THIS STORY TAKES
TRAP" AND "THE ANGEL
BIG FINISH CD#121
RELEASED IN MAY 2009.
Bliss used to be a
paradise planet. The
Galapagos Islands of
space. But when the
TARDIS brings the
Doctor, Ace and Hex
to Bliss, it’s been
ironweed plants, and
the air is heavy with
the stench of burnt
silk and static
coming, on the trail
of a lost patrol of
Holed up in the
Roarke 279 research
Beth Stokes is
preparing her last
stand against the
on Bliss, a secret
guarded by the
the Daleks need
Enemy of the Daleks
Apparently selected by Nicholas Briggs from a pile of anonymised submissions, it isn’t hard to see the qualities that made David Bishop’s initial pitch for Enemy of the Daleks stand out from the crowd. Not only does it have a great hook that has seldom been explored this fully before, but it also does what so few stories are able to in that in successfully examines each of the regular characters in equal measure.
“The Daleks are a manufactured predator without a natural enemy.”
The story’s main hook is certainly an interesting idea to explore; even more so when the Doctor is to play a key role in the titular enemy of the Daleks’ fate. Nevertheless, when I first heard about this story I was concerned that the Daleks’ enemy would turn out to be a humdrum Species 8472 kind of thing, but fortunately the Kesabia (Japanese for “parasite saviour”, I understand) are far more remarkable than that. The creations of an unhinged scientist desperate to win an unremitting war (sound familiar?), the Kesabia are the Daleks’ opposite numbers in every respect, save for, of course, their overriding advantage – they eat metal. And, as if that weren’t enough, once they’ve eaten their way through a Dalek’s casing, they lay the eggs of their young within the Dalek mutant.
“One of the worst atrocities committed during the Dalek War happens at this research base. Here. Now…
I’m not on Bliss to prevent the atrocity. I’m here to make sure it happens.”
Now as you might have guessed, the Kesabia are a dangerous breed; so dangerous, in fact, that the Doctor knows it’s only a matter of time before they will wipe out not only the Daleks but humanity too, to say nothing of any other races that they might encounter. And so here Bishop resurrects a character equal to the problem - the scheming, controlling, and utterly ruthless seventh Doctor that we haven’t truly seen since the death of the New Adventures. And, I have to say, this is the interpretation of this incarnation that I hold the most respect for.
“Doctor, the ruthlessness you have demonstrated here is… impressive.”
- The Black Dalek
One of this story’s central themes is the examination of how far one has to go to beat a monster. Some, like Lieutenant Beth Stokes, would rather die than risk becoming a monster themselves, but for better or worse the Doctor takes a much more pragmatic view here. Throughout most of the play I had suspected what the “atrocity” referred to early on ultimately turned out to be, but that didn’t mean that it had any less of any impact when I finally heard
it - as Hex quite rightly points out, “genocide is a big word”. Indeed, it was too big a word for the fourth Doctor back on Skaro, but it isn’t one too big for Time’s Champion. The cold indifference that Sylvester McCoy gives to the line “do I have the right to destroy the Kesabia? Probably not” just before he wipes them all out is every bit as terrifying as any Dalek’s exterminatory screech; probably more so, in truth.
“You know how the TARDIS is your passport to a lifetime of adventure
and excitement in time and space... they’ re [the Daleks are] the catch.”
Ace is also taken back to a fair approximation of her New Adventures persona by the writer. Especially in contrast to Hex, the natural warrior in Ace really shines through in this play; she may not be the full-blown super soldier that the ‘New Ace’ of the novels would become, but she certainly blends into the valkyrie unit effortlessly which could (depending on your take on continuity) foreshadow her future as a Dalek-killer marvellously. After listening to Sophie Aldred in Enemy of the Daleks, I would really love to hear more of her playing either the bona fide ‘New Ace’ (as she did in both The Shadow of the Scourge and The Dark Flame) or even the half-way house version of the character depicted here.
“This is Ace’s scene… I’m a nurse, not a soldier.”
Hex, conversely, is well and truly out of his league here. The CD booklet’s stunning centrefold (above) shows the character with his hands raised in surrender; a fitting image, I would say, given his demeanour in this story. Of course, Hex is about as far from being a coward as you can get - there is one terrific scene in this play, for instance, where he tries to prevent the Daleks murdering the lame in the base’s hospital without a thought for himself – but there’s still no getting around the fact that the events of the story are just too big for him to deal with. And for his part, Philip Olivier conveys this sense so truthfully; this four-parter might even mark his best performance yet in the role. The rub is, given the development that he is afforded in Enemy of the Daleks, it may well be the case that there are not all that many stories left to run for Mr Schofield.
Turning to the story’s production, it has to be said that it is every bit as outstanding as Bishop’s distinctive script. The performances of the cast here are, without exception, extraordinary (Elji Kusuhara as Professor Shimura is especially worthy of note), particularly when they are set against Steve Foxon’s evocative sound design. However, what really sets Enemy of the Daleks apart from its peers as a production is Foxon’s dominating score, which can only be described as outright rock; heavy metal, even. And whereas in another story such a bold approach could quite easily have proven fatal, here it works so very, very well – just listen to the reveal of the Kesabia towards the end of the second episode, for instance. Stunning.
“How many minutes in a rel?”
And so all told, Enemy of the Daleks is a completely relentless delight. The characterisation is peerless, the story is utterly engrossing, and on top of all that, the whole thing is just so damned Daleky - Rels! Replicants! The Dalek Wars! This one does everything that it says on the tin, and much more besides. It’s the New Adventure the Daleks never had.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
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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