second story in the range, it must have served as an excellent glimpse into the potential of the series, showcasing both untold stories of the early Doctors, as well as offering a peek into the lives of the companions after they've departed the Doctor. Out of all the departed companions, I think Jamie and Zoe certainly have the most scope for dramatic framing sequences as they try to recall their time with the Doctor, in fact, I’m aware that a later series of Companion Chronicle stories form a trilogy featuring Zoe attempting to overcome the Time Lord’s block on her memories, so I look forward to listening to that soon. The highest compliment I could pay the story is that it truly feels like an authentic lost story, however, the Daleks did feel slightly out of place as the antagonists in this assassination scheme, which felt a bit too “cloak and dagger” compared to their usual techniques.

Fear of the Daleks can be ordered on CD and Download from or available externally from

Score - 8.8 out of 10

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 2)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.2
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-256-2
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Trapped on the human colony of Red Rocket Rising, the Eighth Doctor has two Dalek threats to deal with. The true Daleks have arrived upon the planet under the false guise of friendship and offer salvation from the dying planet, but have in fact arrived to purify the Dalek bloodline and exterminate the Dalek-Human hybrids created by Professor Martez. In amongst the confusion and violence, the Doctor’s newest companion, Lucie Miller, has to work out who her friends really are – the strange pepper pot creatures offering salvation or the unusually dressed and slightly grumpy Time Lord with the police box…

The story continues immediately from the cliff-hanger of the last release, which is a little disorientating and abrupt. Considering how the classic Doctor Who television episodes used to have a slight over-lap of the  previous scene when presenting the resolutions of the cliffhangers - a similar approach here would have both preserved the classic Doctor Who feeling and helped refresh the memory of people listening to the story some time after the previous one.

I really enjoyed how his story delved into the darker side of the Doctor, something that the Daleks always seem to bring out of him. The scenes where he coldly exacts a plan to side with the true Daleks to wipe off the beginnings of a secondary Dalek race are very effective, especially when the Daleks praise him as being an 'efficient ally'. Paul McGann really manages to convey the history between his character and the Daleks, despite never appearing on-screen with them himself.

As with the first part, I found the cast to be really strong and it was somewhat easier to tell the difference in voices between Eileen Klint and Asha this time around, since the two didn't share many scenes. The relationship between Lucie and the Doctor is fleshed out a bit more as the begins to trust him a bit more and realises that he is 'the man with a plan'. I also liked the development in the closing scenes where they begrudgingly decide to travel with each other - I think this might be the only companion who didn't want to travel with the Doctor willingly, with is a definite breath of fresh air! I also like the fact that the mystery of her sudden appearance in the TARDIS has been teased and appears to form the basis of this 'season' of adventures. I definitely want to know more about her and the 'witness protection' she seems to be part of.

As a complete story, I can happily recommend this to fans of the TV show who may not have watched any of the classic episodes (or the fairly awful 1996 movie featuring McGann's Doctor in his only televised appearance) - This audio is really strong, both in script and performances and the whole production costs seem to be a cut above the other Big Finish releases, justifying their exclusion from the main range and the new-listener friendly approach.

The CD also includes a trailer for the next episode, The Horror of Glam Rock, which seems to involve the Doctor and Lucie travelling back to 1970's and getting stuck in a motorway service station with a deadly threat outside. I am intrigued to see whether the series continues to remain strong without the draw of a big-name enemy such as the Daleks and will definitely pick it up! 

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from

Score - 9.6 out of 10

Friday, 15 March 2013

Review - Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks (Part 1)
The Eighth Doctor Adventures 1.1
Written by: Steve Lyons
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
Performed by: Paul McGann & Sheridan Smith
Duration: 60 mins approx
ISBN: 978-1-84435-255-5
Chronology Placement: After the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie

Idly travelling alone in his TARDIS, The Eighth Doctor is interrupted by the materialisation of Lucie Miller, a nineteen year-old northern lass from 2006. Affronted by this intrusion into his home, the Doctor attempts to return her back to Earth, but is blocked by some kind of barrier, sending them spiralling onto the human colony of Red Rocket Rising - a planet that has been ravaged by asteroids and suffering from an Impact Winter. But things are set to get worse for the inhabitants of Red Rocket Rising and its recent visitors, when the Daleks arrive under the guise of rescue…

These Eighth Doctor Adventures form their own Range outside of the monthly Doctor Who releases and are set later in the 8th Doctor’s timeline than his other adventures with Charley Pollard. This range also featured on BBC Radio 7 and is set out in ‘seasons’ which make them feel more compatible with the relaunched series. In fact, the 8th Doctor and Lucie’s relationship is similar to that of 10th Doctor and Donna, even down to the very similar entrances by both ladies. There is a nice bit of banter between the two, added with the intriguing mystery of where she came from, and what she knows and can remember.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of both the 8th Doctor and Lucie – Paul McGann’s Doctor was seldom explored in his one and only TV appearance, featuring more heavily in book and comic strips during the series’ absence between 1996 – 2005. These audio adventures (and the earlier ones from the main range) are the closest thing to an actual canon appearance for the 8th Doctor and delve more into the personality of this incarnation of the Time Lord. I like his whimsical soul and the gentle humour he possesses throughout the story – he doesn’t feel as hardened as his subsequent incarnation, but judging by this Doctor’s alluded involvement in the Time War, he is set for more difficult decisions ahead.

Lucie, as I mentioned, feels similar to Donna in as much as she is a brash, opinionated and distrusting of the Doctor. While she fits the same age as Rose Tyler, she is totally different in personality and doesn’t seem as in awe of the cosmos as she did – even feeling disappointment at the state of her first alien world. She is a great companion to entice new listeners to the audios, as she does represent much of the New Series’ popularity, so it’s an easy transition to go from the series to this audio and not feel the cultural divide between ‘Classic Who’ and ‘New Who’ as much as some people do.

The Daleks are an obvious choice to use to draw people in to a new series and they are utilised well here – as with ‘Evil of the Daleks’ and ‘Victory of the Daleks’, they adopt a benevolent and peaceful fa├žade to their victims, in order to lure them into a trap. I like this approach as it showcases the intelligence and cunning of the Daleks, which isn’t highlighted enough, in my opinion.

The side characters are pretty intriguing, although I did find it a little bit tricky to tell the difference between Klint and Asha at times as both actresses had similar voices and when they were talking to each other, I would occasionally get lost in who was saying what and had to replay those chapters. I’m not sure whether this is something anyone else would experience, but I found everyone else to have more distinctive accents or voices, apart from those two.

The sound effects and score are really good – I am a sucker for audio effects and love turning the sound up and getting sucked into the visual world that the sounds conjure in my mind’s eye. The score evokes the mood perfectly and in some places reminds me of the initial Resident Evil game – it’s strange how certain bits of music stick in your head.

Overall, this was a great starting point! As this is the initial release for the Eighth Doctor Adventures, it is frequently on offer and has introductory prices, so it is worthwhile following Big Finish on Twitter to see if they are having any sales on these discs, but I would recommend it even at full price, especially if you’re a fan of the current series and have never experienced the Classic Doctors properly – it’s very new listener friendly and doesn't feel tied up in either TV or Big Finish continuity. As long as you know who the Daleks and Time Lords are, you can enjoy this first part of Blood of the Daleks! I purchased the second part at the same time, so I shall be reviewing that shortly.

Doctor Who: Blood of the Daleks is available as a CD or Download from Big Finish, or available externally from

Score - 9.5 out of 10

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