THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
"DOCTOR WHO AND THE
ROBERT SHEARMAN &
BIG FINISH CD#40
RELEASED IN JANUARY
HURRAH! THE DEADLY
Daleks are back! Yes,
those loveable tinpot
tyrants have another
plan to invade our
world. Maybe this
time because they
want to drill to the
Earth’s core. Or
maybe because they
just feel like it.
And when those pesky
pepperpots are in
town, there is one
thing you can be sure
of. There will be non-
stop high octane
mayhem in store. And
But never fear. The
Doctor is on hand to
sort them out.
Defender of the Earth,
saviour of us all.
With his beautiful
Smythe, by his side, he
will fight once again
to uphold the beliefs
of the English Empire.
All hail the glorious
“Jubilee” has quite quickly (and justifiably so) become a huge fan favourite amongst Doctor Who devotees, and after his sterling work on this play as well as on “The Holy Terror” and “The Chimes of Midnight”, Rob Shearman is now often praised as the greatest Doctor Who
writer of our time.
I did not think Big Finish would ever manage to surpass Marc Platt’s mercurial “Spare Parts”, but with “Jubilee” though, they equal or perhaps even surpass that story. Here Shearman takes the Daleks and the English and puts a whole new twist on the old 'us and them' doctrine.
In the Tower of London an alien creature has spent a hundred years being tortured, mocked and parodied. In 1903, the Doctor and Evelyn (apparently) thwarted a Dalek Invasion of Earth and in doing so inadvertently cemented England’s status as a hegemonic power – as the hegemonic power. One hundred years later, in 2003, the English Empire has complete dominion over the planet thanks to stolen technology from the defeated Daleks. And ironically, this “glorious English Empire” has become more and more like the Daleks it defeated back in 1903, Rochester (superbly portrayed by Martin Jarvis) and his “little wife” Miriam ruling tyrannically over the masses. The cast make such good use of the irony in Shearman’s script that Rochester sounds uncannily like Davros when he rants, and the
effect of banning the use of contractions makes the Tower guard sound particularly Dalek-like.
The story is also clever in that, almost in spite of themselves, the listeners find their allegiances shifting to the side of the tortured creature in the tower, and even when it is revealed that is a Dalek, thanks to some brilliant writing and a first class vocal performance from Nicholas Briggs, we still sympathise with it. In fact, we want Evelyn to be right about it – we want it to be a good Dalek; to have emotions and to defeat the evil English Empire.
However, the plot is perhaps too clever in that the TARDIS is split, materialising in both
1903 and 2003, creating two Doctors, two Evelyns, and two versions of history. Although the situations that this strange anomaly creates allow Shearman to tell his brilliant story, it does confuse throughout and never feels adequately explained.
The infamous scenes of the Dalek’s torture are genuinely horrific. For example, the Dalek is boiled inside its casing and the liquid released from the Daleks body is bottled and sold as a delicacy. Moreover, the Dalek is threatened with having its optical nerve sliced, the result being that it would “not be able to do anything but see”, and every second of sight would cause it the most agonising pain. The torture is not limited to the Dalek, though. Another creature spends its time lurking in the tower, scuttling around in his wheelchair. Shearman’s dialogue intentionally misleads the listener into thinking that this could be Davros (Miriam even saying “…you might say he created them [the Daleks]”) but it is actually revealed to
be the Doctor (from the other time frame), his legs amputated as a punishment for repeated escape attempts. Most brutally of all, Rochester slices and dices dwarves to make them fit inside Dalek casings for his own amusement.
The warped culture of the English Empire is completely based around the Doctor and the Daleks – the Doctor the tall, good-looking action hero. They build statues of him with bulging muscles, make movies of him blowing up Daleks and sweeping Evelyn ‘Hot Lips’ Smythe of her feet, make his hideous patchwork coat a state secret and then lock their saviour up in
the Tower and cripple him! Miriam’s speech to Evelyn about the Doctor and the Daleks being two sides of the same coin encapsulates the concept of their equal potential for propaganda, either useless without the other. With the population of the English Empire drinking ‘Dalekade’ and watching Dalek movies this story takes the Dalekmania of the sixties and puts a whole new spin on it!
The story really sucks the listener in and holds their attention from the word go, however as I touched upon earlier the plot itself is far from being easy to grasp, and at the end there is no real explanation of the temporal paradox that causes the whole ghastly mess. When the 1903-2003 history has been corrected (except for Rochester, and apparently the Doctor and Evelyn), the Doctor ominously states, “it’s still here.” Obviously the effect is to give the impression that the evil (be it Dalek or Human) will never die, but it does not make for a satisfactory ending at all.
What is satisfactory, though, is to listen in horror as the Doctor walks unwittingly into the Tower to help the poor, tortured creature, completely unaware that it is his greatest enemy.
What a cliffhanger!
Best of all though, after making us sympathise with the Dalek’s suffering throughout the play, Shearman allows the Doctor to make the final cut into its heart (yes, it seems to have one); you can feel Dalek’s very essence break as the Doctor spells out the future of its race to it.
“What will you do when you have conquered the universe? Fight each other,
Dalek against Dalek, until there is only one, alone, like you have been…”
In a word, magnificent.
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.
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