(ISBN 1-84435-214-2)





 A random landing in

 London and a trip to

 the Savoy Hotel yield

 unexpected results

 for the Doctor. Tea,

 scones, an American

 general who knows

 far too much, and the

 threat of a Dalek

 invasion of Earth.


 Meanwhile, the

 Doctor's companion

 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



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of the Daleks

MARCH 2007







When Big Finish announced the details for their first batch of 2007 releases, my interest was piqued by this conspicuous four-parter. The word ‘Dalek’ in a title is always a sure-fire attention-grabber, but it was the name Christopher H Bidmead that really made me raise an eyebrow. Renaissance of the Daleks marks the former Doctor Who script editor’s first involvement with Big Finish, and more alluring still the extent of that involvement is veiled in secrecy. The play’s front cover reads “From a story by Christopher H Bidmead”, and its accompanying booklet further fuels the intrigue 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 does it mention who actually made those changes; who effectively wrote the script.


When I listened to the play, it seemed to bear all the hallmarks of Big Finish’s new executive producer, Nicholas Briggs, but “From a story by…” still rang true as the plot of Renaissance of the Daleks is textbook Bidmead. In fact, this heavy, surrealist adventure borrows something from at least two of the television serials that Bidmead penned, if not all three. The science-heavy script takes us from an Earth of 2158 where the Daleks haven’t invaded, to a desolate “island of time, carved out of the dimensional nullity” where cities are built from Daleks under the watch of an allegedly impartial, timeless being. Renaissance is abounding with imposing, brain-busting images which, as ever, are doubly impressive in the medium of sound, and all the while the Doctor is unwittingly amassing an army of combatants plucked from Earth’s history – Knights Templar, Vietnam veterans, injured Confederates…


However, Bidmead’s plot lacks the judicious polish that made Logopolis and Castrovalva such beguiling tales. His ‘Nanodaleks’ (tiny toy Daleks controlled from afar by their full-scale counterparts), for instance, were no doubt conceived to try and tap in to the same sense of disquiet that Rob Shearman built his seminal Jubilee upon. After all, 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 problem with Renaissance is that they never do - Bidmead’s Daleks are brilliant scientists, yes, but their time-bending scheme to un-conquer and then re-conquer our world in the hope that they won’t be overthrown the second time around seems fanciful, even for them, and what’s more the listener knows that it’s doomed to failure from the start – the spectre of the accursed reset button looms large throughout.


Nevertheless, through well-formed characters such as the dogged General Tillington and the thoughtful Gralish, Bidmead raises fascinating questions about history, and the Doctor’s subjective attitude towards it, which all too often doesn’t take account of his exceptional status as “an outsider, meddling in the shape of the time tracks”. Were it not for the Doctor’s interference in the 2160s, the Dalek occupation of Earth may never have been thwarted, and so who’s to say that the Doctor’s version of history is the default one? If he can meddle, why can’t the Daleks? There are no easy answers here - a sentiment that’s coldly reflected in the final’s episode’s frosty dénouement.


Aurally Renaissance is a wonderful production. The story’s wide-ranging locations are all effectively created, and none more so than the nothingness that houses the vast majority of the story’s second half. Briggs’ Gralish is a particular success, imposing yet strangely soulful. Furthermore, having recently listened to Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton performing together so superbly in Circular Time, here the two leads pick up precisely where they left off, each providing wonderfully balanced performances. William Hope is also worthy of mention in his much-hyped role as Tillington, and Richie Campbell also impressed me with his unassuming turn as the black Confederate soldier, Floyd.  I could barely stand to listen to Regina Reagan’s ’nam pilot, Alice, though; the actress’s overstated, clichéd drawl brought back horrific memories of Minuet in Hell.


Given that it throws together one of Doctor Who’s most distinctive (and, some would say, distinguished) contributors and the Doctor’s most illustrious foes, I had expected much more excitement from Renaissance of the Daleks. Instead, I got a Dalek story that relies more on abstract conceits than it does death rays; a sideways science exhibition that forces its listeners to reassess the Doctor’s modus operandi. It’s probably more remarkable for marking a rebirth of sorts for Big Finish than for the Daleks - not only does it aptly mark the dawn of the Briggs era with an outing for Skaro’s finest, but it’s also the first monthly release to display a cover design based upon the new template. Alex Mallinson’s artwork appears a little bland until it’s inspected closely – the simple TARDIS visual that most people would glean from the online thumbnails actually belies an intricate lattice of Daleks, evoking one of the play’s most daunting images. The accompanying booklets are also much improved – it’s amazing what difference a dash of colour and a bit of modernisation makes. Better still, as with last month’s Nocturne and the eighth Doctor’s BBC7 CDs, we are treated to bonus material comprised of some fascinating interviews with the cast and crew - though it’s only fair to point out that it singularly fails to spill the beans as to who actually wrote Renaissance’s damned script.


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.



This story states that the Doctor is (intermittently) prevented from temporally doubling back on himself by the TARDIS’s (frequently unreliable) “time track crossing prevention protocols”. Interestingly though, Renaissance sees the term “time track” used interchangeably with “timeline”, when most Doctor Who stories seem to agree that a (or ‘the’, if you don’t ascribe to multiversal theory) timeline has multiple time tracks, the crossing of which leads to a time traveller running the risk of colliding with elements of his own personal past or future (as the tenth Doctor does when he unwittingly visits the Daleks at the height of their empire in Prisoner of the Daleks).


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